Catch Of The Day Is Value For Money At Aqua Inn, Trinco
Development comes at a price, is something I have heard all over the places. From the coffee and tea shops of bourgeoisie Colombo, from the so-called corridors of power to the spartan offices of Leader Publications – owners of The Sunday Leader – everyone assures me that development has a price. If you are wanting to explore this magical country of ours before the prices shoot up ever so high leaving the local (read ‘you’, ‘us’) tourist unable to afford in-country travel one of the best places you ought to hurry up to is of course, Trincomalee.
The trouble is Trincomalee beach-side is presently filled up with swanky hotels with even swankier prices. I mean can the middle-classes afford to spend USD 150 per night (around Rs 20,000) when ammie is screaming that the cost of a coconut is Rs 40 and Jayathilaka the driver assures you that petrol is nearly Rs 150? Well you take my point, don’t you?
Therefore finding Aqua Inn in Trincomalee qualifies for one of Joe Berger’s better finds. It is almost on par with Joe’s find in Soho which will feature another time. Aqua Inn is run by Jo and her husband Fernando and is owned by the non-resident, makes-a-fleeting-appearance father-in-law Fernando Senior.
Aqua Inn offers basic and functional accommodation – but you really don’t go to Trinco for that. The location which is on the 3rd Milepost on the Trinco – Nilaveli Road is awesome. The beaches are pristine which is why people endure the track that passes off as a road from Kanthale to Trincomalee. Although the forward-thinking folk from Expo have started ‘ExpoRail’ on the same route, for Rs 1,900 that was a positive experience. Going by car from Colombo to Trinco and back will cost around 50 litres of fuel or Rs 8,000 and the repairs to the shock absorbers, the steering rack, ball joints and whatever else that will get damaged.
Aqua Inn is has the feel of the ‘Bohemian’ in the ambiance but that maybe because the young managers both of whom have ended up in Sri Lanka from the ‘Olympic’ country, Britain, are juggling with finances trying to make do with what they have. Aqua Inn had seen its glory days pre-tsunami 2004 and both Jo and Fernando have worked hard to get some of the rooms reasonably in good order. There are some rooms with air-conditioning which I strongly recommend. These are nice and new units so it is wonderfully serene with the air conditioning quietly on and the amazing beach just yards away.
Fernando’s Bar is a wonderful hang-out just on the beach. The couple – Jo and Fernando – work very hard and have only limited support from their staff who could do with something called ‘understanding team effort’. The food is awesome. Jo turns out sandwiches out of nothing that arrives to your table dripping with delicious cheese, onions, any type of filling and toasted instead of burnt.
Fernando’s mixed seafood grill is an experience. The portion was gigantic and Chanaka and Jo Berger played a game trying to guess how much the mixed grill would cost as we ordered it without looking at the Menu card. Our guesstimate was way too high: the mixed grill came in at Rs 1,800 and easily qualifies for the best-value-for-money dish ever found by Joe Berger. With ice cold beers and comfy sofas to lounge on whilst gazing at the Indian Ocean, Fernando’s Bar is a ‘top’ find. What we could do is to find Jo and Fernando some real staff. The very limited staff at Aqua Inn do not reflect the efforts of Jo and Fernando which can be frustrating at times.
Aqua Inn provides basic, clean and functional accommodation with great food that is truly home-cooked by Jo. Jo will turn out absolutely anything within reason and Fernando’s grilled ‘magic’ depends entirely on what the ‘Catch of the Day’ brings in. We had crab, very large prawns, tuna, squid and various other ‘fishy’ items. For breakfast we went traditional: eggs, dhal, bread and pol sambol. When one considers that Jo is a South African and English mix, it says something that the breakfast was excellent. For lunches we snacked and for dinner, apart from the mixed grill, we also had (at different times and occasions of course) club sandwiches, toasted cheese sandwiches with pot-luck fillings, wedges and spaghetti.
All in all the food at Aqua Inn was ‘good food served well’ and the accommodation is functional. The location is ‘electric’ – first class. Once fully developed Aqua is likely to cost much more than what they charge now. My advice is to get to Aqua before the investment bankers get in. Once that happens you may as well stay home.
Aqua Inn is located on the 3rd Milepost of the Trincomalee – Nilaveli Road. Rooms are from Rs 3,000 per night with air conditioning and meals can be in the region of Rs 750 per head. Tel: 0777071499.