(Colombo, Sri Lanka)
By Gilles Malaisé
The first experience with a new country and city is always an exciting experience, which nothing should spoil. It might sound amazing that decades of peregrination didn't give us the chance to drop our luggage sooner in one of the leading and most beautiful travel destinations. To repair this gap, we decided to make it in style. Flying with the new SriLankan Airlines Business Class, and selecting The Kingsbury as our home away from home.
A top 5 leading luxury hotels in Colombo, we preferred this modern, immaculately white properties, for different reasons. This used to be Colombo InterContinental; from using the hotels of the IHG since many years, we knew that the location is always unbeaten, the size and concept of the rooms most comfortable, and that we had some chance to find an executive club lounge. Though the hotel has nothing to do anymore with IHG. Since its re-branding, it is controlled by Hayleys: the most prestigious leisure and services group in the nation, comprises also of the Amaya chain of luxury resorts.
Location, location, location! The Kingsbury stands in most strategic part of Colombo. Much more than its five-star comfort and anticipating staff, this is the best luxury that the hotel can provide to its guests. Avoiding the city legendary traffic jams: this is what we, like any visitor, should be logically looking first before booking a room in Colombo. Banco! We stayed at the right place: it took us less than two minutes to get to a business meeting at World Trade Center Just across the road. All the banks and large companies headquarters are concentrated 500 meters from The Kingsbury. The safest district in one of the safest cities in Asia, it has all the government offices at reach. Leisure travelers, constituting 50% of the hotel visitors, can wander along the quiet, clean and shady nostalgic streets of a “so British” post-colonial open-air museum, take pictures of the white facades of the turn of the last century buildings, giving the impression that we have been transported to London in a minute. The Light House Clock Tower, Presidential Palace, House of Parliament and the old headquarters to the British banks and insurance companies are still here, lovingly maintained.
Another bonus of The Kingsbury, it faces the Indian Ocean. The view is cinematographic. It gives the businessman the impression that he is on a holiday. Is it positive or negative?: the seaview will be soon partly covered by the development of the Colombo Port City project. A major Chinese investment, which shall transform this part of Colombo in a new city of towering skyscrapers, luxury hotels, shopping malls, plus a marina, and even a Formula One track. The Kingsbury will stand in the heart of this mini-Dubai.
Checking-in at The Kingsbury is as smooth as Ceylon silk. The huge lobby looks like a caravansary: the most premier luxury hotel in town is home to weddings, celebrations, meetings. Welcoming a lot of local clients, to whom this legendary hotel is a reference to quality and prestige. Despite the vibrant activity, the reception staff handles all the check-in procedure with a so-British phlegm. The concierge is a “Clefs d'Or”: this means to any high-end globe-trotter that he undoubtedly booked in an authentic palace hotel. During our four days stay, this smart “Clefs d'Or” always inquired on the quality of our stay, how could he eventually assist us on anything. We noticed the same anticipation from part of the lovely guest relations manager, and exquisite staff at the Club Lounge. The huge bunch of flower at the entrance, photographed by all the visitors, and the life piano music, also indicate that The Kingsbury is keeping with the high standards of the international five-star luxury hotels.
We booked in a Deluxe King Galle Face View. This was an excellent choice, as that category of room, located on the 5th and 8th floors, is both classic and classy.
No bling, but a pure elegance. Decorated in soft earthy tones, we found it so relaxing. The bed remains one on the most comfortable which we experienced during our two months tour of the Asia. We liked the white frame around the TV: discreetly incorporating the screen to the walls.
The bathrooms (some with a Jacuzzi) are ritzy, reflecting a palace hotel, with top notch Bulgari toiletry.
Last but not least, the view comes with a WOW factor. We could see the Parliament, the long beach, and the Galle Face Hotel, which is the direct competitor to The Kingsbury. Note that the panorama to that direction shouldn't be affected by the Colombo Port City development.
The first class traveler, freshly landed in Colombo, will find in this delightful hotel a perfect transition to his touristic or business program.
A distinguished hotel attracts distinguished clients. Decades of travels confirmed this deduction. The best place to evaluate who is who at The Kingsbury is the Executive Lounge, where we have been lucky enough to get a privileged access. It is extremely limited: usually to the guests booking a suite, and to the residents of the Executive Rooms located, like the lounge, on the 9th floor. This cozy VIP quarter is intimate and exclusive. This is a place to socialize easily with those spending their free time to work, or read newsparers, enjoying a much-dedicated treatment. Of course, each guest is addressed by his name by the attentive, highly motivated, and naturally kind staff. A dream for the traveler, as this is the ideal place to collect travel tips to the fantastic destinations covered by Amaya resorts (at the seaside, Kandy Hills, tea plantations...), easy to book directly from The Kingsbury. We liked the quality of the beverages served at the lounge during the happy hours: the Australian and French wine was more than acceptable (this is a French gourmet writing this review...), and all the leading brands of spirits were available complimentary and, observing some of our neighbors, in generous quantities...
We abused also a little bit... of the snacks, which we found actually delicious, with a selection updated on a daily basis. Each “tapas” was palatable, tastefully presented, and always featuring meat, fish, and vegetarian ingredients. The assortment of cakes was nice also, paired with the best tea ever (the group has its own plantations). We were up to the InterContinental standards, and The Kingsbury certainly decided to keep on with their world famous IHG Club Lounge policy to make its regular guests coming back after they broke with the brand. Thumbs up, as they do the job perfectly well.
We experienced our Continental Breakfast at the lounge, and it was perfect. Those with a generous appetite, or preferring the wide choice of an American / Buffet Breakfast, may prefer to sit at Harbour Court for one of the best buffets in town. We did both, for a global satisfaction; still with a slight preference for the intimacy of the lounge. An island of privileges in a sea of luxury. Should we travel regularly to Colombo, we would straightly book at The Kingsbury, just for its privileges and exceptional staff.
Sri Lanka is a land of gastronomy. The elite of Colombo likes to share good addresses, and The Kingsbury is always one of them. We noted that lots of locals patronize the eight restaurants of the hotel. Harbour Court, principally. Serving “food from the universe, for the universe”. The formula is more elegant than “international cuisine”... But the quite blend tastes of Europe are cheerfully covered by the sumptuous spices and appetizing specialties from Sri Lanka, India, China, Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia...
The Ocean Seafood serves the freshest fish and shells in town, and has a typical Japanese Menu with absolutely authentic Nigiri Sushi, Maki Moriawase, Sashimi, and Teppanyaki. It is indirectly considered as the best Japanese restaurant in Colombo.
We liked the breezy and trendy Sky Lounge. Newlyweds like to be photographed in this hotel celebrated for the quality of its wedding packages, dressed Bollywood-style, fascinating the foreign tourists who came here just for the Ocean view. The drinks (try the molecular cocktails) are actually affordable. We could smoke a cigar at ease, and enjoy hot rock grilled “tapas”. It seems to be a favorite venue for the local yuppies. A cool place, indeed.
The infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean is large and pleasant, and the fitness club very well appointed. Making The Kingsbury a convenient urban leisure hotel. We had no time for SPA; but it has a great reputation, with nice massage suites.
This legendary hotel is the luxury entrance gate to the enchanting Sri Lanka!
THE KINGSBURY: Janadhipathi Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka
PHONE: + 94 11 242 1221