Once a sleepy village morphing into what can only be described as a ghost town post 8pm, Galle Fort is now a buzzing epicentre of the South Coast. Brimming with sights, smells and sounds in every nook, the Fort encompasses the vibrant diversity of the island.
Nowadays Galle Fort is laden with multicultural culinary delights, all conveniently tucked within the magnetic ambience of the historic ramparts. There are charming eateries peppered between the rustic streets: Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Indian and Middle Eastern amongst the local flavours of Sri Lankan.
To preempt your foodie ponderings, I’ve tasted my way across Galle Fort to share my personal favourites of the ever growing hotspots. While exploring by foot for the first time is best experienced Google map free, I recommended choosing a spot for lunch or dinner with a pinch of research.
Perhaps bookmark several options- the Fort has it’s way of presenting itself when it comes to places you’ve read about or seen. While there are countless eateries to choose from, time may be limited. There are, of course, stand out spots amongst the ever expanding throng of hotels, restaurants and cafes. My intention with this blog post is to do the research so you don’t have to.
Poonie’s Kitchen $$
63 Pedlar Street (through Tallentire & Mimimango)
Specialising in fresh, locally sourced Sri Lankan produce, Poonie’s Kitchen is best described in two words: mouthwatering nourishment. Founder Jo Eden is a visionary in creating innovative nutrition-packed sustenance and was one of the initiators behind the health conscious food concept ever expanding in recent years across the country.
Poonie’s signature dish is no doubt the delightfully instagrammable ‘salad thali’ (inspired by Indian thalis i.e small bowls of piquant vegetarian curries presented on one larger metal plate) featuring an ensemble of oh so moreish kaleidoscopic salads
With perfectly seasoned (crunchy on the outside creamy in the middle) warm new potatoes, refreshing grated carrot in a light citrus dressing, creamy beetroot raita amongst several others, the thali is topped with a generous portion of avocado (#healthyfats!) and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds for full multisensory goodness.
Her creative fusion is no less than divine, proving (and then some!) that Sri Lankan ingredients aren’t limited to curries alone.
Poonie’s fresh juices and smoothies reign superior in the Fort including local island favourite iced milo with a twist of fresh banana & kithul honey. All drinks are accompanied with a biodegradable straw made from the hollow stem of a local plant, avoiding the near instant sogginess of paper or metallic undertone of stainless steel straws.
52A Church Street
New to the Galle Fort foodie scene, Galley 52 is a real hidden gem in the Fort. A stone’s throw from Pedlar Street running across the middle of the picturesque UNESCO heritage site, the food at Galley 52 incorporates fresh local ingredients with innovative fusion flavours.
We ordered a pescatarian tasting platter in advance- our favourites were the coconut crumbed prawns with a chilli and jaggary sauce, paneer korma and fragrant biriyani with paneer. Don’t forget to order a glass of their signature homemade pink lemonade to beat the heat!
40 Church Street
With a history as rich and exotic as the cuisine, dating back to a bygone era of arab traders, it seems only fitting that a middle eastern restaurant stands proudly in the Fort.
Once the chambers of an attorney-at-law, the restaurant serves a multitude of middle eastern favourites from it’s cosy hub on the ever evolving Church Street.
From a melt in the mouth hearty lamb tagine, zesty hummus with a swirl of olive oil and pinch of chilli powder to spiced grilled aubergine, this is among the best arabic cuisine I’ve tried in Sri Lanka- the #1 being Mama Aida’s in Colombo.
They also serve a selection of Italian pastas which could be a sigh of relief for families with children craving a less exotic taste palette. The fresh seasonal juices go down a treat as does a pot of refreshing mint tea.
A tiny hole in the wall cafe style restaurant which would be easy to miss if it wasn’t so different from the majority of neighbouring restaurants along the strip. Dumplings specialise in (you guessed it!) fresh Chinese dumplings; veggie, fish or meat.
Their eco friendly presentation in purple/red banana flower adds to the quirky charm, embracing the local while proving a photo friendly option in the Instagram era. Nab the two seats parallel to the street and watch the world go by.
