Galle Face Green eateries
Posted on April 12th, 2020

Chanaka Bandarage

Galle Face Green was established in 1859 by Governor Sir Henry Ward, for the sole purpose of recreation. 

A 1.6 km long promenade was constructed along the oceanside, especially with the purpose of ladies and children to saunter and take in the air.

Galle Face originally was spread over a much larger area than it exists today. Records indicate that its northern boundary extended up to Beira Lake (near Gangaramaya temple).

The very large Green was used for various sports such as golf, hockey, cricket, and horseracing. The first-ever Royal – Thomian cricket match was played at Galle Face in 1879 (which Royal won by 56 runs). It is stated that the two teams rowed across the Beira Lake to reach the ground.

Galle Face was always a very flat land until in the early 1990s the then government decided to erect terraces and sections divided within.

Today, Galle Face is Colombo’s largest open space (about 5 hectares).

Galle Face was always fully covered with grass, hence the name, Galle Face Green. Given that grass is replaced by the soil in many places today, is it appropriate to call it the Galle Face Dirt?

(Dirt = Topsoil)

Until the turn of the century, families flocked to Galle Face to enjoy the sea under the vast open sky. There were many who used the Green for their early morning or evening strolls and physical exercise. People used to buy gram/wade from vendors. They were simple, mobile traders, not established eateries. Ice cream vans of reputed firms parked alongside the Galle Road and sold quality ice cream.

In mid/late 1990s eateries were established alongside the promenade from the Galle Face hotel side to the giant flagpole; this permanently changed Galle Face’s dimension.

One of the main attractions of today’s Galle Face is food – it is famous for greasy/oily, meaty foods such as kotthu, roties/parata, burgers, fried potatoe chips, hotdogs and buriyani. Now, there are permanent gram/wade stands. A Wade with a tiny fried crab on top is very popular. The crab is mostly caught in Galle Face sea itself, so fresh wade is fried on the spot. Various carbonated and sweetened drinks are sold in the eateries. All the eateries and permanent wade stands have a brisk business.

The thick greasy smoke and the strong smell that emanate from various foods are expanded by the sea breeze to the rest of the Green. It is an offensive smoke/smell.

Areas, where the eateries located, are very crowded and noisy. Some shops have erected stadium type lights.

This is the last thing that those who come to the Green for quiet enjoyment/evening stroll want.

Now, Galle Face attracts fewer families and individuals that go to enjoy the breeze, do exercise.

Galle Face has largely lost its traditional users, it now attracts youngish, vocal, impatient crowds.

Though Galle Face was known worldwide as Colombo’s place for peaceful/serene enjoyment; today it is famous as Colombo’s place for street/junk food.

The two identities do not complement each other, they are poles apart.

One would argue that the writer is wrong; that, Galle Face now has two distinct identities and it is good.

The writer states that the newly introduced commercialization has eroded Galle Face’s innocence, originality, and authenticity.

One could see men in small groups secretly drinking alcohol hidden under the night’s darkness. Recently, an upmarket restaurant commenced operations – located at the very beginning of the Galle Face, on Galle Face Centre Road. They have erected big signs. They sell alcohol with a band playing live music. The noise amplifies into the Green. It will not be a surprise if similar restaurants pop up in that area.

Galle Face is full of various kinds of vendors; there is no control of them. Some act as if they ‘own’ the place. Kite sellers, plastic toy sellers have forcibly acquired large swaths of the Green, people find it difficult to maneuver through and walk. At dark, children and even adults fall over upon entangling on kite string – kites anchored on the floor for sale. When such things happen, they often receive abuse as if it was their fault.

A visitor to Galle Face in the early morning could see thousands of crows converged on the park to eat the previous night’s leftover food in dustbins and food scattered across the Green. In the early mornings, there are many stray dogs. Large rats have risen up, some are big as cats.  Wastewater from food businesses could be seen lying stagnated in the open dilapidated drains.

All these are new additions to Galle Face thanks to the introduction of many eateries. There is a strong possibility that eateries could increase up to the Kingsbury Hotel’s end. The cash strapped governments are greedy for rent monies.

Opening up Galle Face for such large scale eateries is contrary to the purpose in which it was established.

The writer is not against good, quality eateries being formed in Colombo. He states Galle Face is not the place for that. If they want to eat junk/fast food, those people should go elsewhere. They could well be established along Galle Road from Colpetty towards Mt Lavinia. 

Colpetty/Bambalapitiya can be the Centre for street/fast food eateries. There are properties on Galle Road and Marine Drive available for this. Colombo’s nightlife can blossom in those areas, not at Galle Face.

Galle Face is a place for calm, tranquil relaxation. It is the only place in Colombo where people can breathe quality fresh air, enjoy the sea breeze and simply relax. They should be able to freely roam everywhere in the Green.

People should be able to visit Galle Face with families. Those who want to jog/walk/do workouts, bring pets (on leash) and even meditate/yoga should be able to freely do them. Children should be able to run around, fly kites and go on pony rides.

Galle Face is so important to Colombians (all Colombo residents – big and small). It is part of Colombo’s psyche. It would have easily qualified for World Heritage status, but unlikely now.

6 Responses to “Galle Face Green eateries”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    IT IS THE CHEAP POLITICIANS WHO RUINED GALLE FACE GREEN. I remember how beautiful a place it was as a small boy. If anyone has the Vertebrae to put it back to where it was, it is President Gotabaya. There should be NO permanent Eateries anywhere in the Green. Only Glass cased Food Carts should be allowed, along with the Wadai Karayas.
    Let us see Galle Face back like in the 1950s. I see some Trees planted there. Who did that ? I believe it is another cheap politicians job. They must be removed, and the entire place has to be open. Then during a heavy wind, one need not be frightened that a tree will come on their head.


  2. Chanaka B Says:

    Hi Susantha, Great to hear from you! How have you been? We should chat on Skype one of these days.

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    CHANAKA ! I have lost my SKYPE on my internet. I will get my son-in-law to help put it back. Till then please wait. Susantha.

  4. Chanaka B Says:

    No worries!

    There’s no problem with the trees at Galle Face Susantha. They are ok.

  5. Priyan Wijeyeratne Says:

    Galle face has a long history, now it is used by many more than before and perhaps needing upgrade and control. I think it is time our President intervenes as he is the one who can do it and have the vision. Entire green must be turned real “green”. There may be some large trees as well and it must be re-developed by our own Landscape Architects. Landscape Architecture is an up and coming profession in Sri Lanka (although we have some stunning natural landscape in the world). So, I think we need some thinking, planning, regulation and dedication to turn it around, I do not think back to 1950s but into future for a long time to come. Yes, our current President is the one who can do it, I agree.

  6. Chanaka B Says:

    This curfew period is the best time to grow the grass. The rains help. Army is the most suitable for the job. When we come out of the curfew, it will be all green.

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