Colombo has long been regarded as simply a gateway to rural Sri Lanka, but in the past decade it has done much to shake off its status as a stopover city, establishing itself as a vibrant and cosmopolitan capital. Yet for all its charms, the city still has the potential to overwhelm holidaymakers: the humidity can be stifling, the traffic bewildering, the constant din of tuk-tuks' horns seemingly inescapable. This is where Maniumpathy comes in.
Stepping through the doors of this handsome colonial residence, you immediately feel as though they have been transported to a simpler time. Set back from Kynsey Road - historically home to Colombo's most distinguished doctors - Maniumpathy passed through five generations of the Hallock family as part of a dowry, before undergoing a recent transformation and emerging as a stunning boutique hotel. It's retained the character and allure of a grand, traditional household: the eye is immediately drawn to elegant shuttered doors and chandeliers, beautifully restored antique furniture and striking stone columns. There are wicker chairs and Chesterfields to sink into, and at the heart of the hotel lies an idyllic, shaded courtyard centred around a serene pool. With the breeze rustling through the trees and the sound of birdsong, it feels like the most tranquil spot in all of Colombo.
Indeed, it's this sense of peace that is Maniumpathy's most remarkable feature. Not only is it hidden in the heart of the city, but it is that rarest of urban hideaways where tranquility truly abounds.
Maniumpathy's eight rooms are each individually designed and named after a female member of the family. We stayed in Annapuranie - inspired by the Hallock matriarch - a vast suite with an ebony canopy bed, a private garden and a splendid free-standing bath. Elegance and colonial charm are abundant: expect ornate fretwork, colourful fabrics and bathrooms punctuated with dark wood and marble.
What's for breakfast?
Choose range of western and local options, served either in your room or at The Nandi, a gorgeous terrace restaurant overlooking the hotel's courtyard. While the international offerings might be tempting, look no further than the Sri Lankan specialties. We had egg hoppers with chicken curry and coconut sambal - a truly sensational way to start the day.
How about lunch and dinner?
Lunch and dinner at the Nandi are relaxed affairs, with a small menu that includes western classics alongside Sri Lankan dishes, partially inspired by the Hallock family's Jaffna origins. The trio of curries (we had black pork, dhal and paneer) served with two types of rice, poppadoms and chutney is a must-try - a feast fit for a king and some of the best cooking you'll find in Colombo. More formal dinners, and banquets for up to 16, can be arranged in the opulent dining room.
Is there a bar?
No, but beer and wine can be ordered poolside, at The Nandi or to your room.
Personal butler, free wifi, international TV and DVD player, minibar, room service.
Things I should know
The hotel has no liquor licence, but the staff are extremely helpful and accommodating: you can buy your own bottle of booze nearby and have them knock you up a fresh, delicious cocktail.
Within a short walk you can find...
Many of Colombo's leading galleries: both the Sapumal Foundation and the Saskia Fernando Gallery are just a short stroll from Maniumpathy, with the National Gallery also within walking distance. Colombo 07 has plenty of shops to explore, and most of the city's major attractions are less than a 10-minute tuk tuk ride away.