After having been shut down for a year or more, the iconic Nippon Hotel — popular for its legendary mutton rolls — has reopened once again. Fully refurbished and not dodge anymore, they now feature KAFE, which (no surprises) is a cafe with very reasonably priced and filling food.
Approximately a 130 years old, the newly refurbished Nippon exudes nothing of its former atmosphere and aura despite having remained faithful to its original facade (for which we are eternally grateful because it's a beautiful piece of Colonial architechture in the concrete jungle that is Colombo).
KAFE's interior looks like a cross between a bakery and a restaurant, with spacious seating arrangements and a clean, well maintained interior. There's jazz music flowing through, which is odd but not unwelcome to have with your seeni sambol bunnis and regular savouries.
The staff seem rather new to the job but are very friendly and attentive. We were told that the menu would be expanded and the interior would be decked out a bit more with chalk-art, blackboards and such in the near future.
You've got your regular selection of 'short eats' to choose from, with a plus point being that these are really warm and crisp when it comes to your table so it seems freshly made. Which obviously makes it infinitely more enjoyable, because Nippon's classic Mutton Rolls (Rs. 140) are just as delicious as they were years ago.
They really don't skimp on the stuffing (which is full of minced mutton), and it's flavoursome, heavy, and filling. The same can be said for their beef rolls (Rs. 110). It's pretty great to get some nice rolls which aren't half-stuffed with caramelized onions and spices.
On the downside, our Chicken Rotti lacked the meat and all we found were potatoes. While it was a very nice curry rotti (hot, not too oily, great rotti, good taste), having no meat in it was rather disappointing. I'm hoping they got our order mixed up and gave us a vegetable rotti instead, but it's hard to say.
We asked for a Moist Chocolate Cake (Rs. 150) but got a dark cakey fudge instead – and no complaints because it was dense, supremely chocolatey without being too sweet (because, dark chocolate), and quite quite moist. We were pleasantly surprised.
What didn't impress us too much was the sugar donut (Rs. 100) and seeni sambol bun (Rs. 50). Dusted with a very generous layer of fine sugar, the donut is okay, but tasted more like a good kimbula bun instead.
The seeni sambol bun is also a bit like a kimbula but in shape only. It's stuffed with an adequate amount of sweeter-than-usual seeni sambol.
Noteworthy is that they've got a decadent dessert called the Oreo Kiri Cake (comes at Rs. 220 a slice) which is an absolutely milky, creamy, oreo cake made to perfection. Their cheesecakes (strawberry, Rs. 220 too), isn't bad either.
Meanwhile, we really enjoyed the iced coffee (Rs. 200) and fresh juices we got. They've nailed down the composition of their Orange Juice (Rs. 420) and Mango Juice (Rs. 380) brilliantly. The same can be said for the iced coffee.
The refurbished Nippon doesn't make one cringe. The original terracotta tiling has been preserved at Kafe, but beyond that (towards the hotel lobby premises) everything is sparkling new — fully tiled, bright, modern. There's nothing left to speak of its somewhat dodge past, of press-conference venues for trade unionists and of cheap rooms for sneaky rendezvous. Thankfully, the mutton rolls live on.