can be a feast, as Wijith DeChickera discovers at Sea Food Cove
A lavish banquet fit for Poseidon
Sea, a star, and the sky at night: these spices of life can flavour a meal
in more strange and wonderful ways than salt and mayo can. There's one
condition, however; you must be a romantic, for these exotic ingredients
to make your food taste like ambrosia.
Our island race is renowned the world over for its remarkable sense
of hospitality. This is nowhere more apparent than in the bonhomie and
camaraderie that seasons Sri Lankan cuisine. Being girdled by the Indian
Ocean, and garlanded by over 1000 miles of seafront, it comes as no surprise
that the nation excels in the preparation and presentation of seafood.
Among the many restaurants specialising in this fare, a few rate exceptional
mention for their cuisine as much as for the ambience. Not unnaturally,
these establishments are by and large located on the beach.
Not too far afield, in famed Mount Lavinia, on the delightful private
beach of the eponymous Hotel, dining al fresco proves memorable. You can
place your order from the fresh catch of the day, and watch as it is dressed
for table, to your specification. If you are feeling adventurous and the
weather permits, you may request that your table be moved out from under
the canopy of coconut timber-and-thatch, and on to the golden strand. There
the panorama of orange-lit catamarans far out on an ebony sea will entrance
you as you dine under tropical stars.
A 'willing suspension of disbelief' is required, if eating away from
the simple pleasures of hearth and home. There's no surer way to spoil
a sumptuous repast than a sceptical attitude. One recommends, therefore,
that you check in your cynicism at the cloakroom of the regal, old Mount
Lavinia Hotel's resplendent lobby. Chuck the jaded palate, at least for
Then, second from left and straight on till morning. Except, this isn't
Wonderland: the Sea Food Cove takes your last request for comestible and
beverage at 10.30, or thereabouts (if the maitre d' likes you.)
Take your time getting on to the beach. The subdued lighting in corridors
leading to the Cove, and the nooks and crannies of this anachronistic setting,
will help establish the mood. (Watch out for pirates.)
Walking the plank is a soothing experience at the Cove. The restaurant's
sprung wooden floorboards have just the right touch. Nobody will mind too
much if you shuck off your sandals (the dress code, that dinosaur lumbering
about in the ballrooms of the colonial-style mansion hotel, is honoured
more in the breach here. Dress code for the beach, puh-lease!)
The banquet beggars description. But let the experience begin at the
beginning. Connoisseurs will insist white wine complements seafood like
no other nectar can. Agreed, but the eccentric may opt for one of many
reds from the varied cellars of the establishment. The Tuscan red, in particular,
goes down a treat with grilled mullet. If it is the plebeian beer you plump
for, you may as well do yourself the disservice of trying out the salad
bar with its wickedly fattening sauces and creams. Don't say you weren't
The safest bet and most representative item on the menu is the ubiquitous
Seafood Platter. Here fish, squid and crustacean compete for space on a
dish that is truly gargantuan in proportion. You may indicate the quantity
you desire, and it is recommended you do not err on the side of excess.
Surprising how filling 3-400 grams of seafood can be, garnished with garlic
sauce, sautéd vegetables, and your choice of mashed potato or French
The gourmet might take a studied fancy for Lobster Thermidor, while
aspiring gourmands could experiment with shark, snapper, garupa and the
exotic like. Soft-shelled crabs are available intermittently, while prawn
and lagoon crab feature prominently on the daily bill of fare. These latter
delectables make the journey from far-off Puttalam, closer Chilaw and nearby
Negombo (as the maitre d' is at pains to explain, obviously proud of the
recent liveliness of his crustaceans.)
At any rate, the novelty of 'shopping' for exactly what tickles the
taste-buds is worth the extravagant tab. The opportunity to instruct the
chef on your preferred mode of preparation is an extra that is not to be
had everywhere. And while it is true that you can look on while your common
or garden kottu is being made, even at swanky food parlours, there's not
a venue that affords more value for money than 'the Cove at Mount'.
A decade ago, there were a handful of speciality restaurants in Colombo
scattered like a pinch of salt among the city's teeming Chinese eateries.
Today, the capital of the Isle of Serendipity is a smorgasbord of international
cuisine: German, French, Italian, Swiss, other Continental, Thai, Korean,
Japanese, Vegetarian and then also a clutch of Indian; verily a culinary
melting pot. Throw in a smattering of fast-food franchises like Pizza Hut,
Dominos, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken for variety. But for a truly
moveable feast, the Cove's rather unforgettable.
The centre of power
By Hiranthi Fernando
What time is the next power cut?" is the question we hear every day. Most
Sri Lankans, spending long hours in the dark have resigned themselves to
re-arranging their daily activities to fit in with the power cuts. With
the five-hour black outs in two staggered segments, one often finds it
difficult to keep track of the times the power goes off and comes on.
Yet someone has to keep track of the power cuts. The unpleasant task
of plunging an area into darkness and the happier one of resuming supply
without delay, falls to the staff of the Systems Control Centre of the
Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), who work round the clock planning and monitoring
the supply of power to the public.
The nerve-centre of the Systems Control Centre is the Control Room.
The islandwide transmission network as well as the reservoir levels are
displayed on one entire wall of this large air-conditioned room which is
kept scrupulously clean. Before entering the control room, all footwear
has to be removed. The control engineer and his staff seated at the bank
of monitors in the centre of the room have a clear view of the grid display.
