[Viewer discretion is advised as some of the photos might be rather grotesque and undoubtedly horrendous to look at, as we had to take them from a phone and not a camera. We apologise in advance.]
Our first stop was the soup station. Here, they serve pre-made, warm bowls of soup, with the opportunity to add veggies, noodles and other elements according to your preference. I got my Chicken Soup with some veggies and black vermicelli. It's a very light soup with bits of chicken floating about. Perfect for when you want to prepare yourself to receive a big meal.
My husband opted for the Curry Laksa, and it's easily the best of that kind. Boasting a gorgeous orange hue, it was hearty, seafood-y, spicy and comforting. The broth was so darn silky, with subtle notes of coconut milk running through. The Japanese food counter had a range of steamed seafood – clams, prawns, crab etc., sushi, yakitori, tempura and a number of sauces.
We enjoyed some excellently prepared Sushi at the Central. Presented with sticky, colourful rice, freshest seafood and veggies, as well as excellent craftsmanship, they were quite flavoursome.
The crispy Fish Tempura was a winner, and you should definitely try the Chicken Yakitori. Smoky and slathered with a good amount of sauce, they had the right touch from the grill.
Right next to the Japanese section, you'll spot the wok station – where they whip up more Asian delicacies – like Thai-style Beef Stir-fry.
We stopped by this Moroccan Lamb station multiple times. With delicately pink shades spreading through the meat, the lamb was so tender and wafted an irresistible aroma, all thanks to the generous infusion of spices and herbs.
The Saffron Rice followed suit. It had this amazing zest which we loved. All these can be accompanied by a range of gravies, curries, and nuts.
The Central does some superb Indian fare. I laid my hands on some deliciously smoky, spicy packed, gorgeously orange Chicken Tandoori, and brilliantly done Mint Fish Tikka.
The Sri Lankan side of things lies right next to the Indian food counter, and it includes a hopper station too. Make sure to get the freshly made hoppers, rather than the ones resting on the counter. The former has a better flavour and crisp.
We also tried a Chicken Kottu, which comes in a V-shaped leaf basket. It tasted a little dry, and lacked the depth of flavour.
The Indian food selection also extends to a range of rice, curries (both veg and non-veg) and roti. We highly recommend the Butter Chicken. A rich, thick curry binding so well to the chunks of thoroughly cooked chicken, this one involves a distinctive set of spices, creating the signature butter chicken flavour, as well as that lovely orange colour.
Furthermore, there's a massive selection of pickles to give that spicy, tangy edge to your meal.
We also had a peek at the Iftar specials. There were some good Chicken Porridge, tasty Chicken Tagine, and the best samosa of all time – the Lamb Samosa.
Featuring a light, crispy shell that tears away into pieces so easily, it makes way to an incredibly flavourful meaty filling. The spices and herbs further enhance its flavour, while the pine nuts add a contrast in texture.
You can grab a slice (or four) from the pizza counter. They have about three varieties of pizzas there. Right next to that, there's the flaming grill to serve up some freshly grilled meats and seafood of your choice.
The Desserts collection is impressive as well.
From candy, fresh fruit jars, dainty cakes, liquid nitrogen ice cream to cake pops, puddings, awurudu sweets and many other sweet treats that showcase the flavours from different corners of the world, they have quite a lot to offer here.
All of them get our resounding approval. The Umali was sublime, and we highly suggest getting the Gulab Jamun and Basbousa. They were terrific.
The dessert station also has some rich, chocolaty treats – like this Chocolate Mousse, and Choc Choco Choux – a dessert made with chocolate, chocolate cream and chocolate-flavoured choux.
We weren't too impressed by the Crème Brûlée though. The custard base tasted great, but unfortunately, the caramelised sugar layer was almost non-existent.
Ambience & Service
The Central doesn't just stop at pleasing the palate; it's a treat for the eyes too. In fact, the concept behind this resto reminiscents of a luxury train carriage, that takes its diners to multiple culinary stops around the world. Ravishing, remarkable and quite unique.
It perfectly binds the classic, vintage elements, with the sophisticated, chic interior. The immensely comfortable seating arrangements, grand high ceilings, walls embellished with Sri Lankan folk art, the stylish floral décor, and the majestic clock at the entrance are enough testaments to that.
If you get a table near its massive glass walls facing Galle Road, you should consider yourself very lucky. It lets you catch a glimpse of the Galle Face Green, the Colombo city skyline, and the blooming Port City. I can only imagine how glamourous this view would be, when the auburn sun sinks itself in the ocean as the daylight fades.
The service was exceptional. Adhering to the COVID-19 safety measurements and regulations, the whole staff was geared up with face masks and face shields. That made us feel very, very safe.
At each station, the food is served to you by a staff member. Simply grab a plate and let them know what you want from the counter; just a few items or the whole counter – no one here judges you.
With tantalising food, delightful ambience, extraordinary service and some of the best ocean views of the city, Central, Shangri-La offers a wholesome experience. It provides the ideal setting for date nights, anniversary/birthday dinners, or simply, dinner/lunch outs with friends/family. Reservations are highly recommended, and you can conveniently do it through their website.