It was service with a smile!

By Natasha Gunaratne

As fierce gun battles and searchlights lit up the Colombo sky on Friday after two LTTE aircraft entered the city airspace creating chaos and panic in the streets, the staff at one five star hotel remained calm and collected.

Eye-witnesses attending a dinner at Spoons, a fine dining restaurant at the Hilton Hotel, said the blast proof windows at the restaurant shook as a bomb was dropped on Inland Revenue Department.

Guests gathered at the corridor of Hilton

Hilton's General Manager Jerome Auvity who was hosting the dinner, immediately took control of the situation and ushered the hundreds of guests from all parts of the hotel into the ballroom, assuring them they were safe while providing constant updates on the unfolding situation.

Most guests remained calm throughout the ordeal although some were in shock, said witnesses. Around 30 guests were evacuated from the Hilton's outdoor restaurants as shell casings rained down into the pool. As guests remained in the ballroom, the hotel staff, all of whom were described as smiling and calm, handed out bottles of water and brought chairs for the guests. Half an hour later, they were moved into the corridor outside the ballroom, considered to be the safest location in the hotel where the staff proceeded to hand out torches and hot towels to the guests.

Witnesses said it was clear that the staff had been trained for just such an eventuality and credited the way in which they handled the situation. "They were very slick," said one guest. After it was announced that the air raids were over, the guests returned to Spoons where service continued and they enjoyed the main course, a slow cooked lamb shoulder which had been simmering for 32 hours. The Thorana lounge, located in the hotel lobby, remained open until the wee hours of the morning as the staff remained upbeat and positive.

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