Cafe Francais by Pourcel.

Cafe Francais is the best French restaurant in Sri Lanka. It’s also the only French restaurant, but don’t let that distract you. It is really, really good. This is an international quality fine dining restaurant and the obscene quality of the food is worth every Rupee.

The Food

Let’s get straight to it. What you see here is sea bass with chickpeas, parsley and crunchy bacon (Rs. 1,700). What you’re getting is perfectly cooked fish, perfectly matched textures and sauces, and overall joy and wonder in your mouth. This is creative fine dining of the sort that Colombo really hasn’t seen. Every single element from the foam to the sweet tomatoes to the bacon goes together and belongs on the plate.

I have only had a few experiences of what I’d called fine dining, but in those I still remember almost every dish. That is sorta the difference, regular dining fills your belly but fine dining fills your mind. What we tried at Cafe Francais is fine dining in that purest sense.

This is a burger. But it almost seems crude to call it that. This burger (Rs. 1,870) has deeply succulent and tender beef, full of cheese and onion flavor. It is a sizable hunk of meat and it is delicious. The fries are light and airy and it was all cut by the acidity of a simply green salad. Truly an excellent burger.

This is a floating island with caramel (Rs. 600). We honestly didn’t know what this was for half the time we were eating it. The best guess we had was that we were eating a cloud. We asked a waiter and it seems to be very airy egg whites floating in creamy caramel, topped with almonds. It is delicious and intriguing and strange.

This is the vanilla and chocolate giant profiterole (Rs. 650). It too comes generously covered with almonds. This is a delicious cream filled pastry, drizzled with chocolate and oozing sugary goodness. It’s nice.

Drinks

We don’t normally do another section for this, but they have an impressive drinks list. We tried a glass of red wine (Rs. 750) and 25ml of Armagnac, a sort of cognac that’s been in the news lately (Rs. 790). Their wine cellar, we’re told, only stocks French wine and champagnes. They also have a nice liquor selection (whiskey, bourbon, vodka, cognac, rum, etc) and cocktails.

The Price

This place is expensive, no lie. Lunch for two came to Rs. 8,000. Without drinks, however, we would have paid around Rs. 6,400, and that includes dessert. For international diners getting this quality for $25 a head would be a steal, but for average incomes here it is expensive. That said, we know places that are just as expensive and very few places that are nearly as good. 

For what you’re getting we think it’s an excellent value. The desserts especially are downright cheap for all the magic they contain. 

The Location

Park Street Mews is the only non-governmental shopping/dining district in Colombo and it’s finally coming into its own. Park Street Restaurant across the street is really good, Curve is a happening bar, Originals is a cool shop, and there are events and the like down the cobblestone strip.

Cafe Francais has been ‘coming soon’ for what feels like a year and we honestly didn’t expect it to be like this. We thought it would be just a little cafe but it’s not, it’s actually huge. The space is segmented enough that it’s relatively private, but it can seat about 75 we’d guess. They also have a private dining room with a chef’s table, so you can see food being prepared and make and experience of it. The main kitchen is open in the sense that you can see into it, but you don’t need to hear or smell anything.

There’s a high attention to detail here, everything from the furniture to the cutlery to the decorations are thoughtful, elegant and high quality.

The Service

This place is super-new so you’re guaranteed good service now, the PR manager (Katerine we think) spoke to us personally and gave us a tour. 

Beyond that, they seem well staffed and the staff seems well trained. We think they’ll scale well. The waiters have cool suspenders and they either A) answer questions competently or B) say when they don’t know something and find out. They’re attentive, efficient and nice.

We’ll also discuss the ownership here, since we don’t know where else to put it. This is Cafe Francais by Pourcel. The Pourcel brothers (Jacques and Laurent) run a Michelin starred restaurant in France. If you’re unfamiliar, a Michelin star is culinary gold. I’ve had the pleasure of trying a few Michelin-starred places in New York and they are another level of cuisine. Cafe Francais isn’t Michelin-starred (yet) but it’s designed at that level.

Conclusion

This is our favorite French restaurant in Sri Lanka. Also the only one, but nevermind. The quality and attention to detail here is amazing and you’ll have an adventure for your mind as much as your body. This is truly fine dining and we’re overjoyed to have a place like this in Colombo. 

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