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4/5

Harbour Room (Grand Oriental Hotel)

York Street, Colombo, Sri Lanka


One of the best views anywhere in the city or the region, in an incredibly under-rated colonial property.



In another century the GOH along with the Galle Face Hotel was the fast-beating heart of Colombo’s social life. The great and the good of Colombo society swirled and twirled over its immaculately polished dance floor and those disembarking at the Colombo port made immediately for its impressive white foyer.

Times changed however and fortunes of the GOH mirrored those of the country. The war would see the Fort and the port become high security zones and business dried up. At its lowest ebb it was rumoured that rooms at this venerable hotel were being given out by the hour.

The hotel though like the area around it is now going through a serious resurgence and while it is still a shadow of its former self its impossible not to feel the glamour of bygone days when you look out over the port from the stunning harbour room.

One of the best views anywhere in the city or the region, in an incredibly under-rated colonial property.

It won’t be long before this building turns into a Raffles hotel or Mandarin Oriental and while the refurbishment will be welcome, the new prices won't, so to the majority of Colombians YAMU says - go now, go often. Soon this will probably be only for the wealthy.

The hotel was built in 1837 so it's more than 150 years old. Some say the hotel is haunted by spirits from a century ago - you might get a feel of it in the old wooden-paneled elevators or the once-grand Harbour Room. The Harbour Room has a spooky feeling, à la The Shining - the corridor outside carries an old musky smell, it's usually abandoned at nights, with just the bartender and the saxophone player, and the harbour lights and ancient buildings outside. It's definitely a cool spot to hang out and tell ghost stories. 

Photos by Shifani

TIP

In its current incarnation the Harbour Room is not a gourmands paradise, the food is OK and the drinks need some work. 50 ml shots of Arrack with ginger ale are the way to go here, maybe a gin and tonic - or a bottle of something that you mix yourself- the bar staff are a little confused by cocktails. Also, hidden at the back of the harbour room is a terrace with the best views in Colombo - its nicer out here than inside so come and enjoy the smell of the sea and the sound of the port.

Address

York Street, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Directions

Head down York Street until it ends. There you are.

Contacts

E-Mail Facebook Website

Report Inaccuracy

Open 6:00 AM to Midnight

Cuisine

Western

Price Range

Between Rs. 500 - Rs. 1000

Ratings Breakdown

Overall Rating
4
Quality Rating
3
Service Rating
3
Ambience Rating
5
Similar Places

User Reviews
K
1

2/5

-1

kkarand

If one is expecting stirrings of great memories of days gone by at the Harbor Room…don’t bother going. That sweet nostalgia will not surface here. Just one of three dining parties in a sea of ghostly empty tables and chairs, I dined with my friend who had specifically selected this dining venue to honor her late mother on her birthday. The Harbor Room had been one of the last places her mother had taken her to before her sudden death just a few years ago. As such, my dinner mate had requested from the wait staff to sit at one of the four tops in front of the windows overlooking the harbor. However, the waitress had pointed to the “Reserved” placards on the tables and informed my friend that the 3 tables in front of the windows had been reserved already. In the course of the two and a half hours that we were dining, however, only one of the 3 tables became occupied leaving the other 2 four top tables sitting eerily waiting for their ghost diners. Then for our meals, my friend opted for an al a carte dish while I opted for the buffet. While serving myself from the buffet I felt the wait and kitchen staff’s eyes prying into my every selection. I was surprised as there was hardly anyone there and from the other diners, few had selected the buffet. After a vegetable chowder and pasta salad with 2 dinner buns for starters, for the main meal I selected 3, small to medium, succulent pieces of chicken from the Moroccan chicken, herb roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables with a dash too much of pepper. The food was OK bordering on good however the herb roasted potatoes was overpowered by rosemary and thyme and that damn pepper on the steamed veggies. I got through two pieces of chicken and thought of saving the last piece to take home for my dog. When I asked the waitress clearing the table to please doggy bag it for me, she informed me that they could not do so as they did not allow items from the buffet to be taken home. I was surprised. I can understand if I had selected to doggy bag items directly from the buffet selections however this was a piece of chicken on my plate that I had been unable to finish. It was obvious that I had not overserved myself with the idea of taking food home either. I asked her if she would please double check with her manager and she returned just minutes later stating an emphatic no with a cordial smile. I was disappointed. I thought that this was rather unfriendly toward a paying patron who obviously was not trying to steal from the buffet.
As we were paying for our check(s), a slender man maybe in his mid-thirties, hovered nearby. I cannot recall if he inquired after our meal and our dining experience but still troubled by the emphatic “no” re the food item I asked if he was the manager. When he responded “yes” I asked him about what happens to left over food from client plates and he began to give me an extended explanation where some company or the other is paying money to the kitchen for them to provide all the leftover food at the end of the night to the company. Surely, you are not including partially eaten items on guests’ plates? Oh, no. But rules are rules and they must be followed. He cannot break the rules.
It was a disappointing end to the evening at the Grand Oriental Hotel on a week night because you had Mr. Stalwart manager not making appropriate decisions to heighten guests’ experiences and increase business but rather going by the book. He was better suited to the army. I am not necessarily encouraged to go back to the GOH. Just be aware that a “manager” is one who exercises decisions as exceptions to the rules while staff are there to adhere to them. That is the sole purpose of a manager. On reflection, I wonder if the manager and staff were acting discriminatory toward us two middle-aged women. I applaud the men and women who have made the exception for me and my friends at many other dining restaurants at far more prestigious locations than the GOH. Which makes me think that if revenue is low, the GOH should perhaps re overhauled? Otherwise it is guzzling money to keep it going and to keep stalwart nitwits in jobs that they are clearly not suited to.

