By Josh Cahill
Having spent the previous three weeks travelling around Sri Lanka’s beaches and countryside, I arrived at Colombo after a two and a half hour train ride from Galle. I had no idea what to expect, and I was quite excited to find out what Sri Lanka’s capital was like.
My Kuwait Airways flight was flying out from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo so that’s why I decided to spend my last three days discovering the city. Colombo is about an hour’s drive by taxi from the airport, maybe a little less if you’re lucky with the traffic. From what I had heard the city was a modern and cosmopolitan mix that showcased its previous Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial history.
Luckily one of Colombo’s top boutique hotels, Colombo Courtyard, invited me to review their one-of-a-kind property which is right in the heart of Colombo. Let me take you on a little tour around the property that exceeded my expectations and had a more than a few surprises up its sleeve.
The Colombo Courtyard...
...an oasis within the city!
After the long train ride spent sitting on my trusty backpack on the carriage floor, I was looking forward to finally getting to the hotel for a cold drink and a nice shower. After negotiating a good price with a tuktuk driver outside of the train station, we were finally on the way.
After spending the last few weeks lost in the beautiful hillsides and the beaches of Sri Lanka, it was weird and kind of sad to be back in a bustling city. I noticed heaps of tourists wandering around and straight away I wanted to go back to the small rural villages.
The city seemed modern, and busy. It didn’t take too long to get to the hotel, and as soon as I stepped into the lobby, the high walls, the koi ponds and the lush plants made it seem like a calm oasis in the middle of the city. I was offered a refreshing welcome drink – fresh papaya juice, like all the other welcome drinks in Sri Lanka of course.
Colombo Courtyard is one of a kind in Sri Lanka – maybe even in South Asia! It is Colombo’s one and only certified Carbon Neutral Hotel, as acknowledged by carbonneutral.com. I fortunately was offered a meeting with the hotel’s young co-owner Abeer and also its CEO Nishan, and both were super passionate about their hotel’s commitment to sustainability – more which I’ll talk about later.
The hotel has a mix of Superior, Deluxe and Suite Rooms, all of which are completely unique and individual. The building was previously an office space for about twenty years, and was fully renovated and refurbished into the hotel it is today, so each and every room is a different customised space.
Amber Spa is also located within the hotel next to the beautiful and modern lap pool and offers great treatments at affordable prices, and by staying in the hotel you are offered a 20% discount on all massages and treatments. The Courtyard offers plenty of drinking and dining options, and even boasts its own rooftop cafe, separate bar and lounge, and a wine bar on the ground floor! Also, it even has a great little library! What more could you want?
...an oasis within the oasis!
After check-in I was shown to my room. It wasn’t too big, but wasn’t too small either. It had all the features of a great hotel room: a four poster King-sized bed, desk and armchair, spacious bathroom with a huge awesome grey stone bathtub, LCD TV with cable, minibar and tea and coffee making facilities, in-room safe, 24 hour room service and free WiFi, and you are welcomed with a traditional Sri Lankan fruit platter.
Most of the ground floor rooms have access to a private courtyard, hence the name. The suites that I visited were awesome, and even had their own Apple Mac desktops in each room, in case you happened to forget or lose your laptop!
"Free Wifi, 24/7 room service, LCD TV, King-Size bed..."
I was taken on a private tour to see all the different types of rooms and the one thing that I definitely noticed was how elegantly furnished all of the rooms were. It definitely highlighted the modern luxury that I think the Colombo Courtyard is going for, for both business and leisure travellers.
All the rooms had all the modern amenities that are expected from boutique hotels nowadays and even more, as it has a strong focus on being eco-friendly. All the toiletries are produced especially for the hotel and are all green and environmentally friendly.
The dining options...
...a pure food oasis!
Breakfast is served in the Scarlet Room on the first floor. Every morning we were greeted with a “Hello, good morning!” paired with a warm smile. As is more suited to a smaller boutique hotel, instead of a big breakfast buffet you are given a choice between three different breakfast menus – a Sri Lankan option, an Indian option and an American option which you can personalise to your liking.
Colombo Courtyard employs a French chef as its pastry chef and their danishes and croissants are baked fresh every day! No matter which breakfast option you choose, you are offered tea or coffee, a fresh fruit platter, and a basket of freshly baked bread and pastries still warm from the oven.
I tried all three options and would definitely recommend the Sri Lankan breakfast – you get a big serving of traditional Sri Lankan string hoppers, coconut rice, two different types of sambal and curry, which is all delicious! Some of the best I’d had all month.
The Cloud Café is another great dining option, from lunch until late night. Located at the rooftop of the hotel, it is a great casual space where you can chill out in a relaxing environment while enjoying great drinks and delicious bar-style food, both local and Mediterranean inspired.
They have a totally awesome cocktail list and I made sure to take advantage of their happy hour, and every cocktail I tasted was really amazing. The Cloud Bar is a great place to hang out with friends during the week or somewhere to meet up before a big night out. They also have a great jazz night every Friday where you can relax and unwind after work!
Loft is their lounge and bar that is a great mix of modernity and sustainability, and again, a really great drink selection. I didn’t get to spend as much time here as I was enjoying myself too much at the Cloud Café.
Grape Expectations is the name of their great new wine bar which offers a wide range of international wines, paired with tapas and even cheese and olives. Overall all the dining and drinking options are really great at the Colombo Courtyard and you will definitely find something that will suit everyone’s tastes and preference.
...to become the first carbon neutral hotel in South Asia!
As I mentioned before, sustainability is a big priority of the owners and management at Colombo Courtyard. Their goal is to be an environmentally friendly property and the entire team have worked extremely hard from the beginning to achieve the honor of being a totally carbon-neutral hotel, which means that all of their carbon emissions have been offset in order to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
This is a great initiative and one that they do very well, and it all begins with the great attitude and ideas of the owners and management. All throughout the hotel you will notice eco-friendly and recycled materials such as paper lanterns and recycled sculptures, or their great recycled metal “Colombo crows” and feathers that are featured throughout the hotel.
At Loft Lounge Bar you will find yourself sitting on stylish recycled tractor seats, or on restyled railway sleepers. They also have a great showpiece in the lobby, a sculpture that they commissioned especially made from recycled materials. The “Bicycle Part Tree” intertwines itself all the way up to the rooftop and represents their main philosophy of eco-friendliness and environmental value.