There may only be just three restaurants at Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, but Saranga Pathiranage, F&B manager, tells Karen Yue that he and his team can craft many different dining experiences with the power of creativity and flexibility.
Tell me quickly about the variety of restaurants you have at Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort.
We have three restaurants. Journeys is our all-day-dining restaurant, with capacity for 120 to 140 guests. Il Mare Italian restaurant is led by an Italian chef and most ingredients are imported from Italy. With its location on a cliff, I think it is possibly the best place (to dine) in our resort.
And finally, we have Verele which specialises in Asian cuisine. It is a beautiful venue on the beach. There isn’t air-conditioning, and the space gets the sea breeze. Verele is built as two domes, one housing a bar and the other the dining area. At the dining dome are two teppanyaki grills, and we have experienced teppanyaki chefs dishing out Sri Lankan-Japanese fusion dishes.
Besides these three, we have the pool bar which overlooks the ocean.
Do the corporate groups at your resort dine often on property?
Yes, for convenience, hence it is important that we offer a variety of dining experiences to prevent them from getting bored over the two or three days that they are here with us.
Breakfast is often at Journeys, but for lunch and dinner, we can easily arrange a special setup on one of the two beaches, in the garden and by the poolside. We can do a bonfire party on the beach too.
Do all three restaurants welcome full venue hire?
All our restaurants are available for corporate bookings, including full venue hire. We are very flexible but the attendees must be staying guests.
We will look at the size of the group and the desired dining theme before recommending a suitable restaurant. For instance, we would recommend a section of Journeys for a 20-pax corporate group. A full venue hire wouldn’t make sense in this case.
We also have many open spaces that we can play with and turn into special event venues for corporate groups. For international guests, this is important because they don’t want to fly for hours to Sri Lanka, only to spend every day inside the boardroom. A unique setting is one of the keys to a magical and memorable event experience. A corporate group, for example, could meet on the beach, have lunch in the garden, have a sunset cocktail beach party with their feet in the waters, and enjoy a team dinner under thousands of stars.
What sort of dining events have you done recently?
We recently had a 20-pax, high-end dinner function by the beach and it was lit all around by tiki torches – beautiful. We had a cocktail party in the garden near Journeys, hosted by a government agency.
Coming up on January 24, we will host a gala dinner for a local branch of an international company. It will be at Verele, and the entire restaurant is booked for this purpose. Cultural performances will be brought in.
How ready is your kitchen to feed event attendees from around the world?
We are ready for all the different dietary requirements seen today. We have two Indian chefs who understand the many dietary needs and restrictions of our Indian guests, and they have been invaluable in our resort’s handling of Indian corporate groups.
We can also fulfill gluten-free and Halal dietary requirements. Our kitchen is Halal-certified and we have a strict audit of the food suppliers we engage. At the breakfast buffet line at Journeys, we have a gluten-free section and we clearly mark out pork-free dishes.
We get some Middle Eastern guests here at the resort and they can dine at ease with us.
All Anantara properties offer a Dining by Design programme. Tell me briefly about it and how can this be applied to corporate groups at your property?
Dining by Design is all about creating a special dining experience for guests, so they won’t have to be restricted to dining only at our restaurants. Our beaches, gardens, lawn on top the cliff at Il Mare and poolside are all possible venues for Dining by Design.
For leisure guests that often book a Dining by Design experience at the last minute, perhaps in the morning for a special dinner that evening, we can make it happen for no more than eight people. But with sufficient lead time, we can craft and deliver a memorable Dining by Design experience for larger groups, such as the corporate guests. We need time to make it happen because our kitchen and banquet teams need special preparations.
What’s your biggest F&B challenge when it comes to handling corporate groups?
Last minute menu changes. The organiser often decides and finalises the dining menu in advance, but on the day of the event, one of his/her assistants could come to us and say that there are now 10 guests who don’t want this or that in their main course or need this or that special order.
How do you deal with that?
Well, we make it happen (laughs). We have a team of very experienced chefs, thankfully, who are from Thailand, India, Italy, etc and we have local Sri Lankan chefs too. They do what they can to help with such situations.
We need to feed our guests well and make them happy. I think food and dining ambience are very important in winning the heart of guests and getting them to come back to us.
There was once I met a gentleman, a guest here, who told me gladly that he’s back for the second time. I checked his profile but couldn’t find records. Then I realised he was here for a corporate event the first time. He loved his experience here so much during his work trip, that he returned with his family for a vacation.