K
1

2/5

-1

kkarand

If one is expecting stirrings of great memories of days gone by at the Harbor Room…don’t bother going. That sweet nostalgia will not surface here. Just one of three dining parties in a sea of ghostly empty tables and chairs, I dined with my friend who had specifically selected this dining venue to honor her late mother on her birthday. The Harbor Room had been one of the last places her mother had taken her to before her sudden death just a few years ago. As such, my dinner mate had requested from the wait staff to sit at one of the four tops in front of the windows overlooking the harbor. However, the waitress had pointed to the “Reserved” placards on the tables and informed my friend that the 3 tables in front of the windows had been reserved already. In the course of the two and a half hours that we were dining, however, only one of the 3 tables became occupied leaving the other 2 four top tables sitting eerily waiting for their ghost diners. Then for our meals, my friend opted for an al a carte dish while I opted for the buffet. While serving myself from the buffet I felt the wait and kitchen staff’s eyes prying into my every selection. I was surprised as there was hardly anyone there and from the other diners, few had selected the buffet. After a vegetable chowder and pasta salad with 2 dinner buns for starters, for the main meal I selected 3, small to medium, succulent pieces of chicken from the Moroccan chicken, herb roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables with a dash too much of pepper. The food was OK bordering on good however the herb roasted potatoes was overpowered by rosemary and thyme and that damn pepper on the steamed veggies. I got through two pieces of chicken and thought of saving the last piece to take home for my dog. When I asked the waitress clearing the table to please doggy bag it for me, she informed me that they could not do so as they did not allow items from the buffet to be taken home. I was surprised. I can understand if I had selected to doggy bag items directly from the buffet selections however this was a piece of chicken on my plate that I had been unable to finish. It was obvious that I had not overserved myself with the idea of taking food home either. I asked her if she would please double check with her manager and she returned just minutes later stating an emphatic no with a cordial smile. I was disappointed. I thought that this was rather unfriendly toward a paying patron who obviously was not trying to steal from the buffet.
As we were paying for our check(s), a slender man maybe in his mid-thirties, hovered nearby. I cannot recall if he inquired after our meal and our dining experience but still troubled by the emphatic “no” re the food item I asked if he was the manager. When he responded “yes” I asked him about what happens to left over food from client plates and he began to give me an extended explanation where some company or the other is paying money to the kitchen for them to provide all the leftover food at the end of the night to the company. Surely, you are not including partially eaten items on guests’ plates? Oh, no. But rules are rules and they must be followed. He cannot break the rules.
It was a disappointing end to the evening at the Grand Oriental Hotel on a week night because you had Mr. Stalwart manager not making appropriate decisions to heighten guests’ experiences and increase business but rather going by the book. He was better suited to the army. I am not necessarily encouraged to go back to the GOH. Just be aware that a “manager” is one who exercises decisions as exceptions to the rules while staff are there to adhere to them. That is the sole purpose of a manager. On reflection, I wonder if the manager and staff were acting discriminatory toward us two middle-aged women. I applaud the men and women who have made the exception for me and my friends at many other dining restaurants at far more prestigious locations than the GOH. Which makes me think that if revenue is low, the GOH should perhaps re overhauled? Otherwise it is guzzling money to keep it going and to keep stalwart nitwits in jobs that they are clearly not suited to.

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