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Many local and international travelers who descend upon the Southern coast of Sri Lanka prefer to now stay at smaller boutique hotels and, resorts and villas that allow them to enjoy the serenity of the South. Benthota has long been a tourist destination dotted with the larger hotels and an emergence of smaller properties is bringing the attention back to this fishing village.
Each property has a unique story to tell and named after its house number, Boutique 87 is no different. As the story goes the original house at the entrance of the property used to belong to a Portuguese lady who had moved to Sri Lanka in the 1970s and made Benthota her home. The house right opposite hers was of Southern artisans specializing in weaving handlooms and lace. When the Galle Road was to be constructed the artisans would lose their ancestral home and their livelihood. Coming to the rescue and enlisting the help of her friend the great Geoffrey Bawa who also lived nearby, the artisan home was deconstructed and rebuilt in her back garden stone by stone.
Surrounded by acres of garden, a man-made lake, a private pool and the distinct Bawa touch surreptitiously hidden among the gardens, Boutique 87 is a Manor House Concept property of just two secluded suites. This is the epitome of luxury combined with privacy and the property generally encourages the entire house to be booked as one for smaller groups. Although scenic garden weddings are also a specialty this also requires for the house to be booked in its totality.
Locating the property is a breeze as most locals know it by name and even if you drive down Google Maps is pretty accurate. There is no signage and the only thing to look out for is the namesake House No.87. Greeted by the local staff who man the vast span of gardens we were showed to our suite which embodies Bawa’s minimalism with precise attention. Be mindful that the rooms are of an open concept and in fact the entire house opens up to the great outdoors. The rear of the house leads to another characteristic Bawa mirror garden and ancient statues. The rooms also do not have cable TV etc. as the concept is to completely detach yourself from the digital world. Wi-Fi is still available though for those who can’t do without their phones and devices.
The property is also home to a variety of flora and fauna, in particular a flock of chickens and roosters, turkeys, purple-faced langur, and an occasional wild boar as well. A walk through the gardens will also show you traces of an old church, a man-made lake and secluded alcoves dotted with ancient artefacts.
The food served at your whim and fancy is mainly local delicacies prepared by the staff who use produce from the gardens itself. We had traditional rice and curry for lunch accompanied by the flock of chickens who came to visit our table placed under one the largest Banyan trees in the garden. Dinner was again in the garden under the stars with minimal lighting for that romantic touch. Warm soup, roasted pumpkin salad and a mixed grill of Benthota’s best catch for the day made for the best meal we had during our stay. The seafood was impeccably prepared and we particularly loved the garlic sauce that it was served with. Breakfast the next day was again local wares to be served by the lake but the heavens opened up on us and we ended up having hoppers and pol rotti in the warmth of our suite watching the torrential downpour.
Everything about Boutique 87 is slow-paced and once you enter your suite a large bell hung in the verandah or in the garden is the only way to call on the staff. They generally leave you to yourself but are quick to respond to any need you may have. Also be mindful that the property doesn’t stock up on supplies so you need to inform your preferences at the time of booking. The property also does not allow kids under 12 owing to the expensive artefacts and promotes it more as a getaway for couples, older travelers or small groups of friends.
So here’s our rating…
Location **** (Conveniently located on the old Galle Road)
Ambiance ***** (The beauty of nature is indescribable!)
Service **** (Privacy is paramount and the staff are non-intrusive!)
Food *** (Loved the presentations!)
Price Range: 22,000 upwards
Address: 87 Galle Road, Benthota.
Telephone: 0112 333 861
Reviewed by Nishu Gunawardana
Photo Credit: Sanura Gunawardana