A gem in the urban jungle

Some things in life you cannot explain. It’s just an instant connect, maybe an age-old one, that sees all the stars align and all the gears click in your head. Barefoot Garden Cafe was like that for me, and it’s strange that I say that since this generally isn’t my thing at all. Think of Barefoot as FabIndia, but with far more knick knacks, curios and curious foreigners of myriad origins and you’ve got a mental image of Barefoot painted for you.

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Ensconced within its basement is a quirky outdoor cafe that makes full use of the centuries old, vintage bungalow setting with its leafy verandah and cobbled stone flooring to create an old-world charm that is often so hard to find in today’s modern cities. I imagined walking into Barefoot and getting a table easy-peasy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The sight that greeted me was like a bar out of Star Wars, with people from all nationalities and universes congregating as they celebrate the laziness of the day by eating and drinking it away.

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I called for a simple Ham and Cheese on Ciabatta bread while Ruhi opted for a heartier Tuna on Cheese bread. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with either sandwich, but it was the homely kind that would remind you of something your mum whipped up quickly to shut your trap when you started wailing about the lack of a snack at teatime. It was the kind of sandwich Volkswagen would make if they had a deli; it had everything you needed and expected and nothing you didn’t. It didn’t set my world alight just as it didn’t prove to be a damp squib.

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Feeling the craving for some tuber loving, we called for a side of fries and a pair of wines to help us soak in the sensational live jazz band that was strumming and drumming up a storm. It’s here that Barefoot really came into its element, with the band really striking a chord, so to speak, with one and all assembled as they had them eat out of the palm of their hand. Again, only in a manner of speaking.

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The fries we called for could well have been a main in itself, for it was humongous in quantity. I felt like Leonidas (sans the six pack) working my way through Xerxes’ starchy army of soldiers, except this time Leonidas won in the end. A special word has to be reserved for the wine selection here; our glasses of wine, mine a full-bodied red from South Africa and Ruhi’s a drier white wine from Argentina, represented brilliant value for money at 600 Lankan rupees a glass, which is about 280 INR or 30 coconuts if that’s more your thing.

At that price back home, I would have got some craptastic local wine that makes me question why I opted for wine in the first place. Not so at Barefoot, and a cursory glance of their drinks menu (for science’s sake only) showed that this collection of beers and liquors from the world over was priced just as reasonably (relatively speaking) as the wines were. Little wonder then that a small army of tourists were busy drowning their days and getting high as a kite while wildly applauding every number the band played. Not that the band didn’t deserve it, mind.

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So, decent sandwiches, a well-priced and great wine collection served amid an admittedly lovely ambience. That in summation was my experience of Barefoot Garden Cafe and I do look back fondly on Barefoot. Long after the flavors vanished, long after the smell of the spices faded and the buzz of the wine wore off, what I took back with me (besides some of the said knick knacks and curios) was a sense of unfettered joy and the way the place made me feel. And you can’t put a price on that, which is why Barefoot represents a must-visit place for me in Colombo, especially on a Sunday when people watching over a glass of fine wine with a live band playing in the background gives meaning to the phrase “life’s simpler pleasures”.

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