The Galle Face Hotel amongst exotic East’s rare collection of iconic heritage hotels

South Asia’s Grand Dame which withstood the test of time for over a century now opens its doors after a two-year grand restoration

Some of the most elegant and historic cultural icons of our times – vintage hotels – have withstood the ravages of time to emerge as icons, imbued with a regal charm that is unparalleled. These are some of the heritage hotels around the world, which enjoy an exalted status as the ultimate vintage luxury destinations of all time. These architectural gems were discovered around the time the Suez Canal was opened for transatlantic steamers in 1869, thereby shortening the journey from the West to the East and promoting the early version of tourism as we know it today.

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The Galle Face Hotel is privileged to be counted amongst one of these elite properties. The hotel stands proud as one of the oldest hotels east of the Suez in this exclusive group.
Founded in 1864, the Galle Face Hotel is one of the landmarks in Asia with a rich colonial history and is arguably one of the best heritage hotels in the world. The Galle Face Hotel was originally built by four British entrepreneurs and is among the few remaining colonial hotels in operation today in Asia. In 2012 it became the first hotel in the country to be featured on a postage stamp.

No visit to Sri Lanka is complete without staying at the elegant historic award winning hotel, which reflects the grandeur of a bygone era yet offering modern comfort for today’s traveller. Despite many renovations over the years, the period detail of the Galle Face Hotel has been preserved in its architecture and façade.

Over the years, the hotel has housed royalty and celebrity and has played host to many well-known figures, world leaders and celebrities who have resided here, including royalty and heads of state, such as Emperor Hirohito of Japan, US President Richard Nixon, Alfonso XIII King of Spain, Pope John Paul II, Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh and Indian Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and many more eminent personalities.

Galle Face Hotel has also played host to famous sporting personalities of yore such as Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Len Hutton and Mike Brearley. Many reputed performers, artists and thespians have graced its portals, such as Somerset Maugham, Duke Ellington, Sir Carol Reed, Robert Rauschenberg, Steven Spielberg, Actors – Gregory Peck, Bo Derek, Harrison Ford, Roger Moore, Sir Alec Guinness, Vivien Leigh, Peter Finch, William Holden and Carrie Fisher.

The iconic Galle Face Hotel which opens its doors again following its grand restoration over the last two years to its former glory now positioning the hotel as ‘The Bespoke’ property in Colombo, is now geared to open its doors to a global market of refined and leisure travellers, business professionals as well as celebrities, expatriates and locals alike seeking to enjoy the luxuries of life while reminiscing on an era of Ceylon gone by. The grand debut of the restored Galle Face Hotel will be one of the signature hotel openings that Sri Lanka’s hospitality industry has ever witnessed which will see popular international acts perform along with the participation of local VIPs and international celebrities.

Speaking on the vision of the Galle Face Hotel the General Manager of the hotel, Antony Paton states, “It upholds the importance of ensuring that the prestigious identity of the hotel is retained so as to celebrate its rich history. Together with my team we intend to follow the mantra of ‘Personable Service’ to each individual guest that walks into Galle Face Hotel to enjoy its timeless grandeur. To ensure this every team member of the hotel will be trained with international standards of luxury hospitality.

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“To make this a reality, I have team that diligently provides individual training to each team member on many areas such as customising a menu, teaching the importance of the balance of ingredients, inspecting and identifying each touch point of the property to provide clear entry to the property and to further expand the hotel’s service offerings to its clientele.”
As a part of the restoration, the hotel has revamped Colombo’s most exquisite restaurant and Wine cellar ‘1864’, which takes each visitor through a journey of indulgence. The restaurant currently offers an à la carte menu that exalts modern contemporary cuisine serving drinks at the lounge followed by dinner at the restaurant with tableside service to further fulfil the lavish experience with its quiet ambiance. Paton emphasised that the restaurant plays Jazz music to suit the visitors tastes until 10pm and thereafter transforms the night to a different experience with upbeat music and a lively atmosphere that keep guests entertained till 2 a.m.
Highlighting the Veranda which offers all day dining with an exquisite pan-Asian cuisine, reminiscent of the regional flavours imported by colonial routes, are enjoyed in refined and distinctive colonial settings. Paton says the fully Sri Lankan menu features a variety of mouth-watering cuisines that are inspired by the Malay, Kandiyans, Burger and many other ethnicities from across all corners of the island.
The popular Sea Spray restaurant with twice the floor space will continue to offer interactive dining with live cooking stations, to serve customised kitchen stations for BBQ’s, grills and sauces. Paton says the team will play a significant role in ensuring the comfort and enjoyment of its visitors in delivering scrumptious cuisines and excellent wine serving that meet the international standards of luxury hospitality.
The Travellers’ Bar which is the latest addition to the hotel’s offering, has the most unique beverage menu that could be found anywhere in Colombo. The Traveller’s Bar stores the most premium spirits and has a list of experimental cocktails along with a variety of the most favourite highly crafted cocktails or drinks of iconic celebrities that have stayed at the Galle Face Hotel over the past century.
The Galle Face Hotel is famously known as the only location any traveller will either stopover for lodging or drop for a casual visit as guests are always drawn to its elegant charm and quality hospitality. A visit to Galle Face Hotel is a unique experience as it is a museum of hospitality and an embodiment of rich history as it reflects the transformation of Sri Lanka from the period of British colonial rule up until the modern day period where comfort and luxury merge together as one.
Paton further adds, “Each trip is approached as an opportunity to experience atypical destination, to discover somewhere new with singular charm, distinct traditions and stories.”
See more at: FT
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