Dining in Colombo

The Colombo dining scene is not as yet bursting with variety so some thought needs to go in to picking a suitable spot for dinner.

The large (new) hotels are adding to what’s on offer – see the Shang Palace at the Shangri-La for example – but we tend to find huge lobbies and elevators a bit of a dining turn-off.

Here, then, are some notes very good non-hotel-based eating spots.

The Gallery Café

A permanent fixture on Colombo lists but deservedly so. Reliably good, if not spectacularly memorable food, wonderful night-time atmosphere and fine service. Not too extravagant on price.

 

Ministry of Crab

Unoriginal to suggest it but a worthwhile inclusion.

Former Sri Lankan cricket captains Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakara were tired of seeing the island’s best crabs packed up and sent to be enjoyed elsewhere so partnered with famed Japanese chef Darshan Munidasa to keep the best of the catch in Colombo.

If after something a little more low key (in price and size of crab) then try The Fat Crab on Marine Drive.

 

August

A lesser known spot on Castle Street (Dudley Senanayake Mawatha), Colombo 8, offering Middle Eastern dishes and mezze.

A little like The Gallery Café the food might be trumped by the atmosphere –  the restaurant a small, cobbled courtyard, very nicely lit.

With not many covers you’ll need to book in advance and bring your own wine if needed. Quite uniquely, the restaurant won’t let you drink beer.

 

Monsoon

An invention of the Teardrop team (behind the very excellent Wallawa and Fort Bazaar), Monsoon is a new addition.

Serves a variety of south and east Asian dishes. Prices reasonable. As per most new openings, new liquor license as yet but no corkage charged.

At the bottom of Park Street Mews it’s the ideal spot for dining before a bit of peacocking amongst Colombo movers and shakers.

 

Upali’s

Colombo doesn’t as yet offer much local fine dining. Upali’s, then, is perhaps the best option for old-fashioned rice and curry-type eating. Sambols, rottis, curries are all well done. Prices are higher than you’d pay in typical road-side places but you’ll be happier with the provenance here.

An uninspiring dining room but well-cooked, well-served Sri Lankan food.

 

Nihonbashi

The oldest and best of Colombo’s Japanese offerings. On an understated (scruffy) back street opposite the Galle Face the dining room is suitably Japanese to have you wanting to take your shoes off.

Prices go from modest to super-high for exotic, Kobe beef-type, dishes. All are fairly justifiable, just mind what you order.

Colombo’s drinking scene does a little better than the dining scene- both in terms of variety of options and atmosphere. Here are some of our current favourites:

 

Botanik

New comer to the Colombo dining scene and talk of the town at the moment. The views of the Colombo skyline from the rooftop are nothing but impressive. Cocktail list is comprehensive and well executed- anything with Colombo No7 gin is a must.

 

Red Bar at Tintagel

If seeking a grown up bar then this is your place. It’s small, dimly lit and intimate making it perfect for a romantic tête-a-tête or a night cap. The wine list should satisfy even the most refined palettes and full restaurant menu is also available should you decide to make a night of it.

 

Galle Face Hotel

A sundowner at Galle Face Hotel makes an appearance on many Colombo itineraries for good reasons. Considered The Raffles of Colombo, there’s nothing quite like a seat in the lawns of the hotel watching a spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean with a gin and tonic to the sound of bag pipes.

 

 

 

 

Colombo

Five years ago, visitors would have been pretty well advised to skip Colombo and head straight off for hills or beaches. A lot’s changed, though, and the city now has a growing appeal for the curious traveler.

Galle

Galle Fort with its centuries old melting pot of cultures, Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, cobblestone streets and crumbling mansions makes for some great exploring.

Kandy

Kandy is the hill country capital and gateway to the tea region of Sri Lanka. Once an ancient kingdom, nowadays it is an often traffic-jammed tangle of markets, temples, spice gardens and a picturesque lake.

Dining in Colombo

The Colombo dining scene is not as yet bursting with variety so some thought needs to go in to picking a suitable spot for dinner.

Dining in Galle

For a small city Galle (and the surrounds) does rather well when it comes to dining options and we do have our long standing and reliable favourites.

DOLPHIN WATCHING

In Kalpitiya, between November and April something remarkable happens – hundreds of dolphins come to live and feed in the Indian Ocean. It’s nature at its purest and we can take you there.

ELEPHANT SPOTTING

Gal Oya Lodge offers the the only opportunity in Sri Lanka to spot elephants from the water. With a little luck you could spot them swimming between islands or bathing at the lake’s edge- a thrilling wildlife experience.

LEOPARD SIGHTING

Yala National Park is a natural reserve of 96,000 hectares renowned for the highest density of leopards in the world. We suggest incorporating a stay at Leopard Trails for the best safari experience.

