The Wallawwa, is a petit-luxe boutique style hotel situated only 15 minutes from the international airport, outside Colombo. The fact that international flights into Sri Lanka are more than often landing and taking off at anti-social hours means that this retreat is a real find.
There is nothing nicer than arriving at your first destination within an hour of landing, especially after a long haul. The same applies to your return home, and a short journey to the airport makes leaving an altogether more pleasant experience.
But The Wallawwa is not just an airport 'pit-stop'; it is a very special old colonial manor house nestled in glorious grounds that have been nurtured for over 200 years. There are 17 extremely well appointed and air-conditioned rooms and suites. There is also a long secluded pool and chill-out area with deeply inviting loungers set amidst a host of tropical plants.
We had a Garden Suite, which was located beside the large central water feature, which links the various rooms. If you have been without the flat-screens and Wi-Fi, then it is here that you can reconnect. The decoration is authentic, stylish and appropriately Asian in feel, having four-poster Balinese beds, built-in window-seats beside a private terrace, an armchair, overhead fan, and wooden cabinets with a mini bar and coffee machine.
With Colombo city centre only 45 minutes away, the tropical beat of The Wallawwa has a cool urban note within its melliferous flow. It is distinctly exclusive and private in its setting, but the staff are very 21st century, with a keen understanding of guest requirements. They were exceptionally obliging, gracious and well-spoken with an unobtrusive disposition.
We only had a few hours here as we arrived at 5pm, after sightseeing in Kandy, and our wake-up call was 1.30am. All the more reason to enjoy every minute, and, in particular, indulge in a final Sri Lankan feast.
The sweeping pillared veranda overlooks the flourishing manicured garden, which is decked out with trendy aplomb – wicker loungers, low tables between sofas in stripy white and beige canvas, tête à tête love seats and a covered day-bed with ottoman. With an atmosphere that is both relaxed and chic, excellent cocktails and nibbles are a prerequisite. This is a place with Buddha Bar background music; you crave fashionable pre-dinner accoutrements.
And they don't disappoint – thick cut potato wedges coated in spice with a delectable salsa dip; deep fried parmesan chips with a garlic mayonnaise; and on-trend cocktails to match. The Sri Lankan curry (feast) on the atmospherically low-lit verandah that followed our fun-filled cocktail hour was exceptional. A culinary send-off that exceeded expectations. You will not get better.
We never made it to the spa on this occassion, but certainly the plan next time would be to land, check-in to The Wallawwa and enjoy one of their talked-about signature treatments before journeying down the coast to Amangalla in Galle Fort. The 'Z' Spa is run by a shiatsu and deep-tissue expert from the Philippines, Maggie Roman, while healing therapist, Thanuja Priyantha, is said to have magical hands. The products smelt heavenly and I am told that booking a treatment prior to arrival is advisable.
Departure was treated with velvet warmth, from the wake-up drink to the neatly stacked car. The staff at The Wallawwa is well versed in early exits and cater to your every weary need. We were all given brown bags with snacks and a drink. The homespun contents: granola bar, banana muffin, sandwich and a drink, were not just Starbucks quality – they were star quality. In your final moments of a stay, you remember such finesse. We will be back.