Once a sleepy village morphing into what can only be described as a ghost town past 8pm, it’s fascinating to compare the now buzzing Galle Fort to how it was just several years ago.
These days the Fort is laden with a plethora of multicultural culinary delights, all conveniently tucked within the magnetic ambience of the historic ramparts.
With cafes & restaurants seeming to fast overtake the number of residential houses in recent years, it’s all too easy to procrastinate over the endless choices or make the wrong decision with one of the enticing tourist traps.
To preempt your foodie pondering, I’ve tasted my way across Galle Fort to share my personal favourites of the ever growing hotspots.
Poonie’s Kitchen $$
63 Pedlar Street (through Tallentire & Mimimango)
Specialising in a kaleidoscope of fresh Sri Lankan produce, founder Jo Eden is a visionary when it comes to creating innovative healthy dishes which taste incredible.
From her delightfully instagrammable ‘salad thali’ (inspired by Indian thalis) with an ensemble of colourful salads to the creamy butternut squash fritters alongside beetroot raitha, her creative fusion is no less than divine.
Fresh juices and smoothies including my personal favourite, iced milo & banana are accompanied by a sustainable straw.
40 Church St
With a history as rich and exotic as the cuisine, dating back to a bygone era of arab traders, it seems only fitting that a middle eastern restaurant stands proudly in the Fort.
Once the chambers of an attorney-at-law, the restaurant serves a multitude of middle eastern favourites from it’s cosy hub on the ever evolving Church Street.
From a melt in the mouth hearty lamb tagine, zesty hummus with a swirl of olive oil and pinch of chilli powder to spiced grilled aubergine, this is among the best arabic cuisine I’ve tried in Sri Lanka- the best being Mama Aida’s in Colombo.
They also serve a selection of Italian pastas which could be a sigh of relief for families with children craving a less exotic taste palette.
The fresh seasonal juices go down a treat as does a pot of refreshing mint tea.
Church Street Social at Fort Bazaar $$$
26 Church Street
A couple of doors down from Chambers is Fort Bazaar, an irresistably chic forward thinking hotel embracing it’s lovingly restored historic architecture with a modern, Moroccan twist.
Featured in many an international publication since it’s inception, both the restaurant and hotel has been praised as one of the go to spots in Galle Fort.
Choose from the air conditioned inside dining room or streetside on the verandah with the soft breeze of a fan. I tend to prefer AC in the day and outside for breakfast or dinner when it’s cooler.
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 incredible array of western and fusion dishes.
Regularly hailed as serving the best burgers on the island, their tender beef, pulled pork and grilled middle eastern veggie burger with feta are consistently delicious.
They don’t have a liquor license- guests are welcome to bring their own. Buy a bottle of wine from neighbouring Galle Fort Hotel or in the town.
A Minute by Tuk Tuk $$
The Old Dutch Hospital
With the medititive sounds of the sea lightly crashing on the rocks below the bank of the Old Dutch Hospital, A Minute by Tuk Tuk offers one of the best restaurant views in Galle Fort.
I tend to prefer visiting for lunch when the view extends to the curve of Rumassala’s Jungle Beach and the elegant Japanese Peace Pagoda.
I must confess I’m not exactly adventurous at A Minute by Tuk Tuk, favouring my go to dish ‘batu moju’. A simple, beautifully presented dish of fluffy parata bread, caramalised spicy aubergine and dhal, served in a rustic banana flower.
Nothing quite beats a sea view with a chilled glass of lion beer, wine or mocktail!
Galle Fort Hotel $$
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 very much retains it’s historic charm today.
Centred around a cosy courtyard, a dining experience on the intimate verandah for a long lunch or romantic dinner is a must.
There’s also seating in a large open aired dining room with the fans whirring eagerly or along the entrance of the hotel for prime people watching.
Authentic Sri Lankan rice and curry is my favourite choice, with the deceivingly modest item on the menu presented generously in multiple bowls on a portable side table.
Creamy crab soup, nourishing beetroot soup (served hot or cold on preference), calamari with a zesty mayonnaise side dressing and seafood ceviche were among the highlights of starters.
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:
Galle Fort Hotel 28 Church Street $$
Pedlars Inn Cafe/Pizzeria 92 Pedlar Street $$
Fortaleza No 9 Church Cross Street $$
Sugar Bistro The Old Dutch Hospital $$
Lucky Fort 7 Parawa Street $
Cafe Punto 42 Pedlar Street $
Nb. The above are personal recommendations from my culinary experiences in Galle Fort. For restaurants wishing to be considered for a review, please email firstname.lastname@example.org