WHALE WATCHING FROM AIR

Observing the majestic nature of the largest mammal in the world, the Blue Whale, from an aerial point of view leaves passengers with an incomparable experience and understanding of the true magnitude of the beauty and grace of the species.

TEA ESTATE TOUR WITH OWNER

Ashburnham Estate is set in its own gorgeous 100-acre tea estate, around an hour north-east of Kandy. The estate boasts stunning waterfalls and beautiful views up to and across the Knuckles Mountains, not to mention around 60 acres of lush tea fields, plucked each day.

COOK LIKE A LOCAL

This is an immersive encounter for which the basis is local food: Muslim inspired biryani along with a bevy of spicy condiments, an assortment of hoppers and accompanying curries, or a simple but wholesome plate of rice and curry featuring seafood.

GALLE FORT PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR

Photograph your way through the colourful streets of iconic 17th century Galle Fort, a melting pot of cultures, people and cuisines. The host is a 5th generation resident and photographer of this historic city, who has explored every corner of it since he was a child.

HOMESTAY IN THE MOUNTAINS

The local host of this homestay experience organizes custom hiking tours in the Knuckles Mountain Range. This in an ideal experience if wanting to go beyond the standard guidebook offers- go with the flow, live in basic conditions and learn about remote communities.

MEET THE INDIGENOUS VEDDAS

The Veddas are the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of central Sri Lanka. Neighbours of Gal Oya Lodge are one of the last remaining communities of the Vedda people and here, the village chief can be invited to take you on a walk through the jungles of his ancestors.

CINNAMON PLANTATION TOUR

This experience takes place at a beautiful working cinnamon estate of 25 acres in the south of the island. The cinnamon grown here produces fine cinnamon quills, ground cinnamon and leaf oil. Private tours of the plantation are available, followed by lunch.

HOT AIR BALLOONING

There’s magic in the air in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Floating effortlessly over the jungle to a breathtaking sunrise in a hot air balloon ride is an exhilarating and perfect way to see this picturesque countryside from a different perspective.

CHASING WATERFALLS

This full or half day waterfall chasing experience offers a trek through lush wilderness into the heart of the central provinces of Sri Lanka with an experienced local guide to discover Aberdeen Falls – a spectacular 98-metre horsetail waterfall.

SCENIC HELICOPTER RIDES

Enjoy the greenery-clad, scenic views of the central hills of Sri Lanka then take in the unique bird’s eye view of the awe-inspiring site of Sigiriya rock fortress, studded with beautiful green gardens, ponds, fountains, promenades and pavilions.

HIKING

While white sandy beaches may be the first images that leaps to mind when you imagine Sri Lanka, the island is blessed with a mountainous interior making it a very special hiking destination. There are trails for all sorts of experience, from easy walks to more intense treks.

KITESURFING

If you’re looking to push the limits come to Sri Lanka for the kitesurfing season and ride the waves of the Indian Ocean. Between May and October, the Kalpitiya coast offers some of the best kitesurfing in the whole of Asia. Travel to the school for day lessons, or stay longer.

SAILING

Sri Lanka’s position just above the equator guarantees sunshine to all corners of the country at various periods, making it a year-round sailing destination. Our sailing partners’ fleet of yachts provide an exclusive vantage point to stunning landscapes and pristine beaches.

BEACH HOPPING

Beaches in the sun-kissed stretch between Tangalle to Galle are some of the finest on the island. While some of these also have big waves and a strong current for the majority of the year, there are plenty of swimming-friendly bays in idyllic settings.

ELEPHANT ENCOUNTERS

Supported by the Born Free Foundation, this complex is a halfway house for orphaned elephants. Although you can’t get up close and personal with the elephants, seeing them at feeding time (from a viewing platform) is still heartwarming and a lot of fun, specially for the kids.

MASK PAINTING

This is an immersive art-based experience around the livelihood of a local artisan. His work is an act of cultural preservation as much as it is an art form, for it involves the ancient medium of ‘Kolam’ masks native to the coastal town of Ambalangoda.

TUK TUK ADVENTURES

This Tuk Tuk tour is a fun-filled, fully inclusive, 3-4 hour “off the beaten track“ adventure, that gives a taste of authentic Sri Lanka. The tour aims to showcase the historic bustling city of Colombo, capture the smiles of the locals all while cruising in a retro fitted tuk tuk.

SUP YOGA

SUP Yoga mixes classical yoga practice with stand up paddle boarding in a beautiful lagoon. Whether you are a regular on the mat or never done yoga before, the floating yoga studio will be an incredible experience.

Yoga

Tri is Sri Lanka’s first truly contemporary sustainable luxury hotel. The yoga shala is an elegant, elevated retreat space that captures spectacular 360° views to stimulate body, mind and soul for creative expression.