With its panoramic views of the Indian Ocean in a defined casual-chic setting, Sea Spray introduces an exclusive alfresco dining experience to Colombo.
Inspired by European seafronts, the atmosphere is refined but relaxed, with seamless understated service.
The cuisine is authentic yet contemporary based on the creative use of island produce made to order with fresh fish, crustaceans and shellfish, being the highlight.
Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole finds out more.
Now under the leadership of American hotelier Deni Dukic, Galle Face Hotel is reclaiming its position as the leading hospitality destination in Sri Lanka.
Earlier this year the property welcomed the re-opening of the final part of a major restoration project, with the entire North Wing of the property rebuilt over the past two years.
With the building first opened in 1864, this was a major undertaking that saw the whole area stripped back to its skeleton and restored it to its former grandeur.
At the same time the dining options at the Galle Face were expanded, with fine dining fish eatery Sea Spray given a complete overhaul.
With the largest oceanfront dining area in the capital, the location is now considered Sri Lanka’s top seafood restaurant.
No mean feat in such a competitive market.
Visiting on a Saturday night in early December, I was greeted by a sophisticated but welcoming atmosphere, with local visitors chatting with a smaller number of well-heeled international guests.
The location is the star here, with views out over the harbour giving a sense of the spectacular, while the restaurant itself is aptly named for the water that sprays over this prime perch.
With this grander in mind, the hotel brought in Adam Gaunt-Evans in June this year to redefine the menu.
The established UK-chef started his culinary journey in the Michelin-starred Green House restaurant, under the tutelage of world-renowned chefs Paul Merrett and Bjorn van der Horst.
More recently, his career has taken him to the kitchens of Burj al Arab in Dubai, the world’s first seven star hotel, and to the iconic Sydney restaurant, Flying Fish.
Speaking to Breaking Travel News, he explains: “Our spin is to use local flavours in international dishes.
“There are a few Sri Lankan dishes on the menu, including the crab curry, which is just a classic, which is all over Sri Lanka.
“Things like that we have kept.
“Others we have modernised, a fish curry for example, we have done our own take on that.
“The main feature of the menu is ‘Male Kade’ – which is roughly Sri Lankan for ‘fish shop’.
“A lot of restaurants in Sri Lanka offer any fish cooked any way, but we have tried to give it more a curated, recommended feel.
“Our menu is much more concise.”
Highlights include Ceylon Arrack-coconut Thermidor, native lobster flamed in Ceylon Arrack and finished with a Thermidor glaze and toasted coconut, while a ceviche of coconut-lime marinated red snapper with a hot and sour jelly, pomelo, fresh lime leaf and chili is also popular.
Under the advice of chef Gaunt-Evans I select ginger beer batter prawns with red achcharu (a famous Sri Lankan pickle) to start, followed by Round Island Barramundi fillet.
The former is a great opening, soft on the tongue, but with a real depth of flavour and just spicy enough to keep diners interested.
The latter is even better.
Served with an olive tapenade, fennel and orange baby potato, it is a fairly hearty meal for seafood, but deliciously sharp, bringing out the spice the subcontinent is known for.
As Gaunt-Evans explains, one of the primary motivations of the location is to source showcase local ingredients.
He continues: “We are being brave; we are going 100 per cent island produce.
“We are at a stage where we have a great network of suppliers and this had made that possible.
“Nobody else in Sri Lanka is able to do that in a contemporary restaurant.
“Obviously the local restaurants are able to, but not on this scale.”
On the dessert menu a must-try is the passion fruit and buffalo curd crème brulee cooked in a clay pot, for a contemporary interpretation of Sri Lankan curd and treacle.
This is again a mix of local heritage and international expertise, bringing the best of Sri Lanka to an international audience.
As Riccardo Milza, consultant restaurant manager at Sea Spray, explains: “We welcome a lot of European guests and those from Australia, so we show them Sri Lankan cuisine with a contemporary flavour.
“This has been well received by our guests as we grow our restaurant here.
“These are not Sri Lankan dishes; we bring methods from around the world and match them to local flavours.”
Dining al fresco and taking in the sights and sounds of the Indian Ocean at Sea Spay, it is apparent the location is steeped in the history of Sri Lanka.
People have been dining here for more than 150 years and the newly re-launched Sea Spray serves this heritage superbly.
Sea Spray is open for dinner seven days a week.
Find out more on the official website.