The Tamil Union Club may seem an unlikely choice of venue for evening drinks. For one, it’s in deepest Borella – far – and two, you either need to know or be a member to get in. However, we’d recommend wheedling a card holding friend or relative into a visit. It’s an old club with an old history and it provides a lovely spot for a sundown beer.
Softly lit and sans jarring, unwelcome music, the bar (The Oval Taverners) overlooks the grounds – you have the option of sitting indoors or dining by candles on the lawn. As far as clubs bars go, the Oval Taverners is one of the quieter ones. You won’t get the buzz of the SSC or the lazy lawn-side socialising of the Swimming Club. But you do have the gentle hum of patrons chatting on the lawn and cheery bar staff recommending the chicken kottu over the stir fried noodles. The service here makes quite a difference. While we love the Swimming Club, getting served can be something of a mission impossible.
The food, however, is a little disappointing. While the fried rice is as good as any, the devilled beef is overfried and the chilli paste too akin to crushed up shrimp.
But the Tamil Union is one of our older, more interesting clubs with a strong and loving relationship to Sri Lanka cricket. Existing before even our grandparents were born – since 1899 – the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium hosted Sri Lanka’s first ever international test match in 1982; from the 1940s to 1985, almost every international cricket match hosted by Sri Lanka was played here.
But from its proud standing, the club fell to its knees in ’83. Set ablaze during the riots, it took over two decades to fully emerge from the ashes. Yet in spite of wounds inflicted by fire and malice, they became the venue of Sri Lanka’s first ever Test triumph in 1985.
There are stories embedded deep in the veins of this club. The journeys of cricketers, the victories and losses of our much adored team, the fading photographs of men who loved, really loved, a sport. Rumor has it that even Pradeep Mathews once played here. Wander round and see what you can find. You can drink on the lawn where our island won her first test match, you can stand on the floors Don Bradman walked. What better than that?