I'm no stranger in Colombo; this is my third visit here in as many years. You only have to walk past Galle Face Road to sense a new energy that's sweeping Sri Lanka's capital. There's no better vantage point on this iconic promenade that hugs the Indian Ocean than the Horizon Club lounge at the city's newest luxury hotel - the Shangri-La. I'm here to catch up with Murad Ismail, one of Sri Lanka's premier architects who keeps the Geoffrey Bawa vision for design alive. Murad points out to a landmark that he's particularly proud of - the Dutch Hospital. Back in the 17th Century, this tiled structure with a large courtyard was a lifeline for occupying Dutch forces. It's now one of Colombo's thriving social spaces - a dining and retail hub for tourists and locals, alike. It's one of many spaces where you can experience some of the best restaurants in Colombo. Whether you're planning to visit Colombo on work for a weekend break, you will be spoilt for choice in terms of dining options:
The brainchild of Jacqueline Fernandez and Dharshan Munidasa, one of Sri Lanka's best-known celebrity chefs, Kaemasutra is a whole new take on Sri Lankan cuisine and one of the most exciting new restaurants in Colombo. The restaurant is one of the many culinary options within the Shangri-La and offers sweeping ocean views. The culinary team reimagines quite a few emblematic Sri Lankan dishes. The black hopper is my favourite dish here. It's an audacious take on one of Sri Lanka's - the hopper (or the appam). A squid ink infusion transforms this into black and it's served with a dollop of buffalo curd from the country's south and a drizzle of olive oil topped with sea salt.
Where: Shangri-La, Galle Face road
Dutch Burgher Union
A large section of this colonial-era club is open to the public. It's also one of the only restaurants in Colombo where you can sample burgher cuisine. The small but influential Dutch burgher (translates to citizen in Dutch) community - with mixed Sri Lankan and Dutch descent, keep their culinary traditions alive. The lamprais that takes its name from the Dutch word lomprijst (packet of food), features meat, curry and rice wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in an oven. The other must try dish here is the watalappam, probably the best you can find in any restaurant in Colombo.
Perfect if you're on a quick transit stop in Colombo after a weekend at one Sri Lanka's beach destinations and have time for just one authentic Sri Lankan meal. Envisioned as a village in the heart of the city, this restaurant is located within the Hilton in the historic Fort district. From string hoppers to pittu and kottu roti, Sri Lanka's traditional staples are always under the spotlight here. But, it's their all you-can-eat seafood buffet that is a big draw with regulars and tourists, alike.
Where: Hilton Colombo, Mawatha, Fort
Ministry of Crab:
One of the most sensational new restaurants in Colombo, Ministry of Crab or simply MOC is a venture of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayewardene, two of the country's most accomplished cricketers. It's housed in the historic Dutch hospital building; the interiors retain the charm of a bygone era - there's no air-conditioning here. Sri Lanka's crabs are prized in many countries in South East Asia, you will find quite a few tourists waiting in line to sample their king-sized crabs. I'd recommend the garlic chilli crab that finds the balance between fragrant Italian olive oil, Sri Lankan chilli flakes and Japanese soy.
Where: Dutch Hospital, Fort
Park Street Mews
It's easy to imagine that you're in a European capital as you walk through this hip new F&B strip that is home to some of the trendiest restaurants in Colombo. Hidden in a cul-de-sac with cobbled floors and fairy lights, this was once a warehouse district. It's immensely popular with Colombo's expats and working professionals especially on a Friday evening. It brings a wide range of international dining experiences into a charming zone. Kuraku, an authentic Japanese eatery and the casual Italian diner - Park Street Trattoria, are some of my favourite stops here.
So the next time you're in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, you know where all to head for a sumptuous and heart meal!
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.