The mass of ugly construction marring Church Street for the past year or so upset me. Whilst on my usual Fort walks, I'd look at the green netting and seethe, thinking about the tacky hotel to come. And then Fort Bazaar opened up and I felt like a buffoon.
With beautifully clean lines and arches reflecting the Old Dutch Fort's 17th century sensibilities and style, the building is a delight. The structure is heavily reminiscent of other Fort favourites like Amangalla and the Galle Fort Hotel featuring classic patterned tiles, whitewashed walls, and plenty of natural light and open corridors along with the quintessential al fresco inner courtyard.
The Bazaar is however quite unique in its bold employment of wrought iron furniture, strong upholstery hues in the lobby, and funky black and white tabletops at their restaurant, the Church Street Social. Their inner dining room is pretty interestingly sparse and has a definite Mediterranean canteen feel to it that I quite like. Their bar doesn't have a licence yet, but I see it having a chill presence in the future.
To understand what a great job they've really done, you'd have to know what it looked like before. This picture is courtesy their website.
Apparently it took them 18 months, a team of designers and architects, and 65 labourers and 3 dogs living on site to pull this off. We're impressed. Stay tuned for their spa and pool, which should be all ready by April/May.
We opened with a salt and pepper cuttlefish starter. At Rs. 750, I thought it was well worth it. It came out lickety-spit, like less than 10 minutes, piping hot and crispy. The seasoning was delicate but the dish came with lime and salt/pepper, so you could amp it up as you wished.
The mains were fairly pricey - you can expect to pay about Rs. 2000 for a dish per head. We attempted the barramundi fillet (Rs. 2100), which came accented with some garlicky potato mash and sun dried tomato relish. The fish itself was beautifully done. A fresh slab of well-cut seafood, lightly grilled and seasoned with a crispy skin that gave it that perfect texture play. I did think the price was a bit steep for local freshwater barramundi, but the preparation justifed the expense. Simple and superb.
We also tried the beef burger (Rs. 1750) on the manager's recommendation. Probably one of the best burgers either of us have tasted on the island, the hefty price tag sort of paled in comparison to the quality of the dish. The meat and the seasoning were the clear highlight, with a fresh zest that made every bite wickedly juicy.
The dessert was a bit of a rockstar, a dark chocolate layered meringue at a reasonable Rs. 600. It was brilliant, a beautiful duet between the gooey dark chocolate ganache and the crisp meringue. The berry coulis it came with added a bit of a tarty refreshment to the palate too. Total recommendation if you want to just pop in for some sweeties.
The pending liquor licence was a bit of a downer in the sultry Saturday afternoon heat which just begged for an icy lager. We settled for a Florida (Rs. 500) and a Lime Soda (Rs. 450). The Florida essentially was just a bunch of strong and fresh citrus. Both were fine, and not overly diluted or saccharine.
The management has made an obvious effort to choose and train their staff impeccably. Every member of the waitstaff I met was polite yet casual, well-informed, and anticipated my needs. Despite us sitting outside in the verandah, service was very quick and we never had to venture anywhere to find a waiter or check on an order. I also appreciated the fact that they were able to recommend dishes to us.
We're really pleased with the Fort Bazaar experience. It's a beautiful and respectful addition to the Galle Dutch Fort, easily one of the island's historical and cultural gems. We'll try and stop by again in a couple of months and check out their rooms, spa, and bar when they're all in full swing and keep you updated. Until then, enjoy their stellar cuisine and lazy luxe vibe.