Casa Colombo

Colombo, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Laila Ram
Colombo's funkiest hotel - for the in-crowd and anyone who likes to have fun
Casa Colombo is a dazzling tribute to the creative talents of owner Lalin Jinasena. Not only has he restored this colonial mansion to its former glory, he has also custom-designed everything inside it - cutlery and crockery, furniture and fabrics, a flamboyant pink-tiled swimming pool shaded by mango trees - and done so with stunning innovation, using craftsmen and materials only from Sri Lanka.

The hotel's 12 unique suites, which range from 45 to 90 sq.m., are huge in scale and even bigger in statement, with vast beds, bold and confident décor, and all the gizmos you could want. With no reception desk, your own casa domo (think personal butler) looks after you during your entire stay and will take care of any needs that may arise, from getting you a poolside drink to taking you on a city tour to sending an important business fax. As for facilities, you couldn't wish for better - 3 restaurants, a cocktail bar, even a menu of indulgent Ayurveda massages. Casa Colombo is a boutique hotel through and through: different, a bit cheeky, extremely stylish, and occasionally over the top. There is nothing else like it in Colombo, or even the rest of Sri Lanka.

Highs

  • The renovation is stylishly different, with designer glass loungers, poolside daybeds with music and headphones, copper-lined bathtubs, a larger-than-life mural of Hindu goddesses covering an entire wall, and a host of other zippy features
  • Fantastic attention to detail. Genuine thought has been put into the suites, which all come with sound systems, iPods, mood lighting and waterfall showers
  • Sublime food - local dishes and flavours, combined with the kind of innovative presentation you only get from top chefs
  • The 200-year-old mansion retains many original features, including flooring and a wedding-cake façade
  • You'll get excellent personal service from your own casa domo

Lows

  • Located down an alley just off busy Galle Road, it's tucked between fairly high buildings on 2 sides (some of which are old and decrepit, others newly built); tall bamboo screens have been erected to grab as much privacy as possible
  • The in-room gizmos may seem a bit daunting if you're not into all that high-tech stuff
  • If you plan to frequent the cocktail bar, check the latest news on its liquor licence - you may find a restricted drinks menu, though there was no problem when we last visited in 2012

Best time to go

November to April brings the driest weather in Sri Lanka, although the hotel is open all year round and offers excellent rates during low season. This is a place you could stay at during any month, as it's not dependent on the weather at all. If you want to visit during February's Perahera, we'd recommend booking well in advance.

Our top tips

If you want to arrive in style, ask whether staff can meet you at the airport in one of the hotel's vintage cars, with a glass of bubbly to enjoy on the journey.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 12
  • Restaurants and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Music and movie libraries
Room: Royal Suite

Rooms

Each of the 12 suites is different, with its own distinct colour scheme, layout and character. But there are some common features: polished concrete walls, hand-woven silver and black bed linen, red mood lighting, black and white photography spanning entire walls, and playful phones shaped like pouting lips.

All are decked out with the latest mod cons, including WiFi, 29-inch LCD TVs, high-fidelity sound systems, iPods loaded with an eclectic selection of movies and loungey tunes, and an intelligent panel that allows you to control the lighting from either side of your bed. Bathrooms are similarly well kitted out, with double sinks, waterfall showers, cascade taps, his and hers vanity kits, bathrobes and custom-made toiletries.

On our last visit in 2012 we stayed in one of the Corporate Suites. The name is deceptive: there’s nothing bland or business-like about these vast spaces, which have super-kingsize beds, high stuccoed ceilings, and double-ended copper bathtubs on terraces enclosed by stained-glass windows. Oversized wooden doors swing open from the bedroom to reveal a lounge with boxy sofas, plus a desk with a MacBook and printer.

Even larger and more luxurious is the Royal Suite, which has a couple of added extras in the form of a Jacuzzi and a private balcony. The 3 Traveller Suites are the smallest, with queensize beds, shower-only bathrooms and no laptops, but they retain the same eye-popping style and excellent attention to detail as the others.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • IPod
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Music and movie library
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The hotel's 3 restaurants attract a trendy Colombo crowd, thanks to their quirky food and funky décor.

The grand hall of the mansion forms the main restaurant, HVN, with a carved gold ceiling, an 18ft antique fan and a fresco of rishis (sages) meditating in the clouds. Expect fine cuisine with Asian ingredients and flavours. We got our taste buds going with orange-spiced yellowfin tuna and ‘Dragon Roll’ jumbo prawns on coriander remoulade, before tucking into perfectly spiced and succulent kottu roti beef with braised bok choi and a Sri Lankan prawn curry served with 5 separate vegetable dishes.

Lighter bites and Asian-inspired tapas - perhaps tuna and coconut tortilla, grilled octopus with salsa verde or mushroom and artichoke empanadas - are available in T Republic, set on the hotel's front lawn. It’s also a wonderful place to sample some excellent Sri Lankan loose-leaf teas, along with scrumptious cakes and desserts.

Set in a glass cube-like building surrounded by water is the ZAZA Bar, a relaxing tea salon by day and a cosmopolitan bar with neon lighting and lounge music by night. There’s a long list of wines and liquors to choose from, as well as a few signature cocktails.

Just as extensive is breakfast, included in the nightly rate and served wherever you like - in your room, outside by the pool, in the garden, or in HVN. There’s a huge selection of fresh fruit, pastries, local jams, freshly squeezed juices, coffees and teas, along with local and international cooked options such as Sri Lankan hoppers, French toast and salmon eggs Benedict. It was by far the best breakfast of our trip, and a great way to satisfy hungry stomachs after a long overnight flight.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: ZAZA Bar
Activity:

Activities

  • Pamper yourself with an Ayurvedic, Balinese, Swedish or Thai massage, or chill out on one of the poolside glass loungers or shaded daybeds (the latter complete with built-in music systems and headphones)
  • Make use of the hotel’s white tuk-tuk to go on a shopping tour of Colombo: Odel, Gandhara, Barefoot and Hermitage are fabulous for clothes, carved wooden artefacts and ceramics
  • Visit Gangaramya Temple, one of the country’s key Buddhist temples. Its February Perahera is a spectacle not to be missed
  • Head to Galle Face Green for a stroll along the seafront promenade, then reward yourself with afternoon tea at the Galle Face Hotel (the city’s most historic colonial hotel)
  • The Mahout Club offers a range of tours and excursions around Colombo and its environs, including historic sites, shopping and even golf
  • Visit Viharamahadevi Park, with its famous Buddha and statues
  • Pettah, near the CBD, is a maze of noisy street markets. It's not for the faint-hearted, but it's great for Chinese trinkets, Indian stainless steel, cheap clothes and Ayurvedic spices. Its Jami Ul Alfar mosque is stunning
  • The National Museum and the Dutch Period Museum are also both a short tuk-tuk or taxi ride away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being

Kids

Children are welcome and cots are provided free of charge. Kids under 6 can share their parents' room for free and get a 50% discount on meals. Those aged over 6 are charged 50% of the room rate when sharing their parents' room and receive a 25% discount on meal rates.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly: Traveller Suite

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Casa Colombo