There’s a reason Sri Lanka is known as the Serendip island – one only needs to visit and travel around the magnificent countryside, awash in lush tropical greenery, isolated beaches, food to make all the senses tingle and a healthy dose of friendliness and goodwill! Its capital city, a British and Dutch colonial port, whilst a bustling hub in the day, is a sleepy town by night, and yet, some of the finest restaurants come alive.
The first question for most people often has to do with finding the best place for traditional Sri Lankan food. On this matter, one only needs and must go to Raja Bojun on Galle Road. Now, I’ve always been dubious of buffets, especially those with a large number of dishes, but here at Raja Bojun in spite of the large count, every single dish was a revelation in its depth of flavour. From a vast array of vegetarian dishes such as green mango curry, jackfruit curry, banana flower masala and many more to various dry chilli beef, chicken curry, soft shell crab to various types of rice, fermented rice pancakes – appam/hopper. The choices are endless and no dish had been neglected. A winner, on all fronts!
There really is no way to describe Bawa Gallery Cafe. Formerly the studio of the renowned architect, Geoffrey Bawa, this restaurant, bar and art gallery is a visual feast of architecture. As you enter, a pool of huge happy carp greets you, as you move to the back where the bar and restaurant are. The minute one steps into the dining space, a shiver of awe runs down your spine. A vast open space that feels intimate and comfortable thanks to its aesthetic planning and attention to the minutest detail has you craning your neck in every direction to get a full sense of the design. At this point, you wouldn’t care if the food was any good or not. I went there twice in two weeks! The food is a blend of Sri Lankan and European. Beautifully cooked, beautifully presented, and very unpretentious. The Black Pork is definitely worth having as is the Jaggery Creme Brulee (new favourite!). Cocktails too are delightfully crafted and the service is attentive, yet not overbearing, allowing you to soak up the evening in a slow and dreamy romance.
Barefoot Cafe also has the bonus of having a ‘lifestyle’ store attached to it selling all manners of wonderfully crafted things. Stepping into the courtyard of the cafe, with its water feature and sculptures dotted around, the cafe is the ideal place to chill out on a hot day. Food here isn’t all that great, but not inedible either. The main charm is the surrounding, the drinks and just a sense of relaxation as you sit there reading the book you’ve just bought or going through all the lovely stuff you’ve bought from the shop.
The Dutch Hospital in Colombo has recently been restored and turned into a eating and shopping venue, with the original structure and many of its colonial designs being retained. The high ceilings in the restaurants and the central courtyard makes it easy for one to spend a whole afternoon here, especially as there’s the Ceylon Spa conveniently located inside!