Galle Fort Hotel (GFH – not to be mistaken with Galle Face Hotel) makes no attempt to hide itself within the humble cobblestone streets of the famous seaside fortress. It announces itself both by name and appearance as an important destination for all those that visit Galle’s flagship monument.
Found along one of the Fort’s many pebbled pathways, and constructed over 400 years ago, this colonial structure made of coral, honey, lime and mud, now stands tall above the trendy boutiques and intimate eateries that surround it. Its clever architecture and interior décor inject a sense of understated modernity to a space that still breathes a healthy air of traditional charm.
We are greeted by the GM who chats to each new guest about the rich history that surrounds them, giving an important sense of cultural context and the historical heritage upon which they now stand.
Just 12 years ago this wonderful piece of architecture found itself abandoned and unloved. This was until Chris and Carl, two entrepreneurs with a love for antique furniture and home restoration took it upon themselves to restore the creaky old structure back to its former glory. Everything is in keeping with the building’s Dutch colonial roots, with thick walls and high ceilings lending a feel of spacious grandeur. A constant cool breeze wafts through these spaces providing a genuine refuge from the still and humid heat of the avenues outside. The living space is tastefully adorned with beautiful china bowls and Kandyan drums. There is a palpable sense of tranquility within these walls – a refreshing change for the traveler that needs a break from the natural din of and bustle of tourists on a day out.
Privacy is guaranteed as only hotel patrons are allowed further into the hotel. Passersby are welcome to stop in for a meal or a drink at the cute restaurant/bar at the front of the hotel.
GFH has a total of 12 rooms. The older section has 2 grand suites with adjoining living rooms, and 4 comparatively smaller rooms downstairs. In the new wing you will find 3 garden suites just a few steps away from a delightful little pool, just perfect for an extended lazy dip. A further 3 loft suites are more expansive with a split floor effect, where one bed is placed on the upper floor within the room.
We found that the period 4 poster beds give the rooms a real sense of grand style and enjoyed the generous offering of fluffy pillows. A duvet would have really sealed the deal here. Our bathrooms too, while perfectly acceptable, did not match up to the more impressive style of the room interior.
FOOD & DRINK
The GM was excited to tell us that the hotel had now begun to focus on their Sri Lankan offerings. This was very gratifying to hear since we often find that hotels catering to tourists tend to have underwhelming local fare.
Our meal, overlooking the beautifully lit pool and surrounded by the scent of Araliya flowers, was enjoyable. The seared tuna with green papaya salad and ponzu sauce was perhaps the highlight of the evening, textures and flavours coming together coherently over beautifully seared slices of tuna. The crab bisque soup too was quite flavourful though we would recommend going easy on the brandy at first so as to truly appreciate the flavor of the seafood at the onset.
For dessert, we tried the hazelnut brownie and vanilla ice cream which was apparently eaten by Mahela Jayawardena on a recent visit. It was a richly generous serving but we don’t begrudge Mahela that treat now that his playing days are over.
Fans of breakfast will not be starved for choice. The Sri Lankan spicy omelet, the Eggs Benedict, the Buffalo Curd Hot Cake and the Cinnamon French Toast are just some of the plates on offer, in addition to traditional favorites such as kiribath and string hoppers. An array of coffees and teas are an agreeable complement.
WHAT LT LOVES!
We love the 17th century Dutch antique furniture and the comfy couches in the living room area. The wood furnishings, from antique cupboards and chests, all the way to the toilet seats, show that thought and care have gone into this respectful restoration. Visitors should definitely check out the uniquely eccentric Admiral Cheong Ho Room, named after a famously intrepid 14th Century Chinese explorer, diplomat and master of all trades (primarily gold and spices). The room is dominated by a 6-foot portrait of the man himself and even has a specially imported antique, king-sized boxed bed straight from China.
At the crux of it all though is the GFH’s ability to transport its guests away from the sweaty sidewalks and into a cooling, tranquil space, the building passing on some of the vitality of its own rejuvenation and restoration to its guests.
THINGS TO DO
GFH is an oasis within the Galle Fort. It is an excellent refuge for the busy traveler. It is classy and modern but respectful of its heritage and its surroundings.
Venture outside the hotel and do some of the many tourist activities within the Galle Fort. Walk along the Fort and enjoy the amazing coastal scenery. Try some of the trendy restaurants or get a bag of achcharu from a local vendor. Buy some artsy trinkets or some valuable gems. If you are lucky you might be able to catch a cricket match at the Galle International Cricket Stadium just outside and, if that’s not your cup of tea, you can always head out of the Fort and head out to Galle/Una/ Mirissa for a day on the beach.
Galle Fort Hotel
28, Church Street, Galle Fort,
Tel: +94912232870 / +94912245780