Faded Glory Provides Budget Stays And Great Food
Kurunegala is not quite the tourist destination although rumour has it that the largest number of millionaires live right here in this town.
Perhaps – but it has a very well kept secret: the faded glory of the former Kurunegala Rest House, now known as the Ranthaliya Rest House. It is ‘location, location location’ all over again. Located on the banks of the scenic Kurunegala Lake the property is hidden away from the hustle and bustle but the scenery is breathtaking.
Kurunegala is an ideal stop en-route to doing battle with the wasps at Sgiriya, visiting Anuradhapura or even beyond to Jaffna or Trincomalee.
The rest house has clearly seen its best days some time ago. Owned by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and now managed by a hotelier with experience, the Rest House serves a sumptuous traditional lunch.
Joe Berger constantly looks for these government-run Rest Houses because in those years when Joe was considerably younger, family outings always led to such places especially when Joe and the brothers needed to use ‘the facilities’.
The number of ‘holes in the ground’ far outnumbered the modern variety back in them days and Kotelawala’s VIP Insurance outfit had not come up with their comfortable ‘Rest Areas’ then.
The Rest House has 11 rooms including some that have air conditioning and larger rooms known as ‘family rooms’. Joe has always found that sharing such a room was the easiest way to start a World War.
Predictably the Rest House also has a well stocked bar and couple that with its location, the bar is rather popular. We arrived late in the afternoon and asked the wonderfully ‘classical’ waiter if he could give us lunch. “Yes of course this way,” and moments later we were sat in the dining room, with distant views of the lake. The waiter was from a different age altogether.
His well starched white tunic type jacket with its brassy buttons added to the aura. The fact that he was silver-haired only added to the ‘look’. When the food arrived in record time we were amazed at the variety and the quantity. Joe had not bothered looking at the menu in the full knowledge that the very indulgent accounts department at Leader Publications – owners of The Sunday Leader - would pay without a murmur but looking at the food he did wonder if dear ‘Tammy’ would be in for a shock. It was quite easily the best Sri Lankan style rice and curry we had in a very long time. Rice accompanied by mallung, dhal, ‘thalana batu’, beans, poppadoms, dry fish, curd chillies, chicken curry and a very nice plate of bread-crumbed fried fish was as the Americans may say, “awesome”. The waiter did offer us treacle and honey for afters but we politely shook our heads: we were perhaps far too well ‘stuffed’ to speak out. We did manage to have coffee whilst we were appraising the difficulties in running the Rest House as understood by our waiter.
It would perhaps be interesting for boffins at the Tourism Authority and mandarins at the Treasury Department to listen to this man. He had much to impart and a lot of what he said did make sense when considering tourism in general. And then came our ‘moment’. The bill arrived. A sumptuous lunch for three worked out at under Rs 2,000 which ought to have made our CFO salivate. All in all a delightful welcome stopover where Joe Berger and his friends found ‘good food served well’.
The Ranthaliya New Rest House is located on the banks of the Kurunegala Lake, Kurunegala.