Holding Court At Colombo Court Hotel & Spa
Colombo Court Hotel & Spa is at the heart of Colombo’s artistic quarter, minutes from where Geoffrey Bawa, one of the greatest architects of the 21st century, had his private residence and also his office, now the Gallery Café, where he sketched out the current Houses of Parliament.
Colombo Court Hotel & Spa are architecturally and visually inspired by the owner Arun Thapar vision of being environmentally conscious, eco-friendly, sustainable and also a reflection of the islands great artistic history. He cleverly up-cycled his wonderful old office buildings that were more than 70 years old to create a true green hospitality venue in the centre of Colombo with architect Sunela Jayewardene. A leading Environmental Designer whose focus is on Leisure and Conservation Architecture. Her building brief was to create an environmental hub that linked the past with the exciting new Colombo post the civil war, which she did brilliantly re-using objects in interesting and diverse ways. Arun says “The material used to reconstruct the original buildings is all recycled material, such as bricks from broken boundary walls. Daylight is used at maximum with open plan bar and roof top restaurant, airy spaces instead of air con, and when the lights are turned on out of necessity, they are energy-saving LED lights.”
The owner is a fascinating character, who holds court with everyone from film directors to writers in the evening, where he will over delicious cocktails explain how he is reducing the carbon footprint of the building with the aim of becoming a totally carbon neutral. Architect Sunela as part of this exciting project employed incendiary artist Prageeth Manohansa, who took old bike chains and car parts to make the tree of life with birds that circles its way from the open-planned entrance to the roof top bar, known as the Cloud Café, where only the sky is the limit. His work can be found used as the base of the lights in the bedroom suites and even as replica ferns in areas with limited light.
Here, early evening, after the madness of work is over, you can see the perfect sunset, overlooking the hotel’s azure swimming pool and Moroccan style plunge and chill out pool. As you wander through this tropical oasis of calm, away from the buzzy city, you have a whole range of places from which to sit, read, write and contemplate life. It is already the favoured place of well known film directors like Deepa Mehta, who directed Midnight’s Children and Water, and writers, who love quirky inspiring settings like author of bestselling novel Funny Boy. Being a lover of books the owner includes a great library where you can exchange books in a comfy cooler than cool colonial style room. Around another corner, you can take your ease in the lounge overlooked by dramatic black and white photographs taken by Sri Lankan photographer, Yanik Tissera, who brilliantly captures in his portraits and landscapes the soul of the island.
You can also dine in style inside or out with French master chef, Jean Pierre Pialliers, who has been experimenting with dishes since the age of ten and has delighted Queen Elisabeth II and Ronald Reagan with his culinary masterpieces, as well as having the honour of cooking for Madonna’s wedding. Not only that, he has written a healthy book on food called Culinary Art and creates dishes every day to suit the different people who love to stay in a place that excels at homely luxury. You are doubly spoilt, as it is first a feast for your eyes, as each dish is served with a flourish at your table and then enjoyed to the fullest as mouth wateringly delicious creations. Here, the chairs you enjoy your nightly drink from are also up-cycled as they are made with recycled and waxed paper to make them weather proof for all of Colombo’s seasonal variations. With only 32 rooms, it is the perfect place for a wedding or an intimate family gets together. Currently, it is being used as a base for researching the scenes for the shooting of the book being turned into the movie, Funny Boy, with the author Shyam Selvadurai, who wrote the script having just flown in from Canada.
Each setting reflects the changing time of day in Colombo through the magical Moroccan style courtyard surrounded by lush greenery that breaks up the toots of the passing traffic – the only reminder that we are still in the buzzy metropol of Colombo 3. In particular, the suites are magnificent with your own desk and computer from which to work, elegant fabrics caressing the furniture and vibrant colours to make these elegant yet practical rooms radiate positive energy and vibrancy that only tropical boutique hotels can pull off. Every room is huge and each one is a different shape, which makes it fun to explore the ever changing corridors and open spaces housing sculptured birds from spare car parts. The hotel opened in 2012 and 7 years later, it is now as famous for its SPA as it is for its food, with Balinese treatments done by international masseurs and aromatherapy treatments that put the bounce back into even the most road weary traveller.
Being a true romantic my favourite room is of course the honeymoon suite, which is spacious and grand with fantastic views of both nature and the city. It is adorned with a romantic bathtub and there is a magical feel to this delightful setting dedicated to the mystery of love that two people can feel for each other given the optimum space to express it.
When I talk to the General Manager about the hotel’s success, he explains, “When you look outside, there is so much traffic and we hear from all the guests, within seconds of walking inside the building, that they didn’t expect it to be so exotic and tranquil.” The general manager’s favourite place is the Jacuzzi, where you can relax enjoy a glass of cold white wine while typing out your business notes on a computer or kick back with a good book. “I love the all-day dining, breakfast, coffee, snack or dinner area with the fairy lights experience at night.
The place is full of nature despite being in the heart of the capital, with butterflies flitting through the courtyard garden, lanterns lighting up the trees where squirrels play, and the croaking music of frogs serenading the guests every night.”
Wherever you look, one thing is clear, the guests feel they can completely relax at this mecca of creativity and so the rate of guests returning is high.
They also love the fact that the rooms have balconies overlooking the pool.
Wojtek the highly entertaining and passionate General Manager would like everyone in the world to know about Colombo’s relaxing, hidden gem and his only wish is that all who stay, get fully re-energise after their long flights to the island, or day out in the city working.”
He says the guests love the fact that leading fabric designers Barefoot on the doorstep and Paradise Road is just around the corner. In a nutshell, his team welcomes people from every nationality, religion and background and gets them ready and willing to take on the urban human tropical jungle that at times can feel like being in a scene out of Dantes Inferno.
If there were a book written about the Colombo Court Hotel & Spa, it would have to be called ‘Let’s meet at the Courts’. After all, it is the best open secret in Colombo and its incendiary art is enough to provoke an environmental revolution, with innovative furniture and fern trees from old metal fishing hooks inspiring people not to throw away their old cars but to re-use them.
So, the more you explore the interlinking corridors and the more you see, the more you will want to be the change in the world and make this your world yours when spending time in the big smoke.
Wojtek who has managed some of the best boutique properties on the South Coast, is also from a family of writers. He tells us how he won a two week trip to Paris for his piece on the movie, Chopin: Desire for Love, and this is maybe another reason why it attracts such interesting characters.
“Personally,” he says, “I think air con rooms keep us away from nature and the open sky and having moved away from dining in an ice box concept, our guests also now prefer being part of the tropical landscape and only return to their air con rooms for a siesta if the heat of the day gets too much as they now love the inside out form of living that Colombo Court & Spa creates.”