Bentota Beach Hotel (BBH), now managed by John Keels, is one of Bawa's oldest hotels, designed as the first wave resort hotels were built in Sri Lanka, with international tourism in mind in the mid 1970s. When I visited recently with my mother, and stayed over night, I was reminded of what were to become classic Bawa signature elements, in his later buildings; resorts -- like Lighthouse Hotel and Kandalama, but also, the new Parliament. But not so much of Lunuganga, which is a thing unto itself.
The combination of water, rock (natural and sculptured) and foliage in the buildings and landscape that Bawa works with, draws inspiration from ancient and medieval Sri Lankan royal or pleasure gardens, but retains the undulations of the land, that I can not recall in ancient gardens. Perhaps that's derived from the Italian gardens that the Bawa brothers spent time in during a European sojourn.
(rock fringed pool)-------------------------- (water court yard; foliage islands)
As in the 7th floor pool in Kandalama, the main swimming pool at BBH, blends in with a large natural rock formation, recalling rock pools on the upper surface of Sigiriya. The Water courtyard recalls built stone pools, like the kuttam pokuna, but the foliage islands within are an innovation; at a stretch, one can imagine the parliament complex, as an elaboration of this water courtyard.
Another fascinating element in BBH, which I had not really appreciated before, is its mirroring of the old colonial forts that dot the southwest of Lanka. Lighthouse is of course the most complete elaboration of this; but the interior halls ways and some exterior windows in BBH, are clear echos of battlements.
Then of course I come to the food!
It was, unfortunately buffets all around, and as these things go, there was variety and quantity, but not really top end quality.But the mousses were wonderful; a big hand to the pastry chef, there, who ever he is. The strawberry mousse which I had after dinner the first night, was rich, spicy in a subtle way, with stewed strawberries mixed in. I've dabbled in strawberry desserts myself, and this was a fine one.
The Kiwi mousse was beautiful, but the star of the show was the passion fruit mousse that was tangy but also super creamy and light, topped with a delightful and pretty glaze. It was better than the same dish at Gallery Cafe, which I've blogged about before. It was a fitting highlight to a short trip south.