Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ceylon Stories: Unawatuna

After Galle, we reluctantly dragged ourselves towards the beach haven of Unawatuna. Una is ten mins away from Galle. The best option is to take the bus. It will cost you 10 Sri Lankan rupees and its pretty comfortable. Cabs, which seem to be incredibly popular with tourists, are too expensive and just not worth it. It's a short five minute walk from the bus stand to the beach. 

Unawatuna is gorgeous. Myth has it that Una is the beach paradise that Valmiki describes in the Ramayana. And its not hard to imagine why the gods would want to live here. The sea is a beautiful blue, the sunlight sparkles and everything looks gorgeous. Guest houses and restaurants are on the beach (literally) and afford a magical view. The one thing that struck me about Una (and SL in general) was how incredibly clean it was. It was super crowded, but there wasn't a single piece of paper floating in the ocean or discarded wrappers all over the place. So spotlessly clean. Indians could learn a lot from this island nation. 

Prettiness much 

Una is also a major party place and one of the clubs on the beach is always having a huge, dance party (at all times of the day). If thats your sort of thing, you will find a lot of like minded people.

I highly recommend going for an early morning walk. I went for a few and they were a lot of fun. I witnessed the burial ceremony of a giant turtle, saw people partying at 7:30 am (the place is called Cafe Riddim, in case anyone is interested) and spotted a really strange guy who decided to run along the beach in a pink bathrobe and a cowboy hat. It was interesting, to say the least. 

Ah! The joys of being a beach bum

For all its beauty, Una is kind of terrible. The restaurants were right on the beach, and a big strong wave could have washed all of them. It cannot be ecologically friendly. Most of the sand has been tarred and built upon, and there is just a tiny 5 feet stretch where you can sun yourself. Most restaurants are too expensive and the people are less nice, less friendly. While I enjoyed my time in Una, there was something immensely unlikable about the place. And I can't quite tell you what it was. The beach was pretty, there were some fabulous restaurants (read below) and it was very safe but....... there was something missing, something shallow about the whole experience. 

Despite all that, there are two very good reasons to visit Una: Dream House and Nathilu's. These are two incredible restaurants that you simply must visit when you are in SL. 

Dream House is located inside, away from the beach and has a magical ambience. The food was soooo good. Some of the best pasta I have tasted in a looong time: the ingredients were fresh, the flavour was wonderful and quantities were huge. The food is a little expensive but its worth every penny you pay, and more. I really wish I lived closer to this place.

Some of the best food I have had in a looong time

Our other great find in Una was Nathilu's. Their Sri Lankan breakfast was very, very, very good. String hoppers, stew (veggie or fish), sambol and a gigantic thambili : It was undoubtedly my favourite breakfast of the trip and total value for money. I didn't make it here for dinner/ lunch but I imagine that would be pretty incredible too. Remember that you need to pre-order their Sri Lankan breakfast (the previous night). 

Be sure to head to these places when you are in SL. And let me know what you think. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Galle Food Guide

The promised Galle food guide is finally here.

Before we begin:
a) We only ate in the fort area.
b) All the restaurants in the area are charming, over-priced with decent food. I encourage you to try as many as you can. We did that and paid return visits to the ones that we truly liked.
c) Temper your expectations. We didn't find any mind-blowing restaurants in Galle. Una and Colombo both had way better food to offer.
d) We heard rumours about street food stalls in the evening. Despite going sniffing around in every corner of Galle fort, we were unable to locate these stalls.
e) I have ranked the places in increasing order.

And now, lets get to it

4) Mama Galle's Roof Cafe: This place was much touted in our guide book and the packed cafe heightened our expectations. Unfortunately, these expectations took a nose dive. The grilled veggies and pasta were both very very average.

The honey-glazed banana fritters with ice cream and the coconut pudding both failed to hit our sweet spot.

We walked away from Mama Galle's with not so happy stomachs. Maybe you will have better luck if you order the curries.

3) Serendipity: We braved the blazing Sri Lankan sun and trudged to Serendipity's for a late breakfast.
 Ask to be seated in the terrace. The terrace is cool, charming and largely empty. A wonderful place to have some coffee and food while reading a book.

The food at this place is pretty decent too. I especially recommend the gourmet hoppers. These are appams with stuffing of your choice: cheese, veggies, fruits, etc. They have some really nice coffee too.

They also provide you with cards and games to help you while your afternoon away.

2) Anura's: This place was rumoured to have Galle's best pizza, so we headed here for a late lunch.

The pizza was quite disappointing. If this is Galle's best, you would be better off not having any. But you must still visit Anura's because they dish up some fabulous curry.  The curry was light, flavourful and filling. It wasn't spicy but didn't compromise on taste either. I absolutely loved it. I highly recommend it.

They have pretty decent chocolate pancakes too. It's a little thick but the gooey chocolate makes up for it.

1) Royal Dutch Tea Shop: This is my pick in Galle. We just visited this place for tea and snacks but it was fabulous. Everything from the menu to the kitschy curios shop behind set this place apart.
The tea was wonderful as were the home-made ginger biscuits. We wolfed them down pretty quickly. The cinammon cake was a little dry but tasted OK.  Head here for Galle's best tea.

Thanks to Ganje for being my partner in gluttony.