Review: WIP by Hilton (Alfresco-European and Asian Fusion)
Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, Hospital Street, Fort, Colombo
Can any journey be complete without food? Not for me and in my lifelong quest to find that one place where my heart and soul finds absolute bliss I stumble upon new food hubs wherever I go, some of these hubs are good, some average or poor but some are those that simply make the entire journey worthwhile. The Dutch Hospital complex is one such haven in the heart of Sri Lanka’s capital city where my sojourn reached its summit.
For all those who have read my last travel post on Colombo would find my next few lines repetitive but i feel they are absolutely important to build a coherent premise to my review. So here goes, Our guide cum driver dropped us outside an Old Dutch building that had a line of fancy cars parked outside and from within the building came a low sound of some jazz music and the signboard at the entrance read “Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct”. At first our jaw lines dropped and we thought ‘oh we don’t wanna dine at a shopping mall food court’….
..… It was our last night in Colombo and with much hesitation we walked inside the unassuming building to an open Courtyard, but what met our eyes was a revision of an old lesson “Never judge by first Impression”. The large open courtyard had a few minimalist concrete tables and log chairs scattered across its cobbled floor, it was surrounded by some fine restaurants serving a variety of cuisines and a good live band was playing everything from jazz to reggae and their music seeped into the ambiance and blended into a mesmerizing caress as the soft breeze blew through the evening. It was one hell of a hip and happening destination, and exactly the place we would have wanted to have our last Sri Lankan supper, and with a fervent heart I blessed our guide for bringing us there.
Tucked amidst the imposing high-rise building of the fort area in Colombo is this 17th century Dutch Hospital that has been remodeled into a trendy shopping precinct and by what we experienced perhaps the hottest destination in whole of Colombo. The night lights had lit by the time we were there, the shops were mostly closed and it was just about good food and great music. The line of restaurants across the veranda of included, The Semondu- a stylish restaurant serving fusion food that blended East and West with a medley of Interesting wines to choose from; The Ministry of Crab- as the name suggest is a heaven for sea food lovers with a spotlight maintained on Sri Lankan crab, I later found that it is a venture of the famous Sri Lankan cricketers Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and Dharshan Munidasa; Next in row was the Colombo Fort Café- a tapas bar and bistro that had its menu fused with European and Mediterranean food; right Next was Heladiv Tea Club- Tea Salon, Dessert bar and Boutique, an innovative place with inviting list of desserts, teas and other drinks. And then completing a full circle was this outlet with an interesting name, W.I.P (Work In Progress) that we were informed by the attended is run by Hilton. It was not without confusion that we finally decided to settle down at WIP, for all outlets were equally inviting but it was for the variety in the menu of this Alfresco style restaurant that attracted our voracious appetites. Wait that’s not where the list ended, for when we meandered towards the Odel outlet at end of the courtyard we saw a crowd of people across a small passage. Our curiosity took us across and the passage opened into another similar courtyard that too had a couple of shopping outlets and a spa but what was most imposing in the night light was this happening bar names Tap House by RnR. Another live band was performing here and the young electric crowd was crazily lost thumping their heads to rock music that floated through the air and canters of beer were being emptied on every table that was occupied by the hip party folks. This was exactly where we’d have loved to put down our hammock had it not been for our young nephew who was accompanying us, so we dragged ourselves to trace our footsteps back to the first courtyard.
The WIP, managed by Hilton
WIP, as we stepped inside, exuded the charms of an old age tavern with an eclectic combination of classic décor and cosy seating. The rustic metal framed lanterns hanging from the rafter and large ornamental flower pots created a sophisticated dining ambiance. A large blackboard announced a long list of the day’s special menu and long wooden tables flanked by benches invited for a laid back and relaxed dinner but the intoxicating music that the band was playing in the courtyard still hummed in our years and we mutually agreed to have out order served at the concrete courtyard table instead.
The menu enlisted a selection of German and Austrian dishes and a couple of Asian inclusions like the Nasi Goreng. We placed our order in a WIP signature Mixed Grill, a Traditional Fish and Chips, a Chilli Chicken with eggs and vegetable fried Rice portion and a serve of made to order pasta for my little nephew with a creamy cheesy sauce. The traditional British Fish and Chips was cooked to perfection and was an immediate hit, even my little nephew jumped in to grab the crispy fish and finger chips after setting his pasta aside and we had to agree that his pasta lacked flavour and was too bland. The Mixed Grill was a platter of grilled sausages, chicken wings and lamb served with crispy spice potato wedges and a mixed fresh salad. The platter of succulent well marinated meat was delicious except the lamb was a little too rare for our Indian palate but that could have been fixed by requesting well in advance I am sure. The fried rice and Chicken Chilli was quite flavoursome, with the boneless chicken pieces cooked in hot, sweet and spicy Chinese sauce and a good stir fried rice to go along with it. To wash down all the great food we ordered our choice of cocktails and they were just perfectly mixed. All in all a great evening with good food and good company, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my last day in the Sri Lankan heartland.
The night was getting over and some enthusiastic tourist had joined the live band to sing to her heart’s content and the romantic lyrics of Shania Twain’s ‘You are still the one..’ transformed the entire ambiance into a romantic one. And later just when we got up to leave the rain came down rolling and I wondered, little would have the Dutch known that this Hospital that they built to heal the sick and wounded would many years later shed its original function to become a happening food and shopping zone. And not just any shopping precinct but the one that’s hands down a must visit place in the whole of Colombo, a place that transported us through time and we almost forgot that we are in Colombo and not in some food street in a European city.
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