2nd July 2000
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That clubhouse ambience...

The best way to stay in Nuwara Eliya is in style and the most stylish hotel there is the stately St. Andrew's. Although it is one of the oldest hotels in Sri Lanka, the St. Andrew's Hotel is nevertheless at the forefront of innovative hospitality for guests, whether hailing from home or abroad. Now a Jetwing St. Andrew's Hotel is at the forefront of innovative hospitality for guestshotel, St. Andrew's shares character, charm and distinction with other hotels in the Jetwing Group.

The hotel began life as a 19th Century tea planters' clubhouse overlooking the golf course at Nuwara Eliya. If your ideas of a hotel that lingers from colonial days, is a place that is stuffy and elitist, then stay at St. Andrew's and discover a new, not an old, world. The hotel boasts the newest kitchen and one of the finest restaurants in the country.

The welcome at St. Andrew's, from the moment you are greeted by the smiling porter at the foot of the glass-walled entrance steps, to the time you check out, is warm and genuine. This is due in part to the nature of the hotel. It is small (52 rooms including suites and family rooms) and full of corners where guests can snuggle up with a book before a log fire or sip tea in the sunshine on its terraced lawns.

Being in Nuwara Eliya, at 6,126 feet above sea level, the hotel benefits from a varied climate with delightfully invigorating days and cooler nights. (There are blankets on the beds and hot water bottles are available.) The climate helps the vegetation and the carefully maintained lawns of the hotel are bordered with hedges, flowers and firs. A golf putting green (another new addition) is in one corner, while the vista from the hotel balconies and terraces is of the lush golf links across the road.

Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka's answer to the more famous hill stations of India. The British invented it in the early 19th century. In 1819, Dr. John Davy became the first Briton to visit, describing it as "beautiful.....quite deserted by man.....the dominion entirely of wild animals." During his term as Governor of Ceylon (1824 - 1831), Sir Edward Barnes set the trend for Nuwara Eliya to be a sanatorium for enervated and convalescing British soldiers. It expanded with residences of Britons who turned to hunting and horticulture, growing English vegetables and fruits, just six degrees from the Equator. Sri Lanka's highest peak, Mt. Pidurutalagala looms over the town.

The hotel is ideally situated for day trips to the crisp beauty of the hill country, such as Baker's Falls, World's End and the Horton Plains National Park (at 7,200 feet above sea level and 33 kilometers from St. Andrew's) It is possible to make an excursion to Adam's Peak from the hotel. Other day excursions could include the Hanguranketa Temple, that was the refuge of a Kandyan king in the 17th century and is significant now for its shrineroom murals, ancient collection of ola leaf manuscripts, remains and sculptures of the king's palace.

From St. Andrew's, it is also possible to visit the dagaba at Mahiyangana. This is believed to be one of the locations that Buddha visited 26 centuries ago. the ornate and impressively pinnacled dagaba, which is said to contain a lock of the Buddha's hair, is the result of successive efforts of several monarchs who paid homage to this sacred spot.

Only eight kilometers from the hotel is the Hakgala Botanical Gardens and the Hakgala Arboretum. The gardens are laid out at the foot of the prominent Hakgala Peak. It is a charming garden that, in the 1860s, was originally a Chincona plantation. (Extracts of chincona was used in the manufacture of Quinine as an anti-malarial drug). Today, a variety of beautiful ferns, roses and orchids thrive there.

After touring the locality, the cosy tranquillity of St. Andrew's will round off a perfect day. The hotel's public rooms include a comfortable lounge with deep settees and armchairs, and a blazing log fire. There is also a separate television room. Parents with young children will appreciate the Kiddies room, where a notice on the door points out that it is "for kids under 12 years only". For adults who want to play games, there is a saloon dedicated to billiards and snooker.

The wood-panelled bar at St. Andrew's is traditional, with colonial period advertisement posters, wooden settles and barmen who know their stuff. There is a novel daily 'happy hour' from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m with drinks at 25% discount. A contrast in style, from ancient to modern, is the hotel's new restaurant, which has undergone an amazing transformation.

The oldfashioned atmosphere (of original moulded ceiling, clay-tiled floors and tasselled curtains) is complemented by the addition of a sparkling show kitchen. With its sombre tones, but latest equipment, it fits in with the room's sedate atmosphere. A large newly equipped modern kitchen behind the scenes supports the chefs at work in full view of the guests. Breakfasts, including freshly baked hoppers and other local dishes, are prepared on the spot to guests' demand. a walk-in wine cellar, which guests can visit, ensures proper storage of wines.

Not only has the decor been revamped, so has the service. Lunch and dinner buffets have been banished, so guests can have extra quality and service. This means that even guests staying on room rates that include meals, can enjoy the elegant service and individually prepared dishes of a fine dining restaurant . Executive Chef Vijitha Gunawardena creates his menus each day according to availability of fresh ingredients. The four-course menus include a choice of at least three dishes for the main course; rice and curry and vegetarian dishes are always available.

The hotel's General Manager, Gamunu Karunarathne, commented that guests are delighted at not having to queue at a buffet counter to serve themselves, and they enjoy the leisurely dining experience. The guest comment book supports him, with a Sri Lankan guest writing: "Lovely place, excellent service." 

The renovation of the hotel is part of the on-going development programme, and includes new back-of-house infrastructure, such as laundry and staff quarters.

The bedrooms at St. Andrew's have always won praise for their blissful comfort. those in the old wing are furnished in country-house style with lots of chintzy fabrics and pastel shades. In the new wing, the bedrooms also have antique furniture, like four-poster beds, as well as a bright, cheerful atmosphere. In contrast to the soulless ambience of many modern hostelries, guests feel at home in the stately, up-to-date style of the St, Andrew's Hotel.

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