6 Sudarmalaya Road
An affordable hostel tucked in a quieter street near the ramparts and buddhist temple, the food at Pilgrims’ restaurant is quite exceptional.
Craving a curry free meal? Order a wood fired pizza to share pronto, Pilgrim’s signature dish by reputation.
Expect (almost!) equally delicious salads too. To be honest, the pizza is so good I can’t really remember other dishes. They have a great curation of wine which is available both by the glass and bottle.
Church Street Social at Fort Bazaar $$$
26 Church Street
A regular in the pages of Conde Nast and other international publications since its inception, the irresistibly chic Fort Bazaar lovingly embraces its restored historic architecture with balmy Moroccan-eque interiors.
Avoid the midday heat in their air conditioned dining room or opt for the romantic street side verandah in the evening. Several cafe-style seats also await in the air conditioned bar, ideal for a quick coffee stop.
Aside from the killer eggs benedict and egg hoppers with creamy cashew nut & pea curry for breakfast, the à la carte menu at Church Street Social offers an array of western, Asian, Middle Eastern and fusion dishes.
They currently don’t have a liquor license. You’re warmly encouraged to bring your own. Neighbouring Galle Fort Hotel is a convenient spot to buy a bottle or head to the nearest wine shop in Galle town via tuk tuk to avoid a hefty markup.
A Minute by Tuk Tuk $$
The Old Dutch Hospital
With the meditative sounds of the sea softly breaking on the rocks below, A Minute by Tuk Tuk offers one of the best views in Galle Fort, extending along the curve of Rumassala’s Jungle Beach and the elegant Japanese Peace Pagoda.
I must confess, these days I’m not adventurous at A Minute by Tuk Tuk. My go to dish ‘batu moju’, a simple, beautifully presented dish of fluffy paratha bread, caramelised spicy aubergine and dhal served in a rustic banana flower. In my opinion it’s the best dish on the menu.
Galle Fort Hotel $$
28 Church Street
Originally a Dutch mansion built in the 18th century and refashioned in the British colonial era by a family of gem merchants, The Galle Fort Hotel proudly embraces its old-world historic charm in both style and service to the present day.
With a verandah rivalling that of Fort Bazaar’s, I opt to sit here for a quick drink stop. My seating preference for dining overlooks the courtyard.
Creamy crab soup, nourishing beetroot soup (served hot or cold on preference), calamari with a zesty mayonnaise side dressing and seafood ceviche are among the highlights of starters.
Authentic Sri Lankan rice and curry is one of the best in the Fort, with the deceivingly modest item served generously in multiple bowls on a portable side table.
Street Food $
And last but not least, I cannot complete a foodie feature of Galle Fort without mentioning the wonders of street food for a pre-dinner appetizer. Keep your eyes peeled for the wade cart which emerges opposite The Bartizan hotel just before sunset on weekends and public holidays.
Serving up freshly cooked deep fried lentils, with or without prawns accompanied by an optional handful of crispy salted chilis and tempered onion. The wade is served in a small makeshift pouch from newspaper. The full local experience!
You may also spot the Cargills/Elephant House ice cream cart along the ramparts in the afternoon or at the main entrance of the Fort. Despite the multitude of Italian Gelato joints along Pedlar Street in the Fort, there are days every now and then when I fancy the no frills option.
If you have a sweet tooth, try the Lankan favourite ‘pani cadju’ ice cream pot which drizzled with kithul honey and sprinkle of cashew nuts.
Other recommended restaurants in Galle Fort:
|Cafe Punto (£)|
Family run Sri Lankan cuisine.
42 Pedlar Street
Pedlars Inn Cafe/Pizzeria (££)
Hearty Italian food.
92 Pedlar Street
Cosy outside dining.
No 9 Church Cross Street
|Isle of Gelato (££)|
60a Pedlar Street
Sugar Bistro (££)
Stylish & modern casual restaurant.
The Old Dutch Hospital