Sri Lankan restaurant, Kolamba, in Soho’s Kingly Street recently launched a new brunch menu and our restaurant contributor Adrienne Fung was there last week to try it. The menu features Sri Lankan takes on British classics alongside traditional staples that owners Aushi and Eroshan Meewella used to enjoy on their native island.
When it comes to Sri Lankan cuisine, I’m no expert but what I do know is that I’m a bona fide fan. I will admit that most of my exposure to this cuisine has been through a few visits to Hoppers, an establishment that arguably put Sri Lankan food on the map in London. After an excellent brunch visit to Kolamba this weekend, it’s safe to say that Hoppers won’t be the only name known in town for gorgeous Sri Lankan fare.
Kolamba, the local saying for the city of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, is where husband and wife team Eroshan and Aushi Meewella grew up. The pair wanted to bring the food and memories from their childhood to the heart of London. Situated on Kingly Street right behind Kingly Court, the location doesn’t get more central than that.
The good news is that the café boasts a handful of outdoor tables with heat lamps, a huge benefit given the latest restriction guidelines. Kolamba’s interior feels modern with a carefree island twist. The intoxicating smells wafting from the open kitchen transports you as close as you can get to a holiday in 2020.
Sri Lankan cuisine fuses Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, Dutch and Malay influences to produce incredibly vibrant dishes filled with aromatic spice and striking colours. Kolamba’s approach of “home cooking” lifts trusted recipes from friends and family back home which in my opinion is the most memorable and intimate way to explore a cuisine. I was excited to see what Sri Lankan brunch entailed.
My one complaint when it comes to brunch is that it’s often limiting. What I mean by that is everyone usually orders their own dish and generally, the dishes are rarely shared across the table. Low and behold, the brunch menu at Kolamba eliminates that point of contention. In fact, it encourages sharing.
Our lavish brunch spread featured the egg hopper with Kithul-glazed bacon, Sri Lankan omelette with sourdough toast, Parippu curry, Kiribath with lunu miris and an array of sides.
The Kithul-glazed bacon was the most decadent piece of pork you can imagine. I’m not sure if it’s even fair to call it bacon, because it is worlds apart from the bacon you and I know! The thick slab of smoked pork belly gets covered in a sinful sweet glaze that sticks to your teeth in the best way possible. Rip a piece of hopper, wrap it around a sliver of the bacon and dip into the egg yolk centre. Though I’m not sure if that’s the right way to eat this dish, I would definitely recommend it.
The omelette was perfectly cooked and definitely worth an order for the brunch purists out there. The small pots of sides (a selection of chicken, monkfish, jackfruit and dhal curries) were an excellent recommendation.
We also tried the Kiribath with lunu miris: a classic Sri Lankan dish made of rice and coconut milk topped with a spicy sambal paste. I’ve never had rice quite like this before and the tangy, salty sambol packed some serious heat. Any chance of getting it bottled to take home? I’m convinced this Luna Miris sambol would make any dish better.
The curries were all delicious, but I especially enjoyed the yellow monkfish curry tinted a beautiful golden hue from the turmeric. The delicately mild curry allowed the flavour of the monkfish to shine through. Out of all the sides, the Parippu curry (or dahl curry) was the winner in my book. This stewed lentil dish was bursting with spices and aromatics: coconut milk, mustard seeds, saffron, turmeric, cumin and fenugreek. We were impressed with how flavourful this seemingly simple dish was.
As the finale to our decadent brunch, we were told that an order of Sri Lankan Watalappan was a must. A traditional coconut custard pudding made of coconut milk, at Kolamba it is served with candied coconut and cashew nuts, adding a nice textural component to the dish. Hints of cinnamon and cardamom helped round out the sweetness in the dish.
My friend and I really enjoyed the brunch at Kolamba. Every dish boasted an array of spices and flavours that did not disappoint. The home cooking approach is what makes Kolamba feel warm and inviting, along with their friendly service. I’m looking forward to visiting again for dinner to try more fantastic dishes and further my exploration into Sri Lankan cuisine.
Words and photos by Adrienne Fung @fungry.nomad
Disclaimer: Adrienne was a guest of the restaurant. All opinions are her own.