Sri Lanka's hotels are becoming increasingly glitzy, with a bevvy of swish international names and sprawling premises. We enjoyed the Owl and the Pussycat for exactly the opposite reasons; it's small, private, and very quirky. The hotel's theme runs throughout the premises, a homage to Edward Lear's 1871 poem, the Owl and the Pussycat. A limerick, the poem is stock full of charming nonsense and romance (which is pretty much what I want from life).
Rooms here are compact suites complete with seating areas and a view of the turquoise sea. Our room was beautifully appointed, with a selection of funky local (like Muvindu Binoy) and international artwork, decor, and sculptures. Almost everything was on the OTP theme, from the bathrobes to the lamps. Rather than a double bed, we had two twin beds pushed together which was a little uncomfortable, but otherwise the room was great.
Our view of the sea was slightly blocked, but there was lots of lovely natural light beaming in, along with a selection of books and magazines to entertain us. Despite all these positives, we wonder whether the price tag is reasonable. The minimum going rate during low season for a double room on bed and breakfast basis is $210 (around Rs. 32,000).
Dining here is a beautiful experience worth dropping in for, even if a stay is a bit out of reach. We've come here numerous times for a drink or a snack by the sea. The restaurant, the Runcible Spoon, is perched right on the shore, and you're treated to the antics of both seagulls and villagers fishing along with an endless horizon of bright turquoise undulations. As if this wasn't enough, the presentation of the dishes is another visual treat to contend with.
Our lunch consisted of a real seafood spread, including an Island Thali of some grilled and curried paraw, a selection of local curries, fragrant herbed rice, and vegetables. Each little component was perfectly executed, and featured fresh locally-sourced ingredients which totally justified the Rs. 2200 price tag.
We also opted for some grilled jumbo prawns, which came tossed with some lightly caramelised Thai basil sauce and a spot of coconut and ginger rice. This clocked in at Rs. 2400, but we couldn't find fault with the quality of execution or seafood.
Dessert was a delicious tiramisu topped with fresh sweet local mango. At Rs. 800 we would have enjoyed quantity enough for two, because this was one jar I had no intention of sharing. We'd seriously suggest you opt for this - it's a perfect melange of Italian preparation and Sri Lankan produce.
Retailing at Rs. 2600++, our Continental breakfasts weren't as enthralling as our lunch. The smoked salmon and eggs Benedict came served on a bed of cream cheese and toasted English muffin, which was alright but lacking a zesty Hollandaise. My cheese omelette with mushroom, potato, and bacon, was a lot more varied in terms of flavour and texture, but it wasn't mind-blowing at that rate.
OTP's ambience is meant to work off a nautical theme, which we found tied into the poem's "The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea/In a beautiful pea-green boat" opening. The decor here is eclectic, funky, and very lovingly curated. This is some of the most interesting art we've seen collected at a hotel in Sri Lanka, with great attention to detail and no expense spared.
The hotel structure itself is reminiscent of big Spanish beach resorts, lots of stark concrete lines, brightly painted sections, and big windows. There's also a lush lawn with ample seating, a seaside massage station, and tasteful sculptures. The pool features some charming twinkling night lights, and is a perfect little sunset dip spot. The view is gorgeous and private, but unfortunately the rocky outcrops render swimming impossible.
The service here has generally been great over the span of our numerous visits. Attentive, knowledgeable staff, great attention to detail when it comes to presentation (of both rooms and dining). We were often checked up on and given recommendations, and never had to go too far in search of assistance. Our only quibble was the rather jarring and budget dinner-time music, which was essentially a man with a backing track playing dated show tunes and Bollywood music on the sax. It just ruined the otherwise beautiful ambience and upscale vibe.
With great service, a beautiful view, and even better presentation, the OTP is a great place for a wonderful albeit pricey meal or cocktail. We particularly recommend their local cocktails that go for about Rs. 800++ a pop, their seafood and their art collection. At a minimum of $210 for a double room or $400 for a suite per night, stay here if you want to wake up to a perfect tropical view or even if you're just really into Edward Lear!