The display wall takes a wide curve for better visibility.
Showing us the display, Lilanthi Mendis, Deputy General Manager, Systems
Control explained that the K-M Hydro Complex is made up of the Moussakelle
and Castlereagh reservoirs. The water in the Moussakelle reservoir flows
to the Canyon power station, where electricity is generated. After generation
the water flows to the Canyon pond. The water then goes on to the New Laxapana
power house, where electricity is generated before it flows to Laxapana
pond. It next flows to Polpitiya power house and after generation at Polpitiya,
finally to the Kelani river.
In the same way, water from Castlereagh Reservoir is used to generate
electricity at Wimalasurendra power house and Old Laxapana power house
before it flows into the Laxapana pond, Polpitiya power house and finally
to the Kelani river.
In the Mahaweli complex, Kotmale is the highest reservoir and the water
collected generates electricity at the Kotmale power house located in the
mountain. Thereafter, electricity is successively generated at Ukuwela,
Bowatenne, Victoria, Randenigala and Rantambe. Water from the Mahaweli
complex is also released for irrigation at various points.
Indicating the figures flashing on the display, Ms. Mendis said the
water levels in the reservoirs are telemetered and the levels below spill
level are constantly updated on the display screen. "According to the levels
in the reservoirs, we can determine how many gigawatts of electricity can
be generated," Ms. Mendis said. "All reservoir levels are carefully checked
on site at 6 a.m. every morning and the results phoned in to us. We have
to decide how much we can draw from each reservoir until the next monsoon
sets in. The dead storage level has to be maintained in each reservoir.
The live storage is what we have to work with. Live storage now is at 167
GwH. The daily water balance for each reservoir is monitored closely."
The transmission network is displayed by a red circuit for 132 KV and
a purple one for 220 KV. Power stations and grid sub stations are indicated
by boxes. The machines that are not working are indicated by a flashing
bulb. At the grid substations, the electricity is stepped down by large
transformers to the 33KV voltage needed for the distribution system. A
generation summary is shown on the monitors with the mega watts generated
at each machine. The control room is equipped with two monitors and a data
base. Generator readings are taken every half hour and voltage at every
station every hour. A daily load curve shows how electricity consumption
increases and decreases.
A party line telephone system in the control room is connected to all
the power stations and sub-stations. The stations have access to the control
room by a push button telephone but no dialling facilities. "Using this
telephone, we give instructions to each station for loading and deloading
power," said the control e ngineer. "We mark the times manually and the
voice communication is also recorded. Each zone is controlled by several
primary sub-stations. The zones are divided so that at a particular time,
one fourth of the country has a power cut."
At the change over time, 3 p.m., there was a burst of activity in the
control room with instructions being given to several grid stations on
the party line. Calls from stations also had to be answered. If a particular
area has an unexpected power failure, the length of the power cut has to
be reduced. The control engineer explained that about 50 feeders have to
be cut and restarted for each power cut. "At the same time we have to balance
the frequency, which has to be kept constant at 50 Herts with a leeway
of 5 %," he added. This has to be done by reducing or increasing power
generation. We have small thermal machines, which usually have a fixed
load and cannot be changed so it has to be done by the hydros. "We have
to give a little time for the generators to adjust to the frequency. That
is why the power cuts and restoration sometimes is delayed by a few minutes,"
he further explained.
Ms. Mendis said the control room functions 24 hours a day with three
shifts, each with one control engineer and two electrical superintendents.
Working a control room shift is no easy task, she said. It requires alertness
and constant concentration. Three chief engineers function under the DGM,
System Control Centre.
H.D.S. Thimothies, C.E. System Control, said the main duties of his
department concern load dispatching and network managing. "We manage the
daily schedule of generation and dispatch of power in the most economical
manner to meet the system demand," he explained. "When shedding load during
the power cuts, two major components that have to be monitored are frequency
and voltage. We also manage the control and switching of transition network
to satisfy the system load operation and maintenance requirements in a
safe and efficient manner." The workload of the systems control engineers
increases when power cuts are imposed.
C.E. Operations Planning is responsible for predicting shortages, planning
and arranging power interruptions. The C.E., G.J. Aluthge, said that as
the purpose of imposing a power cut is to save water, there is no point
shutting down the thermal machines. However, they have a practical difficulty
in shutting down all the hydro machines. Most of the thermal machines are
below 25 megawatts. Of the only two larger machines, one is not functioning
at present and the other one has not been handed fully to the CEB. "Since
the frequency and voltage cannot be controlled by the small thermals, we
have to run some hydros," Mr. Aluthge said.
The country's normal daily consumption is about 20 GwH. With the power
cuts, it has been reduced to 15 GwH. Of this about 11 - 12 is supplied
by thermal machines and 3 - 4 by the hydro machines. "During off peak hours
between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the minimum load is about 500 megawatts. We
cannot cut power during this time, because the essential hydros have to
be run to control the frequency. The situation at present requires daily
monitoring," Mr. Aluthge said. The C.E. Operations Audit handles the aftermath
of operations, for instance, the saving effected, what happens during operations,
tallying the drop in storage with the electricity generated and preparing
the monthly review report.