Who would’ve thought that traffic in the capital of Sri Lanka could rival that of Delhi or Mumbai? But, yes, it did! We travelled 17kms in one hour…and that was BEFORE peak time hit! It was such a relief when our driver pointed to the shape of the Hilton Colombo Residences in the distance and we knew we had arrived!
We made our way to the busy reception desk where the smiling staff exuded a sense of calm and welcome; they must be used to guests arriving flustered and in need of rest. While we had reserved a 2-bedroom suite, we were upgraded to a 3-bedroom on the 26th floor, which was lovely for our friend as it meant a double bed for her instead of a single.
While there is no executive club at this Hilton (I assume because it is an apartment hotel rather than a regular Hilton), they did offer a ‘1+1 Happy Hour’ 5-7pm. So we headed down to the Basico Bar Lounge some time after 6pm and found a spot in some comfy lounge chairs and a server promptly arrived to take our order. When asked for a menu he deftly handed over his ipad, and we scrolled through what was on offer, which took a little more time than usual when sharing a device between three people (and their menu is not online, so perusal and selection on one’s own device is not possible). Bearing in mind that the 1+1 deal finished in just over 30 minutes, our server was prompt in taking our order so that we would be able to get our second in before the 7pm cut off. Another sign of good service was the staff remembering our order when we returned the next night for another happy hour.
We decided not to go the 3,350 rps buffet dinner (over $30 AUD) as none of us were particularly hungry, so we wouldn’t have got value from such a magnificent spread. Instead, we decided to set ourselves up in the suite with snacks and beers. Another bonus of an apartment hotel is being able to ‘eat in’ in comfort (although we did have to ring for more cutlery and glassware, as there was a shortage of it in the room).
We enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep in the comfortable beds – such a gift before making a long journey home. And having the luxury of all the space of a suite, meant we truly could relax or get work done, and not get in each other’s way.
Throughout our many travels, we have never been disappointed with a Hilton breakfast, and so we were anticipating a pleasant experience with what was on offer at Colombo Residences. Breakfast was outstanding! Everything anyone could possibly want was there. Service was excellent, as well. You didn’t even have to do your own toast at the bread station, there was someone there to wait for it to pop out and bring it to your table. No request was a problem. You don’t want coffee or tea but would prefer hot water and fresh ginger? Ok. You want soda water with lime at breakfast? Ok. Our server, Michael, suggested a milk hopper, something we had not had before. We think it may have been a speciality of the house – it was a hopper with coconut cream in place of the egg, almost like a dessert hopper. Really good suggestion.
The next morning, Michael had saved us a table in his section and had already told the chef we wanted a special order of string hopper kottu for breakfast. They were the best of all Sri Lankan breakfasts we had sampled throughout the trip. They were almost like a stir-fried string hopper with vegetables. Loved them! He had a whole other option ready for our breakfast the following day, but this was our last breakfast, and so we had to say our goodbyes.
Most of our morning was spent in and by the pool, getting some rays, reading books and refreshing ourselves in the crisp temperatures of the blue water. If any of us had been inclined to exercise, the gym, sauna and steam room were also at our disposal, but the fresh air and breeze were more what we were after in our relaxed state.
The convenience and space of staying in a large suite such as this really came into its own when one of our small group came down sick late morning and spent the remainder of the day resting. This was made all the more helpful due to us securing a late check out of 6pm, our flight was not until 1am, so this was gold to us. But even if there had not been a late check out available, the hotel would have stored our luggage and we would have been able to rest by the pool and continue using the facilities until it was time to leave for the airport.
Making the most of the late check out (and the convenience of our ill friend being able to stay in bed), we ordered room service for both lunch and dinner. A feta, cucumber and tomato salad, and marinated grilled vegetables with homus and pesto, along with a pinot grigio, made for a healthy and tasty lunch, and it allowed me to continue working while getting sustenance. The pizza for dinner was also filling and delicious.
All too soon, it was time to leave our spacious haven on the 26th floor and make our way to the airport where the facilities and service at the lounge and restaurants were far inferior to that of the Hilton Colombo Residences. Doing battle with the peak time traffic in Colombo nearly robbed us of our serenity, but luckily our driver knew some back streets that shaved some time off the journey, and the residual memories of the Hilton and some deep breathing, made it all ‘do-able.’
Our Sri Lankan journey continues with Colombo…
Accommodation: Hilton Colombo Residences
Tour Company: JF Tours & Travels