Anilana Nilaveli is one of those places where the individual talents of the staff team come together with the beautiful location and well designed buildings to create a hotel that has something very special to offer. Built in the jungle on the East coast of Sri Lanka’s peaceful Nilaveli beach, you also get a great view of Pigeon Island, a great diving and snorkelling spot.
We stayed as part of our Vegan Food Quest to ‘Find, Eat and Write about the Best Vegan Food in the World’ and not only did we find it here in abundance creat3ed by the incredibly talented Chef Joe but we left feeling healthier, energised and totally inspired.
Think we might be exaggerating? Read on to see why Anilana Nilaveli is the perfect place to rejuvenate every part of you.
The Vegan Food
We love to get a personalised vegan menu when we visit a hotel or restaurant and every now and then we’re presented with one that seriously impresses us.
The team at Anilana have created an extensive vegan menu that offers multiple choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner (including desserts) which has a focus on traditional Ayurvedic principles, nutritional balance (no lack of protein here) as well as showcasing wonderful Sri Lankan cuisine and ingredients.
Every meal was an opportunity to learn something new about Sri Lankan culture, as well as eating some amazing food.
To start our breakfast, we ate Sri Lankan ‘Kola Kanda’ soup, a nutritious light soup of made from rice, a little coconut milk and health giving herbs which is a traditional food eaten for the different benefits that each herb has.
Sri Lankan people have long been wise to the wonders of these plants and now we are too.
We ate traditional Sri Lankan string hoppers, dosai and pitthu with red kidney bean curry spiced with ginger and corriander, fresh coconut sambal and a delicious vegetable curry.
We sampled sweet ‘halapa’ made from ‘kurrakan flour’ (red millet), coconut and ‘kithul jaggery’ which has been made into a dough, pressed flat and then steamed in between banana leaves. Kithul Jaggery is a sugar made from the sap of the kithul palm; it has less calories than cane sugar, contains calcium, iron and vitamin C and the sugar passes through the body as opposed to being stored (but even better than all this healthy stuff, it tastes likes dates and caramel!).
These same ingredients were used to make a muffin (also steamed in a banana leaf) – yum!
And we were introduced to ‘laveriya’, a kind of string hopper where the rice noodle cake was folded over and stuffed with a fresh coconut that had been drenched in palm honey and spiced with cardamon.
And as if having all these wonderful Sri Lankan foods to try wasn’t enough to make us feel speacial, we also had some freshly made waffles with compote, syrup and a big helping of cashew nut cream and a choice of 3 homemade jams. The waffles were really light and crispy as they were made from rice flour (making them suitable for gluten free vegans too!).
Lunch options included amazing soups, healthy salads that were full of health giving herbs and awesome triple decker or ‘open’ sandwiches laden with roasted vegetables and creamy avocado (making good use of seasonal produce).
Lightly grilled vegetables, pine nuts and walnuts with a mustard dressing served on a healthy rice flour bread, superfood combination of avocado and katurumuranga leaves (a match made in heaven) and the ‘Green Power’ salad won us over with it’s name (as well as the fact that it contained enough green goodness, medicinal herbs and delicious flavours to keep us happy for a long time.
At dinner, not only did we have exceptional Sri Lankan ‘rice and curry’ on offer, which was cooked miraculously with no oil and tasted absolutely wonderful but we also had the choice of specially created dishes that were perfectly balanced nutritionally, something that we love to see as vegans.
Delicious beetroot curry with amazing cinnamon flavours, mung beans in coconut milk with pandan leaf and Sri Lankan medicinal herbs and a fruity, spicy pineapple salad.
Chef Joe’s ‘Protein Platter’ consisted of a protein packed mixed beancake (which had been lightly fried) served on a ‘kurrakan’ (red millet flour) pancake which had the texture of a blini – so clever!
It was accompanied by iron rich sautéed spinach and kancung and a garlicky avocado salsa. Words can’t really explain just how scrumptious this dish was; the balance of flavours and textures was perfect.
We love to eat food from a chef who understands that a vegan meal should be balanced nutritionally as well as looking good and tasting great.
There were plenty of desserts on offer and our favourite was the coconut milk sago pudding with the tiny pearls of tapioca being suspended in a sweet creamy thick coconut milk and a sprinkling of kithul jaggery and cinnamon on top for extra vegan dessert bliss. We did manage to squeeze in another pudding (can we convince you it was for research purposes?) which was a smooth, sweet ‘Gingered Pumpkin’ puree with spicy fresh ginger on top.
Another healthy and delicious plant-based creation!
The Vegan Essentials
Our four poster bed already had non-feather pillows and a non-feather duvet on it so we could sleep easily and the enjoy the comfort of our suite.
As Anilana Nilaveli is a new resort, their permanent spa wasn’t open but we paid a visit to their temporary spa to see what their treatments will be like.
We tried out their signature ‘Thai Aroma’ massage (which combined aromatherapy oils with Thai massage techniques) and also their ‘Deep Tissue’ massage (a firm oil massage which concentrates on the back, shoulders and head). Out of the hundreds of massages we’ve had in our lives, we’ve only had treatments that have been this good a handful of times; they were amazing!
Anilana Nilaveli also have a yoga teacher and we booked a session as Caryl loves to practise yoga (with it’s principles of non-violence towards all living beings being a perfect match to veganism). After a 2 hour class which focussed on traditional hatha yoga we can truthfully say the teacher was excellent as well as very patient and kind to his student! Caryl came away with a whole list of things to keep practising and was very inspired by the things she learned.
The in room amenities were from Sri Lankan based company HDDES who make organic and natural products.
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict
Check in to Anilana Nilaveli for a luxury hotel stay where you’ll feel healthier when you leave, than you did when you arrived.
Indulge in the mindful creations of Chef Joe, which have all been prepared with a focus on health, taste and nutritional balance using traditional food knowledge that has been handed down through generations.
Take a yoga class with Anilana’s yoga teacher whose teaching is sure to help you. Whether you are new to yoga or practise regularly, Murgasam’s skilful instruction is a rare gift to be cherished.
Don’t forget to book a massage in the spa for a world class massage that will transport you to new levels of relaxation and well-being.
We were guests of Anilana Nilaveli but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views
1508 Ward 4
Telephone: +94 112 030 900
Cost From: £100 / $150 per night (May 2015)