Jason Allen 28/03/23
Rambutan | Sri Lankan Flavours in Borough Market
Debut restaurants aren’t usually this good.
But Cynthia Shanmugalingam has been preparing for this her entire life, and she’s come out swinging with Rambutan, which is a wonderful Sri Lankan haven of punchy flavours & fiery curries.
She was born in Coventry but, crazily enough, it was her Tamil heritage that inspired her cooking, and she spent summers exploring markets, milling spices, and cooking over fire in her mother’s north Sri Lankan village. She soon started running acclaimed pop ups & street food stalls here in London, publishing an award-winning cookbook, and picking up fans like Yotam Ottolenghi & Anna Jones along the way. So it might almost feel like a foregone conclusion that her debut restaurant would reach for greatness.
And lo & behold, it has.
You’ll find pinned to the edge of Borough Market, sitting along a row of similarly lovely restaurants (Elliot’s, BAO, etc.). It’s a two-level mix of bright green leaves, coffee coloured walls, and rattan dining chairs arrayed around a thrumming open kitchen upstairs, and a buzzing cocktail bar downstairs. But you’re not here for the scenery.
The menu is a love letter to the unique ways that Sri Lankan food likes to use your tastebuds for kindling. But it’s a pleasant, welcome burn – not the kind of perpetually escalating, aggressive heat that threatens to throttle any other flavours on sight. Standouts include the red pineapple curry, which is a juicy, satisfying bowl crammed with scorched fruit, fragrant curry leaves, and hot black pepper. Then there are the lamb ribs, dusted with a dry rub that sings soprano highs of Jaffna spices, or the refreshingly zingy carrot sambol, and the crispy, moreish beef & bone marrow rolls. And getting one of the house rotis to mop up is almost a requirement.
If you fancy dessert, you’ll have to wait until they’ve set up their fancy new soft-serve machine. They had one running all summer last year during construction, and it was putting out flavours like jaggery syrup & cashew nuts, or spiced Ceylon tea with Milo & banana, to give you an idea of what to expect.
And then there are the cocktails. There are just four, running from a negroni that uses banana in place of vermouth, and their house signature Rambutang, which uses actual rambutan in it. And as for what a rambutan is? It’s a small red fruit, a little like a lychee, that looks like the sock burr from hell and tastes sweetly grape-like. In Malay the word literally means ‘hairy fruit’, but don’t worry…
…it goes down smooth.
NOTE: Rambutan is open now. You can find out more and book a table at their website right here.
Rambutan | 10 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD
Want to meet the competition? Here are the best restaurants around Borough Market…
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10 Stoney Street, Borough, SE1 9AD
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