There is some truly mouthwatering cuisine to be enjoyed amidst the ever growing restaurant scene in Colombo. From a diverse fanfare of international favourites to Sri Lanka’s specialty of rice and curry (both traditional and fusion), there’s something to stimulate everyones senses in the big city.
As an enthusiastic advocate of curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner, its my pleasure to introduce my tried and tested ‘go to’ destinations to enjoy the wonders of Sri Lankan food in Colombo. Although there are many options, I’ve decided to showcase just 3 favourites; traditional, contemporary classics and Northern.
(Traditional Sri Lankan)
Everything about Upali’s reminds me of the Sri Lanka I fell in love with many years ago, from the food, decor and ambience. Over 80% of the workforce has been scouted locally (no qualifications, simply raw talent) with the curry powder for each dish sourced from the relevant locale (i.e the curry powder used in the Jaffna chicken curry brought all the way from Jaffna itself), both of which as you can imagine enhance authenticity.
There’s no cutlery on the tables as you arrive, although they will likely bring them over if you’re not local- my preference is always by hand. Upali’s hosts a generous menu for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike, all extremely good value for money.
Highlights: Try their 2000 year old recipe signature 7 vegetable curry, traditionally made by locals with any vegetables families had available. They also do a great lime juice with bits. In simple terms, its all very good!
A diverse offering of traditional yet stylised Sri Lankan food in a contemporary, chic ambience. The presentation is flawless and the flavours are rich and moreish.
The choice is yours to splash the cash (Rs.1,200 boneless goat curry) or for more modest option try the pollos at just Rs.300, there are plenty of options to suit everyone- all at the same high level and standard.
Highlights: I recommend ordering the pollos and roast paan bread to soak up all the delicious sauce pronto!
Since opening in 1971, Palmyrah has offered Northern Sri Lankan cuisine for over 45 years, with many of the popular signature recipes remaining completely unchanged to this day. The decor is spacious, modern and perpendicular, with Jaffna-esque pops of colours contrasted against the muted tones of brown and gold.
Many of the items on the menu (both mains and dessert) are impossible to find elsewhere in Colombo and with high standards of every single ingredient, I was truly impressed by the flavours.
Highlights: The egg hoppers with a perfect orangey yellow yolk and the Jaffna crab curry- which I can confirm lives up to the rave reviews! My personal highlight however was the jaggery hopper with vanilla ice cream. It’s not the most photogenic of dishes but one of the most delicious sweets I’ve ever had!
Other recommended Sri Lankan Restaurants:
- Dutch Burgher Union ($/$$) – Dutch Burgher cuisine, try the lamprais.
- Curry Leaf at The Hilton ($$$) – Sri Lankan buffet
- Nuga Gama at The Cinnamon Grand ($$$) – Sri Lankan buffet
- Paradise Road Gallery Cafe ($$$) – Traditional/fusion, famous for their black pork curry.
And last but not least, if you wish to experience somewhere super casual, popularised by locals from Colombo and beyond, Pilawoos ($) offers the best traditional kottu rotti in town. The decor is very basic but the atmosphere is buzzing, great for people watching.