Flavourful street in the heart of the city

In this week’s Eat Street, Adilah Ismail finds an array of restaurants that cater to the working crowd that throngs Chatham Street in Colombo Fort

The Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct’s spatial equation has seen minor changes since its inception but for the most part, the main food stalwarts remain the same.This week on Eat Street we go past the Dutch Hospital Complex, to explore Chatham Street’s food offerings. There’s been a visible effort to ensure that Chatham Street maintains its old-world personality while maintaining its footing in a changing city. The 158-year-old Clock Tower at the end of Chatham Street, now presides over the multiple restaurants and eateries which have mushroomed quietly between the street’s other commercial

Old favourite: The Pagoda Tea Rooms TheTh RedR d Snapper:S Focus on seafood. Pix by Adilah Ismailestablishments.

Chatham Street’s food offerings span varying budgets and cater to the working crowds of Central Colombo. There’s a Pizza Hut which offers delivery if you’re in the mood for a quick pizza and the City Talk Pastry Shop which has the standard range of affordable short eats. Also just behind Chatham Street, towards the Dutch Hospital, is Kinnaree, a restaurant specializing in Thai cuisine.

Throw a stone in Colombo and you’re bound to hit a Pilawoos and Chatham Street’s Fort Pilawoos Hotel (no relation to the other Pillawoos dotted around Colombo) is a popular pit stop for locals and tourists alike.A smiling cashier informs us that the Fort Pilawoos Hotel has been around in the area for 12 years but has been housed in its current location for two years now. Serving nofrills, affordable fare, the popular items here are the eatery’s chicken biriyani and chicken and cheese kotthu. If you’d like something sweet, ask them for their chocolate roti.

There are two buildings on Chatham Street which deserve special mention for their visual elegance. The first is the beautifully restored Central Point Building which plays host to the Central Bank Currency Museum. The second is the De Mel Building in which the Pagoda Tea Rooms is housed. Established in 1884, the 131-year-old Pagoda Tea Rooms is one of Colombo’s oldest eateries. The Tea Room retains vestiges of its old-fashioned grandeur after its refurbishment, and quietly holds its own amidst the bustling street. The Tea Room’s history is augmented by its claim to fame as having been one of the locations where Duran Duran filmed its video for ‘Hungry like the wolf ’, complete with snake charmer and monkey in the Tea Room -seemingly essential ingredients for an exotic video. There are no snake charmers or monkeys but the Tea Room can offer you lamprais, rice and curry, a collection of sweets (the cream buns and the pineapple gateaux are nostalgic favourites among its customers) and savoury short eats instead. A heads-up – it gets hectic during lunch hours, the evenings are far quieter and preferable.

The Colombo Café is one of the newer e entrants to Chatham Street and serves wraps, burgers and sandwiches. Manager, Gihan Liyanage, stresses that the restaurant focuses on h healthy meals with no artificial ingredients a and that its Sri Lankan lunch buffet (priced at Rs. 300) is seen as a value option among its repeat customers. The café is a small, intimate area with an open kitchen (head on upstairs if the aroma of food is overpowering) and friendly staff and features paintings of Chatham Street. The café s upper seating area can be booked for parties and events for small groups of people.

The Dilmah t-Lounge on Chatham Street is a familiar fixture and has been instrumental in forging a path for tea in a sea of coffee shops. Dilmah informs the Sunday Times that plans are in the pipeline to refit the Chatham Street outlet and to open two more tea lounges in central Colombo. The t-Lounge’s interiors are swathed in warm colour tones and designed to mirror a living room. It is one of the few tea lounges in Colombo which synthesizes a thoughtfully planned menu with tasteful, personal ambience and good service – there’s even a ‘tea radio’ on air inspired by tea (which can be accessed online at

and a tea library on hand. Cheerful hand painted tea pots and place mats with quotes about tea adorn the tables. It’s raining buckets outside when we visit, and our place mat informs us that “tea is drunk to forget the din of the world”. We’re inclined to agree. In a corner of the lounge, is what looks like a teddy bears’ picnic with stuffed teddy bears solemnly occupying a sofa. A card propped on the bears’ table informs us that Harold and Henrietta are in fact ‘tea bears’, urging customers to take a selfie with them. The tea lounge offers multiple varieties of tea and sweet and savoury tea pairings; tea infused mocktails, shakes and ice cream and has also modernized old favourites such as the pol pani pancake.

We asked the tea experts for their advice on initiating a person into tea for the first time. “I would suggest our Sencha steamed green tea with lemongrass and peppermint if a mild and gentle tea would be your preference. Whilst for someone who enjoys strong hot beverages, I would suggest our Galle district OP1 or natural Ceylon ginger tea, explains Dilhan Fernando, Director at Dilmah (his personal preference during the day is Dilmah’s Prince of Kandy tea, taken hot with their almond butter cake). Much depends on the weather and if hot and humid outside, I may even suggest a blueberry and pomegranate iced tea which is made from freshly brewed Ceylon tea with pomegranate and blueberry combined with fresh apple and lime juice.

Nestled next to Dilmah, is the Red Snapper which was formerly a short-lived Mexican restaurant. In its new avatar, the restaurant focuses on sea food and its interiors earnestly strive to emphasise this claim. A fish shaped lamp greets guests while assorted sea creatures are illuminated on the walls and a lone oruwa, placed at the end of the restaurant contrasts sharply with the restaurant’s chandelier. The menu is seafood centric with the occasional deviation into other meats.

Shamrock, the pub adjoining the restaurant, professes to be an Irish themed pub and runs a number of promotions and themed nights. Apart from the range of drinks on offer, its menu offers pub fare such as nachos, bangers and mash, Irish lamb stew and also, kotthu.

For Gopiharan Perinpam who works around the area, Chatham Street has become an instinctive dining option, because of its proximity to his office and variety of food choices. He explains that Pagoda Tea Rooms is the go-to place for office cakes whenever the occasion rises and that Pilawoos does the trick for a quick parata and beef for breakfast. He adds that Dilmah t-Lounge is the most frequented because of its cakes and savoury waffles and & Co Pub and Kitchen is fast becoming his new favourite in the area. (“Love their ambiance and extensive menu ranging from lamprais to burgers”)

Strictly speaking, & Co Pub and Kitchen isn’t on Chatham Street but we’re throwing it into the fray because it’s one of the latest food spots to open in Colombo and is worth a mention. A part of the Business Boutique hotel, The Steuart by Citrus, the Scottish themed pub remains open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a Sunday roast on the weekends. With a live band on Friday and a DJ every Saturday, casual atmosphere and generous food portions, Manager Ranjith Liyanage asserts that the pub has gained popularity through word of mouth largely because of its flavourful food. Crowd favourites on the menu, Ranjith says, are the pub’s chicken and leek pie, fish and chips, the loaded burger and the barbequed ribs.

Source : http://epaper.dailymirror.lk/epaper/viewer.aspx


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