January 21 2010
Sri Lankan designer Shanth Fernando is widely regarded as that island nation’s elder statesman of all things chic, having opened Colombo’s coolest boutique, Paradise Road, in 1987, followed by its coolest eatery, the Gallery Café (in the former headquarters of architect Geoffrey Bawa). Then in 2007 came the gorgeous boutique hotel Tintagel (which promptly made appearances on every hot list that’s printed on glossy paper). So it’s no surprise that Asiaphiles have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Villa Bentota (pictured; www.villabentota.com; doubles from $150), a 14-room boutique property in Bentota on Sri Lanka’s south-west coast, which debuted three weeks ago.
The hotel, originally designed by pre-eminent Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, has preserved the architectural lines but has been re-imagined in a way that’s utterly in keeping with Fernando’s own minimal-exotic aesthetic. Villa Bentota’s public spaces are relaxed and comfortable, resolutely modern (poured concrete floors, low-slung overstuffed sofas) with touches of local exotica (vintage batik wall hangings, a surfeit of carved-teak furniture). And much as Paradise Road and its Café are must-hits in Colombo, The Villa Café and Villa Gallery promise to be Bentota’s instant draws.