Juliet Coombe discovers Jetwing’s best kept secret Jie Jie Beach by Jetwing – Ssh this is a secret only for the discerning traveller!
From the moment you cross the old British railway tracks in Panadura into the reception of Jie Jie by Jetwing hotel, a magnificent open plan beachfront view, the warm welcome makes you immediately feel part of the old coconut plantation era, where iced tea is served from a cart. A stylish elevator with its symbolic silver geometric Chinese designs lifts you up to 102 charming rooms all with ocean view balconies and on the opposite side, 76 contemporary rooms that have terrific views of the vintage colonial railway tracks and hand operated gates that British train spotters would kill for and which maintain the romance of rail travel.
The food is created by an outstanding team of chefs, put together by the rock star of cuisine, the master chef, Kalyanapriya Wickremasinghe, who re-invents dishes in exciting new ways using all local ingredients with a twist.
My coconut lunch was a feast: delicious home marinated crab coconut pudding, artichoke with grilled vegetable soup served out of a coconut garnished with a coconut chip, a sumptuous fish feast with coconut crusted marinated duo of fish, pan fried with seared garlic prawns on creamy savoury rice. Naomi de Silva’s final masterpiece was the beautifully matched coconut mouse and blueberry sauce with coconut and chocolate gateau with rocher coco.
This symphony of dishes is the perfect wedding feast as the cultural symbolism is important; the husband enters through the coconut decorated archway to take away the bride, known as kandanyanaya. The coconut is also a hit at traditional island weddings with a kattha knife and the way it splits will be an indicator of a couples future destiny together, good or bad. The coconut water is poured like holy water over the couple’s fingers tied together to bring them luck.
Coconuts are Sri Lanka’s lifeblood, drunk daily for their rehydrating and medicinal properties and here finally is a hotel that have specialised in bringing you a myriad of coconut experiences. Interestingly the coconut research centre is only a short drive away.
As I walk around Panadura I discover coconut is used for everything; including coir rope to burning the husks in the evening to get rid of mosquitos. Top chefs from all over the world are sure to come to learn more about coconuts and the 101 uses in the kitchen by chef, Kalyanapriya Wickremasinghe. So go on book a stay at this stunning spot less than thirty minutes from the capital Colombo and a lifetime away from stressful city living with its sky blue mosaicked swimming pool, and on a dreamy sandy coconut fringed beach that really is all your very own.