Colombo, Sri Lanka has a surprising number of fabulous restaurants.
The first thing you need to know about Sri Lanka is how fabulous the food is – all of it. There is fine dining, casual eating, street food and even colonial eating. Last check there were 637 restaurants just in Colombo and the majority are family friendly.
Being an island, there is amazing local seafood including tuna caught locally, but the local cuisine, which consist of curries, chutneys, grilled meats and breads is absolutely sensational – even at breakfast.
It is said the best way to eat the local cuisine it is with your non-writing hand, but I am yet to master that technique!
If that sounds a bit daunting, here are some other options you will definitely enjoy:
Ministry of Crab
Crab is practically the national dish of Sri Lanka, and this hot spot has become so popular, you have to book ahead to get in. It is one of the top 50 restaurants in Asia.
Every type of crab is on the menu cooked in every type of way. There’s chilli, black pepper, garlic pepper, steamed ginger, and you order it by weight.
The old colonial building in Colombo – a former Dutch hospital gives the whole experience a sense of occasion. A couple of years ago they did a pop-up restaurant at the cricket in Australia. A must – do experience in Colombo.
Ministry of Crab, Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Finding this restaurant isn’t easy, as it is tucked in a non-descript alley way behind a car park. But it’s worth the challenge as it was named 38th best restaurant by San Pellegrino, and is a regular in the Top 50 restaurants of Asia lists.
Nihonbashi literally means bridge, and is run by Sri Lankan Dharshan Munidasa who knows Japanese food, and wants his diners to have an experience, not simply a meal.
The setting is indoor/outdoor with a very casual section in the front Japanese Yakitori Garden where you can order snacks, and the more elegant, traditional seating inside, with an understated Japanese feel of bubbling fountains and minimalist Japanese decor.
But you go here for the food, and the attention to detail of every dish. There’s perfectly sliced sushimi and sushi, as well as charcoal dishes, hot pot, and tasty, creative surprises. There is a set menu – a great way to sample a bit of everything.
Leave lots of time to savour this experience.
Nihonbahsi, Galle Face Terrace, Sri Lanka
Shang Palace at The Shangri-La
It’s difficult to decide if the striking interiors of this vast, beautiful Chinese restaurant are the highlight or the food. Both are a 10.
The hotel opened in November 2017, and it is currently the place to be seen in Colombo.
Shang Palace is already receiving media attention due largely to the incredible interiors. Every pillar, post, chair and artefact was imported from China, and the concept is very well executed, so it has an authentic but still very creative and modern feel. There are views over the port from some sections of the restaurant.
There are even different sections of the restaurant decored in completely different styles and colours, so even though it is large, it does not feel overwhelming.
The menu is brilliant and also vast with freshly made dim sum offerings, Peking duck, and traditional Chinese dishes including sweet corn soup, pork belly, lemon chicken, snapper fillet, and whole crab. Every meal is served with complimentary Chinese Tea.
There is an open kitchen where you can see the dim-sum trays steaming fresh dumplings.
I could have eaten here a dozen times, it was a flawless experience, and even the service was amazing.
Shang Palace. Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo.
This gorgeous restaurant is bursting with colonial elegance and charm, and is as romantic as it is gourmet and just as good by day or by night for the views and proximity to the Indian ocean.
It sits right the edge of the ocean at The Galle Face Hotel, Colombo, a classically Colonial five star hotel, and one of Colombo’s oldest, and reminiscent of Singapore’s Raffles.
Don’t be put off by the laminated menu which shows the various different ways seafood can be cooked (steamed, fried, baked,etc) and which types of seafood are suited to each method.
It’s actually an excellent way to traverse language culture and cooking styles, and ensure everyone gets what they actually want.
The fresh seafood is all on display, and there’s everything from local tuna sushimi to lobster, jumbo prawns, squid and the day’s local catches.
The setting is very relaxed, but the feel is still refined, and there is an old style classic bar within the hotel where you can start or finish the night, and there is a local market on the beach front most nights of the week, a great place for a stroll after dinner.
I love it.
Seaspray Galleface Hotel, Colombo
This Asian restaurant right in the heart of Columbo is fresh and vibrant with a huge menu and relaxed feel. The interiors are gorgeously fresh and modern.
Located in a former warehouse, the menu features upmarket hawker food with dishes from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore. There is everything from chicken rice to satees, pork spare ribs, salads and coconut rice.
A really easy, relaxed dinner or lunch right in the heart of Colombo.
Monsoon; 50/2 Park Street
The Bay Leaf Restaurant
I was surprised to see the standard of Italian food at this gorgeous restaurant in the heart of Columbo.
Set in a grand former home the menu is huge, and includes antipasto, salads, pasta and pizza, as well as a huge range of fish and meat dishes.
Attention to detail is in every dish, and pasta is made fresh on site, as are the pizza bases, and gluten free is also available.
Another extensive dessert menu with everything from pannacotta to tiramisu.
Paradise Road, The Gallery Cafe
This open air cafe and restaurant is an architectural delight and one of the hot spots in Colombo. The setting is the highlight, as it was the office for the renowned Sri Lankan architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa. The decore is minimalist but modern and upmarket, featuring a striking long, black tiled pond and wooden terrace.
The menu features stunningly presented Sri Lankan, international and fusion dishes, and the dessert menu has over 30 selections of chocolate desserts.
The gallery features rotating exhibitions of local or visiting artists. There are now six venues around Sri Lanka under the Paradise Road banner, check the website if you are going exploring.
Paradise Road, The Gallery Cafe; 2 Alfred House Road, Sri Lanka.
This fashionable mixed -use business includes a boutique, cafe and restaurant, with large serves and reasonable prices. Located in a striking cement building, the setting is a blend of old and new, and very chilled.
Service is outstanding, and the dishes are huge. Kids love it here.
The menu features local and fusion dishes excellent. Highlights include beef tenderloin, mushroom risotto, king prawns and an extensive dessert menu.
Cafe Shaze has excellent coffee and creative cool drinks including a colour range of Mojitos. Excellent value for money.
Whight & Co
I love the location of this trendy coffee house in an old art deco mansion facing the ocean. It feels very local, but the relaxed food is international standard.
Upstairs you can spend some time looking right at the ocean.
There’s great coffee, which is locally grown, and house-made pastries if you want some time out.
But there are also Asian and fusion dishes on a menu. What I liked is that this is a great place to have a clean meal such as crispy salads, grilled meats and seafood.
There are excellent wines by the glass on offer too, so for a lazy lunch, it’s perfect.
Whight & Co: Marine Drive, 24 Aloe Avenue