Gourmet gaiety at Theva Residency

By Dushy Parakrama

We had heard the epicurean menu at Theva Residency, Kandy’s finest boutique resort, resembled a Michelin-starred restaurant – so we drove up in eager anticipation. As the manager ushered us in through a magnificent set of doors straight into the restaurant with impeccable interior décor, we immediately fell in love with this hill-top haven nestled in the Hantana mountains overlooking the town of Kandy.

Acres of green forests wrapped themselves around the undulating slopes while hazy purple hills gently slipped into the distant horizon beneath an azure sky. We breathed in the fresh air and drank in the view whilst enjoying freshly squeezed juice -an unusual carrot, apple and ginger crush for me, while my husband, Chris, had an avocado smoothie.

At the spacious, completely glassed penthouse which boasted an uninterrupted view of the town below and the hills beyond, the table was laid for lunch and the menu was brimming with enticement - an extensive selection of wines, a sumptuous array of dishes (soups, salads, starters and main-courses) and a mouth-watering list of desserts. I chose to go with the Western delicacies, so Chris opted for the Eastern delights and fusion foods of the unusual.

Chris’ s carrot and orange soup contained within a bread-bowl made of special dough was served at just the right temperature, the wedges of orange garnishing lending a nice touch.

I was lured by the taco salad which looked and tasted superb. Deep fried tortilla bread was fashioned into a taco shell within which was tossed an interesting blend of refried beans at the base, topped with diced chicken, salad leaves and Pico de gallo, served with guacamole and salsaFor the main course, I was persuaded to try the (enormous) garlic tiger prawns, served with mashed potatoes and broccoli. This ‘sea-food delight at its best’ turned out to be lagoon (not sea) prawns which were now readily available in Kandy, directly from the east coast of Sri Lanka. As far as possible all ingredients were sourced locally in an effort to work with the local community and promote sustainable tourism.

Chris feasted on banana baked fish which got its kick from a marinade of olive oil, garlic, coriander and lime. Baked in a banana leaf, the concoction of spices seemed determinedly locked in to give the fish that exotic flavor, and was paired off with olu rice and gotukola sambol.

Despite the copious amount of food consumed thus far we were looking forward to our dessert. Chris’s Theva wattalapan which came baked in its individual clay-pot liberally sprinkled with whole cashew nuts and served with a fruit kebab, an unusual aesthetic finale. My choice was saffron poached pears with coconut semifreddo – desiccated coconut lightly browned and tossed into a rich vanilla cream. Superb!

After a short siesta, we headed towards the avant-garde ‘fire-wall bar’. The tea-time list included espresso con-panna, white chocolate caramel latte and multi-flavoured milk-shakes. Chris settled for a simple cup of perfectly brewed tea while I indulged in a hot-chocolate – a specialty dark blend topped with home made ice cream, a heavenly dessert in a mug, accompanied with freshly baked cookies – date, vanilla and chocolate-chip, sprinkled with sesame-seeds.

At dusk, we strolled out to the poolside lounging area where, armed with our sun-downers, we witnessed the most amazing skyscape. It was a pleasantly cool and starry night so we opted to dine alfresco in the open-air deck which led straight out from the restaurant.

Chris, a great connoisseur of fish, started with an exotic preparation of Norwegian smoked salmon salad with creamy pineapple. My grilled eggplant with roasted tomato and feta cheese was equally appetizing.

My main course choice was chicken fajitas served with Mexican rice, refried beans, guacamole and sour cream. The portions were generous, the presentation was exquisite, the taste divine.

Chris had an interesting fusion – inguru piyal infused Kandyan beef fillet paired with garlic potato mash and a zesty black pepper sauce. The fillet had been marinated in salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and crushed ginger. Served rare to medium, it melted in one’s mouth.

Between these two courses, I enjoyed a rose-apple sorbet while Chris, not one for anything too sweet, had a lime and lemon-grass sorbet. Both were equally refreshing. Chris enlightened me on the origin of sorbet which went back to a time when Richard the Lionheart, at a negotiation, was presented by Crusader leader Saladin with a dish called ‘sherbet’ made with snow from the mountains in Lebanon and flavoured with fruit. There was no snow in sight on our Kandyan hill-top but I dare say Richard the Lionheart would have been exceedingly pleased with these delectable Theva sorbets!

For dessert we shared a cheese-pie with blueberry ice-cream and fruit coulis, truly the best cheese-pie I had tasted in a while. It was the perfect end to a wonderful day.

The gentle dawn ushered in a crisp new morn. Waking up to the glorious sight of hazy mountain peaks and endless blue skies can only be described as an out of body experience.

Breakfast was laid out in the main dining hall. I tucked into an exotic breakfast burrito, generously stuffed with sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and pico de gallo, paired with paprika coated potato wedges, parsley and an avocado fan. Chris can never resist stringhoppers. The accompaniments included white seer fish curry in thick coconut milk, dhal cooked to perfection and fresh pol sambol. And of course paired with two fried eggs.

Before we left, we were invited to view the show-place kitchen. Cooks in tall toques bobbed and weaved around the stoves in an intricate choreography. At the centre of it all, wearing a white apron and a miniature Sri Lankan flag on his collar, was the head-chef – whose single minded commitment was to ensure that the most outstanding aspect of this modern boutique hotel should be the exceptional food and service.

I do believe he had succeeded admirably - the food was excellent and prepared with the utmost attention to detail. The remarkable cutting-edge menu skilfully mixed a blend of the modern and the traditional.

So if you are looking for a classic restaurant in the central highlands with a glorious view and a chic interpretation of Kandyan style and design, Theva Residency delivers an ambitious amalgamation of impeccable service and delicious food stylishly presented. It is most definitely worth the drive.
See also, tel: 081- 7388296-99.

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