METRO PLUS

Introduction

SRILANKA, THIS teardrop on the cheek of the Indian Ocean, is just a 50-minute flight away. And from one of Sri Lanka's restaurants, I bring to you a unique recipe. I am pleasantly surprised to find this fine restaurant in a hotel set amid acres of tea plantations, 6,800 feet above sea level, just six degrees from the Equator. That too, in a hotel housed in what was once a tea factory and therefore, called, simply `Tea Factory'. Sure! I find plenty of misty cold weather, communing with Nature and bird life and emerald teascapes, and then, when I am told that the restaurant is where the tea used to be graded and sifted and the kitchen used to be the engine room, my curiosity quickens and the place beckons. And am I glad that I submit to the seduction of the `Tea Factory' in Nuwara Eliya, Srilanka?

Our waiter serves up not just the superb starters but also some historical tit-bits both with equal panache. "Nuwara Eliya is pronounced `New-relya'," he informs tactfully correcting us. "It was discovered in 1828 by Sir Edward Barnes who governed the island .The British loved it for its cool and misty climate."

In fact, Samuel Baker (known for discovering the Nile) was determined to make it `like my own little English village' and so imported Hereford cows, planted strawberries, carrots and leeks that thrived in the eternal spring climate.

I walk into the wood-lined reception where the atrium is latticed with steel and two giant wooden fans capped with brass looms above. This is where the factory's leaf drying process was carried out and to the left is the restaurant. It's warm, yet contemporary and the old factory look is brilliantly retained and fused with comfort and elegance.

It's windows open onto stunning, lush greenery and mountains roll away into the mist. One look at the interesting and varied menu and I pinch myself. I must be dreaming. From then on, it's an experience to be experienced.

From the superlative tea wood smoked sword fish topped with cumin coriander crust to the `Tea mousse in tulip with fruit coulis'. Now, this place is just "my cup of tea".

(Rashmi Uday Singh is a food reporter,critic and author for 21 years. Food and health are her passions. Her path-breaking TV serials "Health Today",nationally best-selling " Good Food Guides " the "Good Food Gallerie" and the Good Food Academy are a part of her continuing and pioneering effort to make the world a more delicious and happy place. It is not her policy to accept free meals or anything that will compromise objective food reviews.)

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RASHMI UDAY SINGH

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