Three-times a winner; that’s Gallery CafeView(s):
Paradise Road Gallery Café has charted a meteoric trajectory into Sri Lanka’s annual Tourism Awards Hall of Fame, winning the award for ‘the best themed cuisine restaurant’ for the third consecutive year.
The Gallery Café rewrote Colombo’s restaurant culture when it first opened its doors in 1998. Located on quiet, tree-lined Alfred House Road, it was the office of revered architect Geoffrey Bawa. The premises were affectionately referred to as “Number Two” by Bawa. In 1998, Shanth Fernando, riding the crest of success with his interior lifestyle stores decided to add restaurateur to his already impressive resume.
Receiving the seal of approval from the great architect, Bawa provided his invaluable advice into the placing of the dining area. Fernando’s alterations were subtle and minimal; the footprint gentle, almost invisible. What emerged was a haven of elegance and grace: Bawa-esque yet with Fernando’s unmistakable stamp of originality.
Fernando firmly believed that Sri Lankan cuisine and endemic ingredients deserved their rightful place and incorporated traditional Sri Lankan ingredients in his menu.
Black Pork Curry, Fish Head Curry Soup, Crab Curry Soup, Cream of Gotukola soup, Jaggery Ice Cream Sundae and Jaggery Crème Brulee with Thalaguli all had Fernando’s own twists. The response was astounding – local and overseas visitors could not lap up enough. Today, these dishes still feature with the menu remaining virtually unchanged. In another bold move, Fernando added Sri Lankan fusion cuisine such as Lemongrass and Ginger Chicken with Spinach and Potato Mash and Grilled Seer with Coconut Risotto. Overseas and local foodies embraced these dishes with enthusiasm.
Fernando’s German-born wife Anki is the pivot on which the famed Gallery Café Dessert Menu revolves. Anki is a passionate connoisseur of desserts. She researches the ingredients, finds Sri Lankan alternatives and tops it all by adding her own inimitable twist. So celebrated are the Gallery Café’s desserts that a Bollywood megastar gets them air-freighted to India on a regular basis.
When Fernando conceived The Gallery Café, he managed to fuse time-worn Sri Lankan elements of design into modern interiors: Nil Manel flowers adorned the entry ponds, samara-hued walls and wrought iron fixtures provided a graceful serenity. The ambience created with his signature table settings incorporating Sinhala letters on the crockery trumpeted his pride in his Sri Lankan identity.
From the hand-written menu boards in Anki’s beautiful script to supervising the way food was plated, the secret of the consistent standards maintained by the Gallery Café is Fernando’s personal involvement.
In the early 1990s, when he opened his flagship store down Flower Road in modest premises, he sold a variety of products that oozed uber-chic. The surprising factor was that they were all produced by local craftsmen to Fernando’s designs.
The public was entranced and thus began the foray into the Paradise Road brand that now encompasses several entities: boutique hotels, restaurants and lifestyle stores.
The Gallery Café has won several accolades from prestigious international publications: Conde Nast Traveller described it as “the only place to eat in Colombo”; East Magazine Singapore rated the Gallery Café as one of the top ten restaurants in Asia and Asiaweek proclaimed The Gallery Bar as one of the top ten lounge bars in Asia.
Just as noteworthy are the personalities that have walked through its doors – The Maharajah of Udaipur, the Princess of Sweden, the Princess of Denmark, the Mauritian President, William Hague, pop star Sting, international designers such as Donna Karan and Kenzo and Bollywood stars.
The Gallery Café also plays host to several new and established artists with periodic art exhibitions.
comments powered by Disqus