Many new hotels are opening in Sri Lanka, some designed for mass tourism, others created as small retreats for discerning guests who don’t want to stay with hordes of others. Since the Calamansi Cove (by Jetwing) is only 10km from my cottage in Induruwa, I stayed there recently when my house staff were on leave.
The hotel is down a sign-posted winding lane off the Galle Road, after the 78km post coming from Colombo, a short tuk-tuk ride from Balapitiya Station, so it’s easy to reach by bus, train or car. The entrance gives no clue to the character of the hotel, a 12-unit retreat by a secret bay. Calamansi refers to the citrus like fruit growing in the two-acre plot with its private access to the beach.
The landscaping, by Dooland de Silva, the custodian of Brief Garden near Bentota created by the late Bevis Bawa, is lush, and tempers the bright white walls enclosing individual gardens. The bedrooms are in four clusters of three, each one consisting of an elegantly furnished room, with modern four-poster bed and smart wooden and white-painted concrete fittings, wooden floor, and two walls of floor to ceiling glass allowing light to flood in.
There are curtains to close if you want privacy but the windows of each bedroom overlook an individual walled garden that is completely shielded from the other rooms in the cluster. Steps lead up to a flat roof that serves as an exclusive sun terrace and can even be used for a candle light dining. The garden serves as an extension of the room with two tables, a day bed, a mini refrigerator and tea/coffee maker, and plenty of power sockets.
The bedroom also has power sockets everywhere and a large bathroom with a modern rain shower under a glass roof so it’s always bright. There’s also an outside garden shower for washing away sand when you come in from the beach. The beach curves, with fishing boats at one end of the cove and rocks at the other. There is no undertow so the sea is safe for swimming, unlike many of the west coast beaches. There is a swimming pool too.
The concept of this new hotel is intimate privacy; it is suitable for families with kids or for couples who want to share time together. There is no morning scramble for pool beds, no crowds and no vendors lurking on the beach. I was delighted to find that, complementing the sensible excellence of the accommodation, was the genial service by keen staff, and a high standard of food.
I was on full board (a la carte is available) and was happy that the set menu dinner, served in the open-sided restaurant the day I stayed there, was gourmet standard. I began with Onion, Bacon and Spinach Tart with Gazpacho Shot, which was exquisitely presented. The Creamy Butternut Squash soup was a tantalising prelude to the main course, for which I chose freshly caught fish instead of cheese stuffed chicken. Orange & Chocolate Mousse rounded off this fine fare.
I opted for Sri Lankan breakfast the next day, an ample serving of milk rice and chicken curry together with a fresh fruit platter, juice and coffee, all served with attention to detail in the garden of my room.
This new style of hotel makes even a short holiday a welcome change from more mundane beach side properties.
Royston Ellis (http://www.roystonellis.com) is a British author resident in Sri Lanka since 1980