Restaurants - Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide) (2015)

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide) (2015)


All Sri Lankan hotels, even the smallest guesthouse, have a restaurant of some kind to cater for guests staying on a half-board package. Many also cater for non-residents, which is why, except in Colombo, there are relatively few good independent restaurants. Indeed, many of the country’s best restaurants are located in top-end hotels, some of which offer excellent cooking in luxurious surroundings. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll sometimes find excellent home cooking at relatively modest rest houses. Colombo’s five-star hotels have 24-hour coffee shops where meals are self-service from a buffet, as well as speciality (like Chinese or Thai) and ‘fine dining’ (Western-style) restaurants. The city also has restaurants serving Sri Lankan, Italian, Indian, Korean, Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisines. The most convenient places for lunch while touring are country rest houses, where rice and curry is fresh and quickly served. Evening meals at other eateries out of Colombo will mostly be fried or grilled items from an à la carte menu. Price guides are per person for two courses; local taxes of up to 17 percent and 10 percent service are extra.

Price guide for a two-course meal for one:

$$$$ = over Rs3000

$$$ = Rs1500-3000

$$ = Rs750-1500

$ = below Rs750


Egg hoppers and characteristic spices

Mount Lavinia Hotel


Bay Leaf

79 Gregory’s Road, Colombo 7; tel: 011-269 5920; daily 11am-11pm; $$$

Upmarket Italian restaurant in a sedate old colonial villa in the diplomats’ district of Colombo. The menu features a good selection of home-made pastas, pizzas - and there’s a nice little bar with excellent cocktails.


Dinner on the terrace

Mount Lavinia Hotel

Chesa Swiss

3 Deal Place A, Colombo 3: tel: 011-257 3433; Mon-Sat noon-2.30 & 7-10.30pm, Sat 7-10.30pm; $$$$

One of the smartest restaurants in Colombo, set in a charming colonial villa and offering a sumptuously prepared range of Swiss food, Australian steaks, seafood and vegetarian dishes.


Cinnamon Grand hotel, Galle Road, Colombo 3; tel: 011 249 7372; daily 7pm to midnight; $$$

Chic South Indian restaurant with a very original twist, serving up little-known regional dishes and street food from India’s four southernmost states - Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. There’s a particularly good vegetarian selection, plus meat and seafood mains, all bursting with chilli, tamarind and coconut flavours, served up on traditional metal plates and accompanied by authentically fiery chutneys. Excellent value. Open evenings only.

Cricket Club Café

34 Queens Road (off Duplication Road); tel: 011-250 1384; daily 11am-11pm; $$$

Eternally popular cricket-themed bar-café-restaurant in an old colonial villa. Watch videos of famous matches and ogle the memorabilia plastered all over the walls whilst tucking into one of the café’s well-prepared international standards - burgers, sandwiches, pasta dishes and the like.

Gallery Cafe

2 Alfred House Road, off Alfred House Gardens; tel: 011-258 2162, ; daily 10am-11.30pm; $$$$

Colombo’s smartest café, and definitely one of the places to be seen, with a good range of international cuisine and what are claimed to be the capital’s best desserts - although service can be distinctly hit or miss. Or just come for a drink and the chance to watch Colombo’s smart set at play


Mount Lavinia’s Seafood Cove

Mount Lavinia Hotel

Green Cabin

453 Galle Road, Colombo 3; tel: 011-228 8811; daily 11am-3pm, 6-11pm; $

Excellent little Sri Lankan café, long established and patronised mainly by locals, but an ideal place to test-drive the local cuisine at low prices including lamprais, and hoppers and curry.

London Grill

Cinnamon Grand, 77 Galle Road, Colombo 3; tel: 011-249 7379;; daily 7-11pm; $$$$

In the basement of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, this restaurant is the genuine thing: an unreconstructed 1970s steakhouse, with original plush decor and banquette seating. The menu runs the full gamut of steaks, grills, game and seafood, and the sensational preparations are matched by courteous and efficient service.

Long Feng

Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, 115 Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha, Colombo 2; tel: 011 249 1949; daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm; $$$

One of the city’s top Chinese restaurants, this classy establishment specialises in authentic Sichuan cooking, with a few more mainstream Cantonese dishes too.


In Royal Thai

Cinnamon Hotels


Taj Samudra hotel, 25 Galle Face Centre Road, Colombo 3; tel: 011 244 6622; daily 12.30-3pm, 7-11pm; $$$$

Arguably Sri Lanka’s best Indian restaurant, specialising in unusual regional specialities from around the subcontinent.

Palmyrah Restaurant

Renuka Hotel, 328 Galle Road; tel: 011-257 3598; daily noon-2.30pm, 7-10.30pm; $$

Cosy but unpretentious basement restaurant serving up one of the city’s best selections of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine including authentic curries, hoppers, pitta and kottu rotty. Also offers a rare chance to sample northern Sri Lankan-style dishes from the city of Jaffna, full of rich, feisty spices.

