Food courts never really took off in Colombo. They are a general staple of the South East Asian dining scene- I mean wandering around Singapore of Jakarta more often than not you end up in some sort of enclosed air-conditioned food cluster, whether it's in a mall or just at the base of a residential building. However in Colombo the stalls and communal dining hall concept failed to fly. I suspect this has something to do with the general failure of shopping malls in the city.
Now this lack of malls isn't necessarily a bad thing, it makes Colombo distinctive - an enclosed air-conditioned food court in a mall in Jakarta looks exactly like one in Singapore or Beijing. However, putting their innate blandness aside it is sometimes useful to be able to wander into a squeaky clean, equipped with nice loos and plenty of seating food court and chose from a bunch of reliable and inexpensive food options. When the craving for a big selection at a bargain price strikes you in Colombo, however you basically have three options- the generally unappealing but well-priced selection of food in Majestic City, the smaller but still not particularly attractive bunch of stalls in Crescat or the half dozen or so options at Odel's little food-courtyard,
The food at the Odel’s court is nothing to write home about but the setting is a little more swish. Breaking from the Asia food court archetype it’s outdoors, cooled by little jets of fine mist and shaded by a clutch of frangipani tress. There are carp pools too so aesthetically this is a pretty superior food court though the food isn’t particularly high-end. There are outlets of the more expensive Il Gelatos
and the Mango Tree/ Jack Tree Thai/Indian restaurant combo but otherwise you get Colombo classics like Harpo’s
pizza, Chariot pastries, roots juice
, Elephant House hotdogs, and the little magic corn stall.
We arent’ talking the Gardaria mall, Jakaraa, with its 60 + choices or Wisma Atria's excellent food court in Singapore but at reasonable prices all Colombo’s basic fast-food groups are represented. There’s fried rice- Chariot, short eats- Chariot, juices - roots, meat in a bun Elephant House, Pizza- Harpos.
My top picks are Il Gelatos - people complain about the prices but the sundaes aren’t bad value and the ice cream is the best commercially available in the city, Roots – got to be mango passion fruit juice with perhaps a slice of Harpo’s pizza. If you’re in or near Odels and find yourself needing to kill a few minutes or silence some hunger pangs this is a handy enough place to drop into. Beware though the scarcity of seating means at peak times – ie lunch, securing a table isn’t fun. In the afternoons though it’s even good for a lingering conversation with friends who happen to work / live in vicinity.