Celebrating Ramadan with Shangri- la, Colombo
By Shafiya Nawzer
During Ramadan, the common conversation would centre around Iftar.
Iftar is the meal served at the end of the day to break the day’s fast. For millions of Muslims around the world, the sacred month of Ramadan is marked by the daily iftar meal with family at the end of a day of abstaining from food and water. At sunset, Muslim homes and eateries come to life — day fasts are broken with customary dates, and plates are piled high with delicacies and time-honored dishes as family and friends gather to share a wholesome and sacred meal.
Despite the shadow of COVID-19, Colombo continues to function with certain limitations. I was invited to experience the special Ramadan-inspired buffet at The Central, Shangri- La, Colombo. The Central has a daily dinner buffet from 6 p.m. to 11.30 p.m and offers a colourful selection of food that takes you on a culinary journey across the globe. Shangri-La’s lobby has also been elegantly decorated in Ramadan-inspired decor; the tastefully put-together traditional Islamic ornaments and decorative motifs transfer you to an atmosphere quite similar to that of a Middle Eastern mosque.
I have personally visited The Central ample times and have always been a fan of their food and service. I was ushered to my seat from whereI had a striking view of the beach and coastline, and was more than happy to catch the view of the sunset, just in time to break my fast. I noticed the dates, falooda, and water already placed on my table which was more than expected and looking around I noticed the spread of Mediterranean, Arabic, and Asian delicacies as well. I was informed that a designated prayer room was also made available.
The lavish all-you-can-eat buffet features a selection of fresh seafood like prawns, octopus, crab, and a carving station dishing out roasted Moroccan spice roast chicken with Arabic rice and ample condiments. The highlight of the spread though, was the array of authentic Middle Eastern and Indian dishes like tandoori chicken, naan, falafels, hummus, and shawarma to name a few.
You can also tuck into home-style favourites of kottu, hoppers, local rice, and curries. The grilling station has favourites such as lamb kofta and grilled prawns alongside a live cooking station preparing pasta made to order. For its Iftar offering, the focus is on Middle Eastern delicacies, of course. Interestingly however, the restaurant has decided to retain much of its international flair. This means you can tuck into a shawarma or lamb kabsa and then hop to the next station for some sushi or have cold-cut meat and salads before you lose yourself in the kebab and hummus. Each food item seems carefully thought out and lovingly prepared. The staff are very attentive and the airy décor with well-spaced tables provides a perfect setting to end a long day.
The chicken congee (porridge) was hearty. Appetisers and salads included a variety of classic Lebanese hummus, muhammara, and labneh. To be honest, there were too many dishes that I couldn’t try out much of it, because I was too full!.
A few of the interesting items that I recommend everyone try is the lamb kabsa; cooked to perfection in a delicious spice blend with rice. The lamb samosa was one of the best I have tried. The vegetable moussaka and sausage pizza are simply divine and personal favourites as well.
Don’t miss out on the Asian station offerings either; the fried rice, tempura’s, sweet and sour mixed seafood, Thai green curry chicken, Bbq chicken wings, fish kushiyaki, seafood skewers, hot butter tofu, and ramen, to name a few. Another Iftar must-have is the shawarma and falafel sandwich; I do believe the chef nailed its authentic flavours.
There is a separate counter for desserts where traditional Sri Lankan sweets are on display, as well as various specialty cakes and pastries from their own cake shop, a chocolate fountain with many condiments, an ice cream station that offers watalappam and date flavoured ice cream too. Some of my favourite desserts were the cheesecake, chocolate mud cake, umali, gulab jamuns, date pudding, mahalabia, watalappam, and pistachio mousse.
Apart from top quality food and service, the staff also ensured one of the top priorities would also be health and hygiene. Each of their staff was well equipped with PPE, multiple sanitation counters were in place all over the hotel, and of course, most importantly, social distancing was and is strictly observed in all the restaurants and public areas.
The food is served by the staff and all items are sealed or covered to reduce exposure. I can always vouch for the service at Shangri – La, Colombo, and all in all, the Iftar at The Cental is totally worth your buck.
(Pix by Venura Chandramalitha)