Juliet Coombe loves quirky places full of character and characters, where the regulars of Rodeo have carved their names into the flowering twenty two -year-old cactus on hotel street and chilli crab is served everyday fresh from the ocean, so good vegetarians will happily pay just to eat the orgasmic chilli sauce.
Rodeo Pub opened on Negombo beach road, now known as Hotel Road when it was just a mere dirt track and a village of toddy tappers and catamaran fishermen. Since those humble beginnings the bar, where the owners know everyone’s name, has stayed true to its roots with the same graffiti gracing the walls and cactus plant, with its carvings, from the travellers, who can no longer leave comment on the Sigriya Mirror Wall, have more than left their mark here. Some are messages of love, others of friendship, interesting poetry, and even the occasional words of inspiration such as “stars can sparkle even on the darkest night”. Even the table runners have something to say, so go leave your husband with them and see what happens. The bar table Runners, that clearly reflect the humour of the place, are made by local artist Indira saying “Hiding from wife – Bar phone rate – will cost a dollar to say ‘no he is not here’, two dollars ‘just missed him’, four dollars ‘he has not been here all day’ and $5 ‘never heard of him.”
Sri Lanka’s number one bar for a great night out, according to many guide books and rated highly on Trip Advisor as it has history seeped into the walls as regular and new customers become spellbound by the spit and sawdust magic of the place. The owner Janaka Weeramanthri, who after over two decades can still be found here telling stories, and like the famous TV show Cheers barman, knows everyone and says his secret to success is simply be passionate, create great food and keep being creative. Janaka tells me this is a second home for many customers who, like migrating birds, return year after year to holiday in Negombo at wonderful hotels like Jetwing Blue, Sea and Beach. Words like expansion and refurbishment have been bandied around for years but fears of ruining Rodeo’s unique formula have kept these ideas unrealised. If it aint broke why fix it? And as his kids love the food so much you will find them there often cracking crabs a signature favourite and enjoying the magical vibe of the place.
Rodeo Pub, 35a Poruthota Road,Ettukala (Beach Road),Negombo
Tel: 031 227 4713/Janaka: 0777 746474