Sri Lanka’s miles of beachfront are something us locals (both guests and restaurateurs) use far too sparingly. Thankfully, the Mount Lavinia Hotel is an exception.
Seafood Cove is a restaurant set on the Mount Lavinia Hotel’s private beach. Accessible through the hotel, it’s a simple setup. The décor itself recalls the beach movies of the 50’s with wood planks nailed together haphazardly with a roof of dried coconut palm fronds. The ambience and romance, however, is entirely lent by the surroundings: you hear the soothing rush of the waves, you feel the sand on your feet and you see your company in the gentle light provided by the moon (and a few lamps).
As you enter, you see a slab upon which various fresh fish are laid out as if at a fish market. We requested a slice each of the black pomfret and each slice was cut right off the fish and weighed. Once you’ve selected the fish, you can request a method of preparation and we asked for the Indian masala style. To go with that, we ordered cuttlefish (which were again weighed in front of us) to be fried in hot butter and prawns to be devilled.
Only once you’ve ordered do you sit down. The service on our first two visits was excellent: we weren’t happy with the first table (it was sized wrong for three people; conversation would have been difficult) and we made them make up another table, which they did with no fuss and a thousand apologies. However, on my third visit, about five months later, the service staff was not at all responsive and we spent almost an hour waiting for our food.
Each plate came with rice and vegetables (except for our special request plate which came with potato wedges in place of the rice). The Indian masala style fish (slightly overcooked) was prepared with an excellent sauce, both spicy and clove-y. The devilled prawns were prepared just right, with none of the fishiness that sometimes accompanies badly prepared prawns. The rubberiness that usually marks overcooked cuttlefish in our Chinese restaurants was absent in the batter-fried cuttlefish. The sea food was remarkably consistent over our multiple visits with the exception of the rice the third time which was bone dry (the chef explained that they’d just got a new pressure cooker and were just getting used to it).
Over the visits, our bills (including cocktails) ranged from Rs. 1,500 to 2,000 per person, which is, on reflection, is really reasonable for what is both a romantic and novel experience anywhere. My beloved companion, who is not at all a fish person, found her meal very satisfactory and has returned there with me several times. Seafood Cove has been around forever and is sometimes overlooked for newer entrants. Like forgetting an old friend for the novelty of a new one, this would be a particularly bad oversight to make.