On 20 February 2013 – yet another cold, blustery winter’s evening – Experience Travel Group, in association with Sri Lankan Tourism, hosted a night of Sri Lankan delights at The Royal Oversees League Club.
The aim of the event was to bring a flavour of Sri Lanka to London through cookery demonstrations, Kandyan dance, Sri Lankan speakers, tea-tasting, photography and arrack cocktails. The ROSL, once described by Sir Evelyn Wrench as “a far-flung brotherhood of individual men and women of diverse creeds and races living widely apart under differing conditions in different latitude,” seemed like the perfect venue to bring together these disparate threads of Sri Lankan culture.
The evening got off to a swinging start with a traditional Sri Lankan Kandyan dance opening ceremony. All the way from Sri Lanka via Kent, the Kandyan drummers heralded the start of proceedings with the horn-like sound of the conch shell. Candles were then lit by dignitaries from the Sri Lankan High Commission, Major General Roddy Porter MBE from ROSL and Mick Lowe, the Chairman of Experience Travel Group.
The fantastic Dr Thamara, who heads up events at Food Cycle and Mazi Mas, was on hand to cook her simple yet delicious Pumpkin Curry and Leeks Mallung with guests. Spices specially imported directly from Sri Lanka for the evening made all the difference to the dishes as in our opinion the taste of Sri Lankan cinnamon cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world!
Sri Lankan street food, including fish cutlets, waddee and roti rolls, were served alongside Sri Lankan cocktails. Arrack, a powerful spirit made from coconut sap added fire to the belly of the evening. For the foodies out there, be sure to take a look at Experience Travel Group’s food page for all the recipes served during the evening: www.experiencetravelgroup.com/food.
We were very lucky to have a special guest speaker for the evening. Herman Gunaratne gave a personal account of his life growing up in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka, noting some truly hilarious anecdotes along the way. Herman owns the Handunugoda Tea Estate, which grows virgin tea, one of the most prestigious teas in the world. He had travelled from Sri Lanka specially for the event. His new book, The Plantation Raj, was also on sale and we highly recommend it. Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like to purchase a copy.
Guests were treated to tea tastings by Timothy D’Offay of Postcard Teas, which are freshly imported from Sri Lanka. Some firm favourites of the evening were Black Smoke and Vanilla Black.
Mark Forbes, a tour guide with Experience Travel Group, provided us with some of the beautiful photos he’s taken during his time in Sri Lanka. Mark gave up his day job to follow his passions – travelling and photography – and now runs brilliant city tours of Colombo.
This very special evening was an opportunity for the Experience Travel Group team to showcase some of our favourite Sri Lankan places. Our aim was to bring a festival atmosphere to the night, with cooking, dancing, photography, tea stalls, and talks by our staff. We wanted to inspire people to go and discover Sri Lanka further, to see the positive in a country that has just been named ‘best country to visit in 2013’ by both National Geographic and Lonely Planet.
If you are inspired to visit Sri Lanka, please contact us for a chat. We each specialise in different South East Asian countries, often travelling to the region ourselves and sharing a passion for travelling and learning beyond the usual – without losing that all-important touch of luxury!
We’d like to thank our sponsors for the evening, Sri Lankan Airlines and the Sri Lankan Tourist Board. Thanks to the Sri Lankan High Commission for their support. Thanks also to Rosyth House, Mark Forbes and Postcard Teas of Bond Street. A massive thanks for Herman Gunaratne of Hundungoda Tea Estate.
We will be running more events throughout the year, so if you would like us to come to a town near you, please email: [email protected]