By Mark Captain, Travel & Lifestyle Editor.
Standing 32 floors tall at the most desirable address in Colombo, the newly built Shangri-La Hotel epitomises luxury. First of all, let’s get rid of the elephant in the room. A few people told us to avoid Colombo when visiting Sri Lanka and I am glad to have ignored that. Colombo is very much open for business and is developing rapidly with the creation of Port City – a 2.6 square kilometre conception of glass skyscrapers, new financial district, hospitals, hotels, a theme park and more. Colombo has everything to offer from fine dining (try and secure a booking at the legendary Ministry of Crab if you can), markets, malls and much more. The best way to get around Colombo is by Tuk-Tuk which is fast and fun.
It really is all about location. Shangri-La is perfectly located at 1 Galle Face to enjoy the best of Colombo, just 40 minutes from the airport. Situated in a prime waterside location, Shangri-La is part of a new lifestyle development including residential towers and the newest shopping mall in Colombo. Benefit from being within walking distance of attractions such as the elegance of the Dutch Hospital Precinct and the bustle of Pettah market. Take a walk outside and be immersed in Colombo life, walking by friends playing an impromptu cricket match on the green and kids flying kites along the promenade.
Rooms are chic and very well appointed. All deluxe and premier rooms (some rooms have a private balcony) are a generous 42 square metres in size. There are also 34 suites and 41 serviced apartments for those staying longer which have even more space and luxury. Best of all, all rooms boast unparalleled views of the Indian Ocean, Beira Lake and the Colombo city skyline. Prices of all rooms are great value for the amount of luxury on offer.
We stayed in a Horizon Club room located on the top floors, with an all important benefit of access to the exclusive Horizon Lounge on floor 32, the largest hotel executive lounge in Colombo. A haven of tranquillity and taste, revel in complimentary hospitality all day long from an a la carte breakfast through to a proper afternoon tea with scones. Make time for evening cocktails and canapés at 5 30pm every night and watch the sun go down in style with a martini in your hand. Other Horizon Club room benefits include a private check out from the lounge (or from your room), shoe shining, meeting room access and above all attentive, personalised service from Prem and his dedicated team.
The design detail throughout is striking, as we wonder through the lobby walking past guests taking photos alongside sweeping chandeliers. The main inspiration for Shangri-La Colombo can be summed up in two words – “Tropical fantasy”, bringing to life the beauty of nature that Sri Lanka is blessed with in a contemporary way. We are greeted at the entrance by a magnificent sculpture of a Water Lilly, the National Flower of Sri Lanka, that cascades down its crystal petals and appears again and again in different forms all over the property.
As well as amazing nature, Sri Lanka offers amazing food and the best of Sri Lanka can be found at Shangri-La Colombo in their six restaurants and bars. Start the day with breakfast at Table One. Wake up early, find a spot by a window and allow two hours for breakfast as it really does live up to the Shangri-La reputation! Wonder around the vast buffet and sample breakfast from all over the world. From Dosas and dim sum to danishes that are up there with finest Parisian pastries.
For lunch, try Shang Palace which serves a range of traditional regional Chinese cuisine from Sichuan, Dongbei and Canton. Order expertly crafted dim sum or something from the roaring duck oven as the team expertly carve it at your table. Save room for afternoon tea at the Sapphyr Lounge where you can sample jewellery shaped chocolates infused with tea and spices whilst listening to a live classical orchestra.
For dinner in authentic Sri Lankan style, the only choice in Colombo is Kaema Sutra, a new-age Sri Lankan restaurant and bar showcasing creative native-inspired fare. Start on the terrace with a spice imbued Old Fashioned with a black hopper, cleverly made with squid ink served with soft buffalo curd and olive oil. The highlight was a King Crab – a massive crab weighing in at 1.2 kilograms cooked in a delicate turmeric rich curry, served with egg laden hoppers. Be sure to book and pre order this dish as the crab catch arrives fresh daily so when it’s gone, it’s gone.
After all that wonderful food, spend the next day with a session in the 24 hour gym or lounging by the palm tree lined outdoor swimming pool. There are four uber comfortable double bed sun loungers if you arrive early enough! After that, experience a signature Asian blend massage or Ceylon tea and spice scrub at Chi, the spa at Shangri-La. The spa has such a serene atmosphere that is guaranteed to recharge your batteries especially after a long flight.
If you are planning a wedding, banquet or family party and looking for the largest ballroom in South-East Asia with an outdoor lawn, then your search is over. At 1,580 square metres, the magnificence of the ballroom is enriched with natural light, a feature that is sought after but rarely found in a ballroom this size. We also benefited from using the newly launched stylish co-working space ‘Connect’, which is a space to meet, work and create. A selection of meeting rooms and working pods can be hired from as little as £3 a day, offering an inspired alternative to a traditional office.
Overall, the Shangri-La experience is exactly that – an experience. Shangri-La have this skill of hiring staff that genuinely care and anticipate your needs. The attention to detail throughout provides luxury that also makes you feel right at home. When you plan your trip to Sri Lanka, make sure Shangri-La Colombo is firmly in your itinerary.
To book, click here or speak to your travel agent.