Royal Thai

Cinnamon Lakeside, 115 Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha, Colombo 2; tel: 011-249 1945; ; daily noon-3pm, 7-11pm; $$$

This lavish Thai restaurant overlooks the hotel’s garden, pool and lake, with exquisite decor matched by staff in traditional Thai costumes. The menu has an excellent selection of fiery dishes, including standards like green and red curries, pad thai and more unusual regional specialities. Reservations usually essential, even for lunch.


Dutch Hospital, Bank of Ceylon Mawatha opposite the World Trade Centre; tel: 011-244 1590, ; daily noon-2.30pm, 7-11pm; $$-$$$$

This beautiful restaurant in the atmospheric old Dutch Hospital is the brainchild of Sri Lankan Airlines, offering its own brand of ‘fusion from the skies’ featuring a well-prepared selection of upmarket international mains, often with a Sri Lankan or Oriental twist. The express lunch is a particularly good deal.


Cinnamon Grand Hotel, 77 Galle Rd, Colombo 3; tel: 011 249 7369; daily 7-11pm; $$$$

Set in the gardens of the Cinnamon Grand, whose trees twinkle with fairy lights after dark, Tao dishes up fine fusion cuisine blending Sri Lankan traditions with Asian and European influences. Mains range from seafood and meat standards to more innovative creations, like the combination plate of red curry chicken, grilled lamb chops and spiced tiger prawns.


A tasty biryani



Fresh chillis for heat



A fine rice and curry spread

Marcus Wilson Smith/Apa Publications


King Coconut

11 Porutota Road; tel: 031-227 8043; daily 11am-11pm; $$

Lively beachside restaurant known for its relaxed atmosphere and big selection of fresh seafood, plus tasty rice and curry thalis at affordable prices. Free WiFi available.


83 Ethukala Road; tel: 031 222 6999; daily 10am-10pm; $$$

Smart restaurant in an attractive open-sided pavilion just off the main tourist drag (but carefully screened from it). The menu focuses on a small but excellently prepared range of mainly European-style meat and fish dishes (and pasta) along with a few Sri Lankan- and Chinese-style mains.


Club Villa

138/15 Galle Road, southern end of Bentota; tel: 034-227 5312; $$$

Even if you’re not staying here, it’s worth visiting this excellent little hotel for a chance to soak up the atmosphere and savour the well-prepared and very modestly priced international cuisine in the beautiful garden restaurant.

Golden Grill

National Tourist Resort, Bentota; tel: 034-227 5455; daily 10am-10pm: $$

A local institution, the Golden Grill has been open for 30 years with a dependable menu which has hardly changed that whole time. The mixed grill with beef, chicken, pork, sausage, bacon, egg, three different vegetables, French fries and salad is the island’s best and curries (from mild to hot) are always available. Other specialities are fresh fish including shark, and flaming dishes, whether steak or the pineapple surprise dessert.


Dedduwa Lake; tel: 091 428 7056; ; daily 9am-5pm; $$$$

The bumpy 5km (3-mile) ride off the main road in Bentota to reach Lunuganga is well worth the effort to experience the island’s most magical garden retreat, the spiritual home and country estate of renowned architect, Geoffrey Bawa. Cuisine focuses on the sort of Sri Lankan home cooking that Bawa himself enjoyed, using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Reservations are obligatory.


Opposite The Surf hotel; tel: 0778 514 894; $$$$

Hidden upstairs above a line of shops by the railway tracks, this unexpectedly upmarket little restaurant specializes in sophisticated Sri Lankan and Asian-style seafood and other creations (including good rice and curry) with a hint of fusion inventiveness - think panfried mahi-mahi with rösti and saffron sauce, for example.


Asian Jewel

Baddegama Road; tel: 091 493 1388; ; daily until 9pm; $$$

Eclectic but excellently prepared range of Western or Asian cuisine, travelling the spectrum from full English breakfasts to Thai chicken curry and Indian specialities, as well as the standard rice and curry - or preorder the house speciality, shepherd’s pie. Book in advance.

Spaghetti & Co

644 Galle Road; tel: 091 227 7042; Thiranagama; daily 6-10.30pm; $$

Soothing Italian-owned garden restaurant offering up some of Sri Lanka’s best pizza and pasta at very reasonable prices.


Welcombe Hotel

66 Lower Rd, Orr’s Hill; tel: 026 222 2373; daily 6am-10pm; $$

The smartest restaurant in Trinco (although still relatively inexpensive), serving up a mix of the usual Sri Lankan standards plus a few European mains. Sit either on the beautiful outdoor terrace high above the Inner Harbour or the dining room inside.


The Pub

36 Dalada Veediya; tel: 081-232 4868; daily 11am-1am (bar closed 2-5pm); $$$

Drawing in a largely tourist crowd, The Pub makes a nice change from rice and curry, with a decent spread of European classics - anything from spaghetti carbonara to pork chops. The balcony is a good place to have a beer and watch the hustle and bustle of Dalada Vidiya below.

