When I first heard the name Hotel Manoli, I couldn't help but imagine a charming little Sri Lankan eatery tucked away in a quaint village. But how wrong I was! Hotel Manoli, located at Food Studio, One Galle Face Mall, is a culinary gem that brings the flavours of Levantine cuisine to Colombo. As someone who is fond of Mediterranean cuisine, I was excited to try it out, and let me tell you - it was a delightful revelation.
After delving into the origins of the name "Hotel Manoli, I was captivated by its history. The name Hotel Manoli pays homage to the original Hotel Manoli in Alexandria, Egypt, which was once a thriving hub that once served as the focal point for the vibrant Levantine community. The restaurant aims to recreate the vibrant flavours and rich cultural heritage of ancient cuisines, dating back to the times of the Romans and Phoenicians; a testament to the enduring appeal of Levantine cuisine that has stood the test of time.
The Levant is not just a geographical region but a tantalizing world of flavours, shared plates, and cultural diversity nestled in the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean. With roots dating back over 10,000 years, Levantine cuisine boasts a rich culinary heritage that reflects the cradle of civilization. From the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians to modern-day Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Cyprus, the Levant has nurtured a cuisine that is both ancient and vibrant. Dishes like hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, and meze take centerstage, showcasing the region's love for fresh herbs, spices, nuts, citrus, and the staples of bread, and olive oil. Exploring Levantine cuisine is like embarking on a flavorful journey through time, where the vibrant history and diverse flavours come together to create a truly unforgettable dining experience.
Hotel Manoli is the brainchild of FS Culinary Concepts, a segment of Food Studio, known for its dedication to perfecting flavours and bringing unique culinary experiences to Sri Lanka. And, without a doubt, they've succeeded with Hotel Manoli. The menu is designed for mix-and-match adventures, where you can create your own perfect combination of flavours and textures. While the menu may initially seem a bit overwhelming, the friendly staff are more than willing to guide you through the choices.
To start your Levantine feast, Hotel Manoli offers four main bases to choose from. The Saffron Rice Bowl is a fragrant delight, accompanied by sumac onions, tzatziki, and pickled vegetables. The rice even tasted good on its own. The Tabbouleh salad is a refreshing option, featuring a medley of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and pickled vegetables. I loved that it wasn't overly salty like Tabbouleh unfortunately always is in many establishments here. If you're a hummus aficionado like me, you'll love the Hummus Bowl with its array of accompaniments, including lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pickled vegetables, and pita chips. I believe the soft, warm Pita Pocket will also be a popular pick, packed with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sumac onions, and pickles.
Hotel Manoli offers a selection of accompaniments that will cater to every palate. The Chicken Shawarma is a Lebanese-style delight, featuring tender, marinated chicken cooked to perfection. The combination of flavours was simply divine, with hints of aromatic herbs and tangy yoghurt infusing every bite. For those who savour the rich flavours of mutton, prepared with Iranian spices, onions, and garlic, the Mutton Kofta is a must-try. The aromatic spices and the richness of the mutton came together to create a deeply satisfying experience. There is also a seafood option - Grilled Barramundi - that I didn't get to try due to unavailability.
For those who prefer a vegetarian option, the Green Falafel was a revelation. Packed with fresh herbs, these falafel balls were not only healthy but also bursting with vibrant flavours. The crisp exterior gave way to a moist and flavorful interior, making each bite a delightful experience. Whether enjoyed on its own or combined with the accompanying bases and sauces, the Green Falafel was surprisingly quite good.
Cheese lovers will be delighted by the Halloumi Cheese, a Greek-style grilled cheese drizzled with hot honey. Served hot, it's important to savour the Halloumi immediately to fully enjoy its unique texture and flavours. The slight char from the grill adds a smoky element to the cheese, while the hot honey drizzle provides a delightful contrast of sweetness. The combination of the salty, squeaky cheese and the warm, sweet honey is a match made in culinary heaven. Without a doubt, one of my favourite options here.
To add another layer of excitement to your meal, Hotel Manoli offers a choice of seven sauces. Now, I must admit that the lack of descriptions can be a bit perplexing, but fear not! Simply seek the assistance of knowledgeable staff who can suggest the perfect pairings for your chosen main. The sauce options include harissa, toum, tzatziki, shatta, tahini, hot honey, and schug. Each sauce brings its own unique flavour profile, ranging from spicy and tangy to creamy and aromatic, ensuring there's something for everyone.
Hotel Manoli is truly a must-try spot beckoning adventurous food lovers to embark on a flavoursome journey through Levantine cuisine. The delightful mix-and-match concept, along with the expertly crafted flavours, will transport your taste buds to distant lands. So head to Hotel Manoli, and let your palates be dazzled by the wonders of Levantine cuisine.
Pic courtesy Hotel Manoli