“Did you know you have a Kandyan dancer at your table?” I look at the stunning Jetwing Kandy Gallery restaurant set up with surprise, admiring the silver napkin holder that glitters in the tropical sun light, with three red pompoms tied around it and through the ring a vibrant orange serviette folded into a dancing shape does indeed make me think of the characters that lead the dancing beat of the yearly Perehera. Jerome Auvity, Director of Operations at Jetwing Hotels is also the mastermind behind the mise-en-scene of the choreographed table setting, explaining, “Jetwing Kandy Gallery is the ancient city of Kandy with a modern artistic twist, so we took the colours of Kandy’s iconic dancers, which are red, yellow, white, and silver, and used them for the objects we picked for the table. The set up is minimalistic, like a contemporary New York or Paris art gallery, with water goblets painted with splashes of the Kandyan colours; each one is different from the other, hand painted, and a unique work of art to capture the ancient Kingdom’s spiritual creativity.” Look closely at the table set up and you will see the Kandy dancer is with you from the silver plated ring, representing the breastplate of the dancers, to the specks of colour on the sides of the plate, which merge with the contemporary cuisine, cooked by the hotel’s chef. Tableware had to be simple, to bring this idea to life and so Dillip the General Manager picked local newspaper up-cycled products for place mats and commissioned their own beautiful designer tableware, wastepaper baskets and welcome fruit basket for the rooms. Then, they took the silver from the breast plate of the Kandyan dancer, to create the hand beaten napkin ring and silver cutlery mat. The napkin itself is dyed bright orange to create the finishing colour palette to putting a Kandyan dancer on your table, to make every meal one that you can celebrate.
The Kandyan style can also be found in the stunning balcony rooms, which all look over the Victoria Reservoir. The different coasters in the rooms, use the three Kandyan colours as well, only framed in black, as the base of the bedroom design, and the local lacquer produced by Sarath uses three types of wood mahogany, gunfire and ginisapn. Sarath, an artist from generations of master craftsman, does the main part of the alms bowl that holds your coffee and tea collection. He explains that these beautiful lacquer objects were created in the past for the royal palace. To make these handmade masterpieces unique, Jerome added an etched surround with depictions of the epic Kandy Perehera, complete with elephants engraved on copper, by artist Ariyaratne, whose workshop is in Hapuwidu. From local master craftsman to stylish modern technology, with chic finishes, Jerome says, “We selected bluetooth in wood, also for the radio, and alarm clock, to create a contemporary luxury room that captures the voodoo of the area, where wood has always played a major part in Kandy’s rich art heritage.” Every item has been carefully thought out. From the small details, to the grand architecture of the building, like the copper from the rings of fire, in the lobby roof lighting, to the room amenities, you feel like you are in the Perhera procession, watching the Kandyan dancers circle with fire rings at the head of the procession, twisting and turning them in their hands, as they process late into the night around the city. Even the bar, with its silver coffee machine, as an art piece in the centre, resonates with the magnificent history of the area.
Jetwing Kandy Gallery took years to create, from buying the land, to creating the beautiful building you see today, in this oasis of calm, a short distance from the ancient capital. It is a place where royalty came to meditate and contemplate the meaning of life. The four year journey from buying the land to opening it came into being when Jetwing realised it had a missing link, and, as Kandy has always been a popular destination, they realised this gap needed to be plugged. The location by the river bank was key: not too far from the train station, thirty minutes drive from the centre of town, and far enough away to feel immersed in nature; quiet, and also a fascinating place to walk around with the hotel naturalist Mr Bandara.
Kandy, as the centre of art and culture, ranging from the art of dancing, to music, lacquer, wood and numerous other artistic skills, made the newest Kandy hotel very much a gallery and homage to the region and its regal past. The spirit of the area was translated through the look of the hotel architecture, with dancers made out of spare parts of cars that shows the owner’s Hiran and Shiromal Cooray determination to drive up-cycling as a way of life through out the Jetwing hotel group.. The greeting hall, to room amenities, and the style of the food and beverages, has been broken down to the very basics of the company’s philosophy and always designed to go beyond expectations of the guests. The staff’s day and night uniforms also pick up the Kandyan colours, an initiative driven by the General Manager Dillip, a passionate people-person, who wants visitors to meet his highly talented artists and artisans.
In a multi dimensional project like this, you start with listening to the architect, and then you create the different elements by looking at his superb renderings. Nothing is left out at Jetwing Kandy Gallery, with a selection of books to read in the room, binoculars for birdwatching, and designer wooden trays with drinks and cashew nuts, all having their place. The power of what Jerome describes as the Jetwing Symphony limited edition series, is in the fact that everything is created from unique hand made designs, in other words you will not see them anywhere else. Even the glass bottle holders have been made from a beautiful stone in Sigriya. So, you never forget this centre of the arts that they have created within the hotel, including charming hand made wooden luggage tags to put on your baggage on arrival. These are personalised on arrival with your names hand written on them, as a lovely gift, from Jetwing Kandy Gallery, to remember your stay with. Inspired by companies like Rice and Carry and Earthbound in Kandy, they are also in the process of creating this choreographed symphony determined to reuse everything.
Spots on the plates, dance across the food and the colours merge with deliciously curated dishes from starters to mains and finally with the delicious deserts. This experiential hotel, within and outside, is managed by a charming butler who curates every guests experience, according their interests and tastes, from the moment you arrive. You will be welcomed by a Kandyan drummer with a welcome song, wowed with the art in the foyer, and, when you leave, they gift you a piece of local art, and three Jasmin flowers floating on a drink, so you feel refreshed and energised for the long road trip ahead. Just remember, when they sit you down at a table by the pool, overlooking the beautiful Victoria River, that when they ask you the question, “Do you realise you have a Kandyan dancer at your table?” To reply, “Of course!” while enjoying the amazing service, incredible master-crafted crockery and cutlery the food is served on, and think as you tuck into your appetiser about all the work that has gone into the magical travel experience, that Jetwing has spent four years creating for you. It’s after all an irresistible celebratory dance that one feels from the moment you arrive, with the rings of fire above your head, that sets the scene of a inspirational luxury hotel, that has taken immersive travel experiences to a whole new level.