Anantara's hotel down in Tangalle is sprawling, lush, and beautiful. It's also pricey at about Rs. 45,000 upwards for a double room, and about Rs. 6,000 for a basic meal for two (not including drinks).
We headed to the hotel's poolside for a light, late lunch. With snacks starting at about Rs. 1300++ and pizzas upto Rs. 3900++, we had to be careful in our decisions. I ended up choosing a Club Sandwich at Rs. 1900++ and Fried Calamari at Rs. 1700++.
They don't serve normal bacon, which is strange for an international resort, and even stranger for a club sandwich. They substituted with turkey bacon instead (more ham than bacon), along with Emmental cheese, tomato, lettuce, and a light mustard in ciabatta with a side of crispy and unseasoned potato wedges. It was quite tasty, but not a club sandwich by a long shot, and a fairly miserly portion at Rs. 2400 inclusive of taxes.
The calamari was okay, with light batter that wasn't quite crisp enough. The calamari itself was a bit rubbery and definitely not the day's catch. There was also minimal seasoning, so it was overall quite bland and needed all the taste assistance the trio of sauces could offer.
Each glass of wine was over Rs. 1200++ and a basic cocktail (mojitos, cosmos etc) was a clear Rs. 1500++, so we decided to just opt for water. They claimed they didn't have any table or filtered water so we got a plastic bottle of local mineral water that came to Rs. 550 with taxes. Sigh.
The resort is truly lovely, with tapered layers that make great use of the already expansive space. The architecture too is understated and classy, with subtle usage of collonades, wide steps, and lush lawns overlooking the Tangalle beach.
There was a friendly reception assistant who showed us to the restaurant, but otherwise, the waitstaff's enthusiasm for our presence was lukewarm at best. Despite there being about 7 members hanging about some 10 feet from us, they never bothered checking up or helping us unless we explicitly asked for help or desperately waved them down. The staff impassively watched us besieged by a horrible swarm of flies when our food came out, while we swatted and flung our arms around and tried to cover our dishes, but they did nothing and just kept watching. In fact, they disregarded our presence to the point that one of the managers had a loud argument with the staff over something for about 5 minutes barely a few feet away from us, while we just sat there awkwardly.
They were, unsurprisingly super friendly, professional, proactive and vibrant to the foreign in-house guests there.
Anantara is a strong global brand, with gorgeous premises and generally lovely staff in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. My experience at the Anantara in Seminyak was vastly warmer in terms of service and cheaper in terms of food, so this was a disappointing comparison. As for the service we experienced here, I'm so bored by the race double standards in service at nice hotels in Sri Lanka, honestly. It's not even interesting or shocking to write about anymore.
We'd still really recommend this spot for the beautiful ambience, the surfing beach, and perhaps if you're willing to shell out for better service as a staying guest. Just not if you're stopping by for lunch.
UPDATE: The General Manager at Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle contacted us and was very apologetic, and said he's spoken to his staff and this sort of thing won't be repeated. It doesn't change our experience, but we do appreciate that the senior management takes this sort of thing seriously. We'll also re-review in the future, hopefully with happier results!
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