We were fortunate enough to be staying at this fabulous five-star hotel, but even if you’re not, if you’re in the Koggala area of Sri Lanka you can book a table at The Fortress’ restaurant for dinner and many did.
The Fortress has two evening dining options: the main restaurant (Pepper) and wood fired pizza and al a carte Mediterranean-fare offered by Heat.
We didn’t actually dine out at Heat during our stay. But that didn’t mean we missed out on trying their tasty dishes. A long day trip to Yala National Park left us sleepy and so we ordered pizzas and strawberry milkshakes on room service. Oh my word – they were divine!
The strawberry milkshake was just the perfect balance of thickness and frothiness, full of flavour and would have put many kitsch diner-style restaurants offerings to shame.
The pizza had the perfect thin crispy base, topped with delicious toppings and lots of cheese. I’m not even that crazy for pizza (don’t judge me) but even I fell hard for this one.
Evening meals in Pepper varied between al a carte and buffet. On some evenings a choice of either was available.
Buffet’s were generally very good, so long as you didn’t mind being a bit adventurous. Which, to be fair, if you’re holiday in Sri Lanka you probably should be! The Sri Lankan buffet night was a particular favourite giving diners the opportunity to choose from a vast range of starters (mostly salads), main courses (mostly vegetable curries) and desserts, some of which seemed to have been fancied up a bit for the five-star audiences, whereas others, like Watalappan, seemed to retain their rustic Sri Lankan charm. Sure, there were some dishes I didn’t enjoy and others I loved. But that’s the beauty of buffet.
The selection was vast (although not ideal if you don’t like your food with some spice) and was continually topped up. It was also presented beautifully, well, where it could be anyway, it’s difficult to add beauty to a curry!
Another evening we opted for the sea food BBQ. We were slightly less impressed with this. The selection of food available is still brilliant and I really enjoyed the lobster and prawn. However, the squid was sadly over cooked and some of the dishes were so poorly explained that I decided against opting for them for fear of making a fool of myself.
Al la carte options were also good and we varied up our choice of dishes across various evenings. Sometimes opting for the fail-safe fish and chips and at other times being a little more daring. I received massive kudos from the waiting staff when I ordered the Sri Lankan curry platter, a delicious assortment of small dishes containing various Sri Lankan vegetable curries. There was one dish that was a little too spicy for me, but otherwise I coped OK and I only go as far as the Rogan Josh at the curry house in the UK!
All meals were presented beautifully and portions were huge. If you’re not that hungry consider ordering a starter as a main, or if you’re semi-hungry, go for two courses rather than three. I only managed three courses from the a la carte menu once during our entire stay and afterwards I felt incredibly stodged and I can usually eat A LOT!
The waiting staff are super attentive and nicely friendly too. Not in your face, but happy to make conversation if you want to. They can’t do enough for you and it can be a bit embarrassing when they race across the room to open your bottle of water because you were about to do it and, well, you’re their guest, you shouldn’t have to open a bottle of water. Despite our assurances that it was fine, we were relieved of water bottle opening duty!
The drinks selection was fairly comprehensive although also quite pricey. I enjoyed some nice Shiraz (Australian, I think) a couple of nights, but often stuck to the local Lion lager or soft drinks. The hotel has a fantastic range of iced teas and non-alcoholic cocktails if you’re not into the booze and a great range of premium international whisky brands, if you are.
In terms of the eating environment, it’s pretty relaxed. Fancy, but not pretentious. You don’t need to dress up, although clothing should be appropriate for an evening meal, not lazing on the beach.
The tables are al-fresco although undercover and look out to the hotel’s pool and the inky dark Indian Ocean. Some evenings a guitar player would strum whilst we ate our dinner.
The restaurant does get busy, so if you’re not a guest at the hotel you may wish to book. The hotel was at full capacity during the second week of our stay so even we decided to make a reservation one evening just to be sure.
Meals are pricey by Sri Lankan standards, more in line with what you would expect to pay in a European hotel. But that’s what you get when you dine in a fancy restaurant.
And, no, we didn’t see anyone order the world’s most expensive dessert.
Fabulous rating: 4/5