Sharon Inn

59 Saranankara Rd; tel: 081 222 2416; daily 7.30-10pm; $$$

The nightly rice and curry buffet (daily at 7.30pm) at the Sharon Inn guesthouse is one of the best in the island, featuring a fine spread of fifteen or so dishes with the emphasis on unusual local vegetables which you’ll not have tasted before. Non-guests should reserve in advance by 4pm at the latest.

The White House

21 Dalada Vidiya; tel: 081 223 2765; daily noon-10pm; $$$

Long-established restaurant, recently given a thorough upgrade and makeover. Downstairs there’s now a chic modern bakery with assorted cakes and short eats, plus rice and curry lunchtime buffets. Upstairs, a rather sedate dining room features a mix of Sri Lankan, Indian and Chinese mains along with pasta, seafood and steaks. Unlicensed.


Ehala Restaurant

Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana; tel: 066-227 0011; ; daily 6.30-10am, 12.30-2.30pm, 7.30-10pm; $$$

Overlooking the swimming pool of the Cinnamon Lodge hotel, this attractive open-air restaurant serves lavish international buffets. Alternatively, the hotel’s The Lotus restaurant offers a more upmarket dining experience, specialising in ‘organic fine dining’ with produce delivered daily from the hotel’s own local farm.


Bandarawela Hotel

14 Welimada Road, Bandarawela; tel: 057-222 2501; ; daily 12.30am-2.30pm, 7.30-10pm; $$

Stately old colonial-style dining room offering local and international cuisine, along with lighter snacks and sandwiches. Alternatively, just take morning or afternoon tea on the spacious front lawn.

The Hill Club

29 Grand Hotel Drive, Nuwara Eliya; tel: 052 222 2653; daily 6-11pm; $$$$

The famous dinners here offer a real taste of the colonial life of yesteryear. The food itself is average, but the time-warped atmosphere, with dinner served promptly at 8pm by white-gloved waiters in the chintzy dining room, is strangely romantic, if decidedly formal - men are only admitted if clad in the obligatory jacket and tie (available free on loan at the club if you don’t have your own).

Railway Carriage Restaurant TCK 6685

Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, Kandapola, Nuwara Eliya; tel: 052-555 5000; ; daily 7.30-10.30pm; $$$

Quirky but classy fine-dining restaurant, located in a restored narrow-gauge railway carriage. Food features top-quality global ingredients - Norwegian salmon, Australian lamb from Australia and so on, backed up with vegetables from the hotel’s own organic allotment and an international wine list - all showcased in the restaurant’s signature six-course (or ‘six station’) menu. With only 16 seats, booking is essential.



Devala Road, Unawatuna, Galle; tel: 94 912 250 312; ; daily 7.30am-midnight; $$

The best of the many informal café-restaurants lined up along Unawatuna Beach, with beautiful views of the waves from its neat little terrace. Recently refurbished, the restaurant serves wraps, pasta, salads, Thai curries and seafood straight from the Indian Ocean, including lobster. A hypnotic chill-out soundtrack and wide range of drinks rounds things off.

Thaproban Beach House

Yaddhehimulla Road; tel: 091 438 1722; daily 7.30am-10.30pm; $$.

Unawatuna’s smartest and liveliest restaurant offers consistently good cooking including fresh seafood, above-average pizzas, rice and curry and a smattering of international dishes. Service comes with a big smile and prices are very reasonable.



10 Church Street; tel: 091-239 3388, ; daily 7.30am-11pm; $$$$

The gracious old colonial-style dining room at the superb Amangalla hotel is one of the most memorable places to eat in the south. Delicious light meals and soups are rustled up for lunch, while dinner features a mix of top-notch Sri Lankan and international cuisine. Alternatively (and less expensively), come for a superior high tea on the hotel’s open verandah.

Apa Villa Illuketia

Thalpe, near Galle; tel: 091 228 3320; ; $$$

One of the few private villas (owned by the founder of Insight Guides) to open its doors to non-resident dinner guests. The three-course rice and curry dinner prepared with organically grown vegetables and red rice from their own grounds has a reputation that extends beyond Galle, and the lemon grass soup is to die for. Reservations are a must.

Mama’s Galle Fort Rooftop Café

76 Leyn Baan Street; tel: 091-222 6415; ; $$

This quaint, down-to-earth rooftop eatery, part of a popular guest house in the heart of Galle Fort, is a breezy stop for rice and curry lunches, ideal on humid days. Service is slow when they get busy.

Wijaya Beach Restaurant

Dalawela, Galle; tel: 091 228 3610; daily 8.30am-11pm; $$$

This cool beachfront restaurant is a particular favourite with the Galle expat set and usually gets packed out from lunchtime onwards. Food includes excellent wood-fired pizzas, plus daily specials, wraps and home made puddings and there’s a good drinks list including cocktails, wine and Sol beer.