Eating Sri Lanka

Say what you will about big multinational hotel chains, when you are staying in a quaint, historical but down-at-heels flophouse in central Colombo, there are certain advantages to being a short tuk tuk ride from the Hilton. These include reliable air-conditioning, edible food and (I’d imagine) a relative lack of palm squirrels climbing into your third floor bedroom window while you are asleep and eating the apple on your desk, leaving behind nothing but a little pile of peel shavings.

My hotel was originally a barracks for the British army when it controlled Sri Lanka. The air con shakes the room with its racket and mostly just blows around dust and hot air. But on the plus side, palm squirrels can eat here for free!

So I often found myself at the Hilton at the end of the day, curled up in one of those big leather armchairs in the lobby, drinking incredibly delicious fruit juices (pineapple and ginger! watermelon! mango! more watermelon!) and reading about Italian food on my iPad. Cool as a cucumber and not a squirrel in sight.

I ate there too and while I’m not going to give space to reviewing a Hilton restaurant, I will say that you can eat some melt in your mouth sashimi at the Ginza Hohsen.

I’m not even sure what all this stuff is. But it sure was tasty!

Plus they had these cool machines on all the tables.

We need these in Italy!

Another night I ate at Semondu, which, according to the Interwebs, is derived from the word Simoundou, the name given to Sri Lanka by the 2nd Century Greek geographer Ptolomy. So why not just call it Simoundou? I don’t understand. The tagline is ‘fusion in the sky,’ which makes little sense until you know that the restaurant, located at the Old Dutch Hospital, is run by Sri Lankan Airlines. Insert airplane food jokes here.

Actually, it was pretty great. The very friendly waiter brought me a spicy lamb samosa with which to amuse ma bouche, paired with a mint-cilantro-lime sauce, which was so good that I drank it in one gulp.

Spicy lamb samosa with green sauce.

Next came a Greek salad with creamy feta: the Sri Lankans are not big on salads or raw vegetables and I was really missing the crunch.

Crunchy Greek salad and garlic bread (yay!)

My main course was the Trio of Seafood: Tasmanian salmon, lagoon prawns and rock lobster tail served with saffron, lemongrass and chili cream. And a side dish of fat luscious wild mushrooms. Yum. 

The night before I left Sri Lanka, I ate at the Gallery Cafe. This used to be the office of renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa and you can still see his desk in the restaurant. It’s a lovely little complex, complete with koi pond, art gallery and a cute shop where I bought a hilarious hand painted wooden door stop for $2, which I can never use. It stopped my bedroom door for approximately one minute before Morgan started chewing on it.

The Morgster contemplates which end of the doorstop to start chewing first.

Dinner was a stuffed crab appetizer and fat juicy chili prawns with tamarind dipping sauce. The prawns came with coconut risotto and a green papaya salad. Amazing and beautiful with fresh lively flavours.

My colleague Abby had a cold zucchini soup with tons of basil and a tuna caprese with tomatoes and mozzarella and pesto. Also very delicious. Hands down my best meal in Sri Lanka. Wish I’d discovered it sooner!

Ginza Hohsen, Hilton Hotel. 2 Sir Chittampalam A Gardiner Mawatha. Tel: 11 249 2123, 2544644, ext. 2123

Semondu, The Old Dutch Hospital. Tel: 0112441590 / 1

The Gallery Cafe, 2 Alfred House Rd, Kollupitiya, Col 3. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Tel: 011 258 2162

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2 responses to “Eating Sri Lanka

  1. Very nice photos (as always). Sri Lankan cuisine is looking far more appetizing than it was at the start of your last blog post.

  2. Still dreaming about our beautiful meal at the Gallery Cafe. I’ll have to try Semondu after your raving review.

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