What's the deal?
A small Sri Lankan restaurant on Kingly Street, it's the first bricks-and-mortar venture from Eroshan and Aushi Meewella. They've been open for nearly three years now, or depending on how you count pandemic time, barely one year, and on the semi-Arctic April evening we visit the restaurant's buzzing like either a hot new opening or a beloved local favourite. The heat they're serving might have something to do with that; alluring in whatever weather, but in the throes of a mid-spring ice-snap the menu's huge sweep of chilli and turmeric and spice reads like a siren song.
What's the vibe?
A nostalgic love letter to Colombo. Both owners were born there, and the menu's intended to be an homage to the city's mesh of influences — Tamil, Moorish, Dutch, Malay, and Sinhalese. Same goes for the interiors, a lot of raw textures — exposed brickwork, hardwood, polished cement, woven shades on the ceiling lamps. Warm lighting, trailing greenery. A looker, basically, in an unfussy, unstuffy way. Tables are packed together, so you have to be okay with getting cosy with your neighbours, but the buzz is loud enough that they aren't going to be overhearing everything you say.
What's on the menu?
Heat. Tamil Nadu grandparents mean we're usually cavalier about spice level warnings on a central London restaurant menu. Not the case at Kolamba, where every dish my brother and I order sits between a steady, lovely warmth and a ferocious heat that we can handle, but barely just. A lot of them edging up close to the pain-pleasure line for me, in a good way. Not that the menu's one-note: it bounces from fresh, fierce sambols, to the slow, mellow heat of curry dishes like the chilli-laden mutton poriyal (goat shoulder, dry-fried in a thick onion, green chilli, lime and coconut paste). Hero dish imo, a straight tie between the monkfish yellow curry, and their chatti roast — shredded beef, fried in tomato and (a lot of) green chilli, with string hoppers, and thick turmeric and coconut sauce. But for chilli refuseniks, there're still a lot of gentler options, and non-judgemental staff to give you a steer towards them.
Not eye-wateringly steep, though you could stack up a noticeable spend if you're there for a full-blown dinner — meat and fish dishes are about £12 to £14, vegetable dishes £6 to £8, snacks £6 - £8, and they recommend two to three from each category for two to share. When you've thrown in some hoppers, breads, and sambols, plus desserts and drinks, and service we reckon you're looking at north of £60 a head — but it's also the sort of place where you could easily drop in for a quick curry and a beer for a lighter hit to your wallet.
Reservations, takeaway, delivery?
Yes to all.
Pre-game and post-game?
Pre-dinner a cocktail at Swift, or a beer at the French House. After has to be Ain't Nothin' But The Blues Bar, a venue worth travelling across London — and potentially the country? — for, but all the better when you only have to slide next door. Open till 1am on weekdays, 2am on the weekend. And easy distance from Bar Italia, open till 3am — or often later — for a late night coffee or amaro after.
Londonist were hosted by Kolamba.