Karaoke is a weird and wonderful institution. In Colombo it's generally a euphemism for seedy hostess bars, but there are a couple of exceptions like Soprano's and Stella.
Tucked away near the Hilton Colombo's lovely Il Ponte, Stella has been around for years, a refuge for the drunk and noisy.
The drinks here are expensive, but what else would you expect from a 5* hotel bar catering to the inebriated and undiscerning? We've tried a couple of the cocktails here, but they're not great. The B-52s, however, are a yum and flaming option for wild nights out, and come in at about Rs. 800 a pop. Lion Lager is about Rs. 500++ for a big bottle. If you're on a girl's night out, you can try and make it on a Thursday before 11 PM for a 50% discount on regular drinks.
We've only tried the food here twice, both times with not very wonderful outcomes. The first time, we ordered some French Fries at around Rs. 500++, which they forgot about and we eventually cancelled. The second visit, we ordered an Italian-style beef burger (Rs. 1600++, so about Rs. 2000), which sounded great on the menu (which appears to be mostly Il Ponte stuff like pizzas etc, usually unavailable after around 1 AM).
The burger took 1 hour and 10 minutes to arrive, at which point we really just wanted to go home. Unsurprisingly, it was very dry, the beef was almost brittle, and the fries stale and hard (you can kind of see that in the photo above). Overall, it was very disappointing, but you can't really complain when it's 2 AM and there are very few other places else to turn.
The service is generally quite friendly. However, their entrance policy is equally random as they won't let in men with shorts (women's kneecaps are mysteriously okay though), but allow in large groups of drunken men on Friday/Saturday nights. In my experiences here over the years, the late night patrons generally won't harass/grope, but will keep pushing drinks on you (as in being offended if you don't want their drinks, not literally pushing drinks over you like a cat) or asking persistent questions if you're a couple of girls on your own. There's also usually at least one small fight/skirmish per busy weekend night, but the staff deals with it efficiently, shooing those involved out.
Going on a weekday night or earlier than about 10 PM is a much nicer experience, with a smaller crowd, less smoke pollution, less noise, and quicker service.
Ambience-wise, there isn't much to talk about, it looks like your average karaoke spot from the '90s. Unlike other karaoke bars, they don't have an ancient song list and weird Eastern European stock videos on screen, but rather just song lyrics and a pretty updated song list. We came across quite recent stuff, like Beiber's new album and other pop hits on the radio, which was impressive.
I think Stella is probably the best karaoke bar in Colombo, but that isn't saying much. It's loud and raucous on weekends, but weekdays are quite nice. The positive is that they don't charge an entry fee, but the negative is that they're unfathomably strict with their men's dress codes. So head on down, keep some pants on, and feel free to embarrass both yourself and everyone around you with a tearful reggae version of My Heart Will Go On.
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