With history that stretches back to 1864, and property that stretches down some of Colombo's most prime seafront, The Galle Face Hotel's location and legacy are unsurpassed on the island. Their pool bar is one of our most highly-recommended spots if you've got just 24 hours in the city, just for its historic value.
The drinks here used to be expensive and lacklustre, but they seem to have steadied the prices and worked on their quality. The new cocktail menu features quite a few interesting concoctions featuring sparkling wine, fresh fruit, and more.
We opted for a Lynchburg Lemonade (Rs. 900 on the menu but a mystifying Rs. 1107.31++ on the bill), a Mojito Royal (Rs. 950), and a Bellini (Rs. 950). The Lemonade (pictured above in the water tumbler) featured a gentle suggestion of bourbon and triple sec, slightly overwhelmed by the fresh lime juice.
The bellini isn't difficult to execute well, a little bit of peach juice topped with sparkling wine, and they did just that. We wish they found a better way of storing their prosecco though, because both the bellini and Mojito Royale were rather flat. The Mojito Royale was probably our favourite of the lot, essentially a simple mojito with sparkling wine poured over. I've usually had this in a highball glass, but they chose to serve it in a champagne flute here.
Their menu is limited, it's pretty much the same stuff you'd find on the neighbouring In On the Green's snack menu. We opted for a Veranda Quartet at Rs. 1400, which seemed like it was going to be a good selection of the tapas available. However, it was exorbitant, miserly and disappointing. The food took some 45 minutes, came cold, and featured one piece of crab cake, one piece of chicken satay, and one solitary beer-battered prawn. There were 3 vegetable maki rolls and buckets of sauce though, which was generous in comparison to the rest of the bento box. The complimentary spiced manioc chips on the table actually sated us more.
Post service charge and myriad taxes, the drinks and food came up to a whopping Rs. 5741 for one snack and three cocktails.
The service has also improved drastically since our last visit about a year or two ago. Now, the waitstaff is a lot more proactive, acquainted with the menu, and friendly.
Despite the pool area being a bit younger than the rest of the hotel, the thrill of the ambience lies predominantly in the fact that it's barely changed in the last 153 years, and you've got the same view and setting as royalty and international film stars before you. Lovely sprawling views of the Indian Ocean (and now the ugly protuberance of the Port City), lush lawns, and of course the GFH's iconic checkerboard terrace.
The cocktails are alright, but we'd suggest you settle down with a beer, local arrack, or G+T if you're feeling colonial. We don't particularly recommend the food as it's not value for money, but you're really only here for the view and nostalgia anyway, so save your appetite for one of the Galle Face Hotel's other restaurants.