A rich cultural melting pot of Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor (Muslim), Burgher (Dutch) and Malay communities, Kolamba (or Colombo) is the vibrant capital of Sri Lanka; a bustling patchwork of skyscrapers, colonial buildings and temples nearly five and a half thousand miles away.
But as we’ve just discovered, there’s a shortcut just off Carnaby Street.
This independent eatery is run by husband and wife team Eroshan and Aushi Meewella, who are here to induct you into the warmth and splendour of Sri Lankan cooking from every corner of the nation, but particularly the capital where they spent their childhoods.
It’s the definition of teeny-tiny: there’s a small terrace out the front; an open kitchen at the back, lively with the hiss of pans and wafts of fragrant cooking aromas; and, in between, a handful of tables set against a long banquette under softly lit woven lampshades. Despite its size, though, it never feels cramped or hectic – the service is warm and generous; the food made for taking time over.
Dishes are designed to share in the traditional style, and the menu reads like a cast list of characters and places. It opens with small, bitesize snacks like the hot butter fried cuttlefish (now one of our favourite dishes in London) and breadcrumbed mackerel, a dish that arrived with the Dutch hundreds of years ago. Scaling up, you’ll want to order two or three larger dishes like the black pepper king prawn fry; the creamy yellow monkfish curry; or sweet, succulent jackfruit curry, each of which come singing with their own distinctive heat. Tempering the spice you’ll find roti, fragrant rice, and of course, hoppers; Sri Lanka’s famous bowl-shaped pancakes with the option of adding a fried egg at the base.
Those transporting flavours linger in the puddings, too – there’s watalappam, a spiced coconut custard; jaggery-laced rice pudding and a chocolate mousse spiked with arrack. Wash it all down with Sri Lanka’s favourite Lion lager or a few negronis made with gin distilled in Colombo…
…and you’ll be glad it’s not an 11hr trip home.
NOTE: Kolamba is open daily for lunch and dinner, plus brunch on weekends. You can find out more, and book a table, HERE.
Kolamba | 21 Kingly Street, London W1B 5QA
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