Located at the gateway to Colombo (the port), The Grand Oriental Hotel has quite a colourful past. Once the mansion of a Dutch Governor, the Hotel is absolutely iconic. However, what is less memorable is its canteen, the Tiffin Hut. While it has friendly staff and reliable, clean and fresh food, in terms of taste it's far from grand.
I initially went looking for the old bookshop Bibliomania in Fort, only to find it had closed. Hungry and disappointed I decided to trek it to the top of York St to see if I could cover an advertised burger promotion at the Grand Oriental Hotel. Alas! Not my day. The Promo had ended a week ago. With nothing to do I covered the canteen in the front.
The ambiance at Tiffin Hut left me with mixed feelings. The lady at the counter is nice and helpful. However, what is less desirable is the seating, or lack of it. There's a single sort of communal table without seats, which you're expected to share with others. I don't mind sharing a spot, but seriously! This makes for awkward conversations worse than your first date. To make matters worse it's tiny. It couldn't hurt to add a few seats and a second table at least.
I went loco and ordered a bit much. Apart from some iced coffee to fight the Colombo heat I tried a chicken burger, a seeni symbol bun, a patty, a maalu pan, and an eclair. Before I begin, I must say everything (except the burger) tasted fresh and looked clean. However taste leaves something to be desired.
The Maalu Paan was the better of the lot. With a nice peppery fish stuffing and lack of potatoes, this fish bun is not like as one particular kade misspelled it a "fish ban". However the ratio of fish to bun is pretty bad. The bread which is hot and fresh converts the nice pepperiness into paste. It robs the bun of all its flavour which is an absolute disappointment.
The eclair looks deceptively nice. However bite into that choux pastry and you'll find it pretty dense. The topping is all right, but the dense choux steals whatever you should be tasting from the filling. Even the seeni symbol bun was disappointing. There was little flavour emanating from the onion mix only leaving bun and texture to talk about. It lacked the punch you usually get from a seeni sambol bun.
Even the vegetable patty left little impression. It wasn't bad, but for Rs. 60 you'll be able to rack up nicer stuff elsewhere. For Rs. 140 the iced coffee is a terrible let down. It essentially tastes like coffee water, worse than my visit to Barista.
The chicken burger was a let down mostly because of its price and the lettuce. For Rs. 170 you might as well pay extra and get yourself a cheeseburger from Mc Donald's. The patty was average, reminiscent of the old chicken wimpies The Fab used to do ages ago. The lettuce was not fresh, and was wilted leaving for no texture at all. I wouldn't recommend this.
The Tiffin Hut needs a serious rethink on taste and ambiance. With the decent service it currently has it could most certainly do better. It's a reliable spot for clean, cheap(ish) food if you're in Fort though.
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