Londoners like to think themselves a worldly bunch, hot on the heels of every culinary trend going. So it’s little wonder that Kolamba, a new family-owned Sri Lankan restaurant located in Soho’s Kingly Street, is positively jam-packed. Founded by Sri Lankan natives Aushi and Eroshan Meewella, Kolamba (the Sinhalese name for Colombo) promises authentic, lovingly made dishes inspired by the homely recipes the pair enjoyed growing up.
Kolamba is deceptively cosy but with a spacious downstairs dining area. A design collaboration between Studio Fils and Whitebox London, the interiors are modern and stylish. There are lots of Instagram-friendly details such as speckled terrazzo table tops, teal tiled walls and potted plants aplenty, and these are balanced by charmingly authentic touches such as specially commissioned wall art by Sri Lankan batik artist Sonali Dharmawardena and fabric pendant lights resembling traditional paper lanterns.
Sri Lankan food is colourful, tactile and certainly packs a punch. The diminutive country is a melting pot, quite literally, of cultural influences including Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor and Malay. Kolamba’s childhood-inspired recipes certainly reflect this and give a snapshot of the country’s diverse culinary offerings. Also, if you are the type of dinner guest who loves nothing more than gleefully sampling all of your companions’ dishes (guilty!) then this is the kind of dining experience you’ll love. The food menu is separated into mini ‘bites’, meat and fish curries, a refreshingly extensive range of vegan and veggie plates, sambolas (side salads), rice, breads and condiments. Like curry or tapas, these dishes are designed to be shared and experimented with via flavoursome salads and chutneys and scoop-friendly flatbreads. Hot, batter-fried cuttlefish are a tantalising starter, with other highlights being the deliciously fragrant yellow monkfish curry and a punchy jackfruit curry with cinnamon and dried onion. Make sure to order a traditional ‘hopper’, a bowl-shaped savoury Sri Lankan pancake, which is just prime for mopping.
Competing with Soho’s many, many cocktail joints is no mean feat – so Kolamba has put a lot of thought into its drinks menu by teaming up with Mr Lyan, AKA contemporary cocktail whizz Ryan Chetiyawardana. Every cocktail complements the food and puts a modern spin on Sri Lankan flavours, such as the Kadju Sour, made with Colombo No7 gin, pineapple chutney and cashew orgeat. If that all sounds like a bit of a mouthful, there’s also a decent selection of wine, bubbles, beer and soft drinks.
Average spend for two people with drinks is around £85.
Fresh, bold and reasonably priced, Kolamba is authentic food made with passion – and a fun night out to boot. It’s a welcome addition to Soho’s dizzyingly diverse culinary scene, being the perfect place for a quick bite, a first date or a Friday night out with friends (ideally so you can try everything on the menu; at least that’s Brummell’s ploy for next time).