It gives YAMU great pleasure to report that one of the most distinctive and attractive eating/sleeping/drinking spaces in the city is back in business and in good form.
Years ago the people behind Casa Colombo took an outrageous, opulent but utterly neglected mansion in an unlikely neighborhood and restored it. They then went someway beyond restoration to make what is arguably Colombo's boldest design statement.
It was an ambitious venture to establish Sri Lanka's best boutique hotel in humble Bambalapitya, but with meticulous attention to detail, great service and simple good taste Casa Colombo succeeded. Or almost did.
The property opened in late 2006 to rave reviews but just months after the striking silver gates swung opened, Sri Lanka's civil war resumed and then escalated to a final fever pitch. Guests who were expected to make use of the vintage car chauffeur service, wallow in the salmon pink pool and wine themselves at the champagne bar failed to materialize. To make matters worse, the bar itself never materialized as the government (apparently out of a petty vendetta) refused to grant the owners a liquor license.
Unable to fill their space with either tourists or Sri Lankans looking for a well mixed drink, Casa slipped into obscurity. While the odd guest and visitor still made their way to the excellently decorated edifice it was, for several years, an empty and dispiriting kind of place; a metaphor for Sri Lanka's latent but wasted potential and ambition.
Many people simply assumed the place was closed or at least closed to non guests. At one desperate point t served as a tawdry Lebanese restaurant and a donut factory (the owners also ran a donut franchise). These were dark days for Casa and the country but like the country Casa proved resilient.
A trickle of guests (and donuts) and repeat visitors kept it alive over the worst years and as the country moved beyond its long era of violence Casa has come back to life. In fact, judging from the reviews Casa is not just surviving but thriving.
Their sumptuous rooms are perpetually full and their rating on the ever useful TripAdvisor
makes them on of the most liked hotels in Asia (or some such).
What’s crucial is that the decor food and service are not just for guests – Casa is open to everyone, at least the restaurant, bar and terrace are.
Walk down the unpromising alley next to a bicycle shop and some slightly grimy bars, step through the gates and you’ll find you’ve just walked into a Bond movie. A perpetual flame burning over a slick lotus pond, an oversized glass cube for a bar, the eye-popping colonial mansion... and floating rishis (you’ll have to go to understand).
This is amazing design. The odd philistine might deem it a touch kitsch, but this is pure ignorance. Casa is a building as art, but better even than its nifty finishes is the fact that it’s WELL PRICED.
Generally in Sri Lanka attractive (or aspiring to be attractive), well designed spaces come with various elitists delusions. At Casa, however, you can get a pot of coffee for Rs. 200 (enough for two or three people). You also get a beautiful tea service - cream, biscuits, spices for 200, curd and honey for Rs 150 (try doing that at the Hilton or Paradise Road
They also offer a selection of desserts for Rs 400, much cheaper that the offerings at Colombos desert doyen – Paradise Road, though it must be said that Paradise’s offerings are superior [take the Disco Route
for a tour ending with dessert ending at Paradise].
On most weekday afternoons the terrace is virtually empty so you can while a way a whole afternoon with inexpensive coffee and free WiFi. It's really quite blissful – in fact, we challenge you to find anywhere as sophisticated and swish with $2 pots of coffee - not just in Colombo but anywhere in the world. That's Casa. World-class cool.
At Casa you can get a pot of coffee for Rs. 200 (enough for two or three people). You also get a beautiful tea service - cream, biscuits, spices for 200, curd and honey for Rs 150. The rhubarb crumble is good.