By Janani Vithanage
Ceylon Curry Club, located in the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, is a rather unique restaurant and bar that plays homage to Sri Lanka’s one-of-a-kind cuisine. Their menu is home to traditionally Sri Lankan dishes, with a Western twist to the way they are presented to patrons, as well as typically European dishes with delightfully Sri Lankan attributes to the way they’re prepared.
The story of Ceylon Curry Club began just around a year ago and revolves around spices. Sri Lankan spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, chilli, pepper and nutmeg, amongst many others, have helped shape our little island’s place in the world since ancient times. Spices have made us the destination of long voyages; they have made us a shining pearl along the length of the Silk Route that merchants sailed in centuries past. The incredibly talented chefs at Curry Club work closely with expert horticulturists in order to ensure that only the finest hand-picked spices are used in the steaming, aromatic dishes served to customers.
The master-minds behind the delights of Curry Club firmly believe that as Sri Lankans, it is our duty to take pride in what is ours – our spices, our culinary craft, our age-old recipes are all part of our incredibly rich heritage. It is this pride that Ceylon Curry Club has instilled into everything they have to offer.
Upon entering the restaurant, we met Mr. Supun Goonewardena, the Restaurant Manager, who greeted us with the traditional Sri Lankan method of welcome, “Ayubowan”, which means “may you be blessed with long life”. He was extremely helpful throughout our visit and we were most impressed by his extensive knowledge of each dish on the menu and exactly how it was prepared. He assured us that all ingredients used at the restaurant and bar were locally sourced. Something that really caught our eye when looking at the menu was how the items were named so creatively, especially the beverages. We decided to go with Mr. Supun’s recommendations when placing our orders and this is how we felt.
- Cinnamon Tea
This was offered to us in a miniature teacup as soon as we arrived as a welcome drink and was by far our favourite beverage. The plain tea was delicious, with just the right amount of “kahata” (amount of tea leaves) and was superbly sweetened with bees’ honey. I’m not usually a fan of cinnamon in drinks but the subtle hints of the spice in this tea came through beautifully, making every sip an absolute pleasure. It was rather rainy and chilly the day we tried it, so the warm drink really warmed us up. I could drink the Cinnamon Tea morning, noon and night.
Price: LKR 450
2. Sumihiri Paaney
This cocktail, named after what is probably Sri Lanka’s most popular baila song, is a concoction of avocado pulp together with Ceylonese Vodka, sweetened with bees’ honey. We did feel that this drink could be improved by making the texture of the avocado slightly thicker and creamier, but Sumihiri Paaney served as a very refreshing palate cleanser and the taste of the Vodka really came through.
Price: LKR 1350
3. Silk Route
This cocktail, aptly named after the ancient trading route along which our island was considered a treasure trove of spices, is a mixture of VAT 9 Arrack, lime juice, rosemary, sukiri and bees’ honey, infused with strong hints of cinnamon. We were very pleased with the slightly sour, tangy taste of this drink.
Price: LKR 1240
4. Ceylon Colada
Curry Club’s Ceylon Colada is a Sri Lankan take on the original pina colada. This blend of locally sourced Rockland Old Arrack, rich coconut cream and pineapple was my favourite of the cocktails. The coconut cream and pineapple made a wonderfully creamy, sweet base which complimented the zing of the liquor to perfection.
Price: LKR 1100
- Manioc Cutlets
Usually, cutlets tend to sport fillings such as fish or chicken. However, the cutlets at Ceylon Curry Club, which were served along with baked garlic dusted with chilli flakes and a small dish of “karapincha” (curry leaf) sambol, were stuffed with manioc, a much beloved source of starch in Sri Lanka. The batter was crispy and fresh and the stuffing was a burst of savoury flavour, which the sambol served to enhance.
Price: LKR 1150
2. Crumbed Fried Pork
This is a dish of bite-sized pieces of pork fried in a breadcrumb batter, served alongside kochhi mustard mayonnaise. The meat was really soft and tender, qualities that contrasted beautifully with the crunchy batter. The tang of the dip went very well with the pork. Something we really appreciated about this dish was the fact that it wasn’t overly oily. Usually, fried foods leave an oily residue on one’s fingers, but there was nothing of the sort involved in Curry Club’s fried pork.
Price: LKR 1790
1. Ceylonese Beef Wellington
At first glance, the Ceylonese Beef Wellington looked like any other Beef Wellington, but a closer look quickly made it obvious why it was called “Ceylonese”. Instead of the traditional mashed potatoes served alongside many Western mains, the beef rested on a bed of tempered potato made in the true Sri Lankan style. In addition, instead of the steamed carrot or broccoli usually served as side veggies, our dish boasted a side of tempered “bandakka” (ladies fingers) and locally grown green beans. Mr. Supun also told us that the beef was first slow-cooked in a blend of Sri Lankan spices before being roasted in the English fashion. This was very apparent when we started to dig in. The steak gave off the distinct aroma and taste that accompanies all meat prepared in the Sri Lankan way and paired perfectly with the potatoes, which were very soft and spicy. The pastry that enveloped the beef was fresh and puffy and not at all soggy, which we really appreciated. We must say that this was hands down the best beef steak we’ve ever tasted. This dish also comes with a little pitcher of steak sauce and a side dish of two small sliders with a novel filling of brinjal moju (fried brinjal strips mixed with shallots and green chilli, pickled in mustard vinegar) and cheddar cheese. Now, this may not seem like the best combination at first, but we promise you, it tastes heavenly, with a real spicy, tangy hit!
Price: LKR 6160
2. Assorted Seafood
This is a dish of the day’s available seafood artfully arranged on a good portion of rice infused with lemon, all swimming in a shallow pool of coconut gravy. This was probably my favourite dish. The rice was delightfully milky, a quality that somehow managed to complement, rather than clash with the tang of the lemon infusion. The gravy was very well-seasoned, but not too spicy, therefore contributing to the overall milkiness of the dish, while maintaining the somewhat mellow, yet flavourful aspect of this dish. Curry Club had used a variety of seafood, including healthy amounts of tender, expertly marinated prawns, cuttlefish, dry fish, shellfish and lobster, all “kirata uyala” (cooked with coconut milk). The moju and cheese sliders made a second appearance here.
Price: LKR 5380
Hoppers, colloquially known as “aappa” are essentially bowl-shaped pancakes made of fermented rice batter and coconut milk. These are sometimes made plain (without the coconut milk), with coconut milk or with an egg in the middle. Ceylon Curry Club offers a portion of 5 hoppers; plain, coconut milk, egg and two more unusual options – chicken and prawn. The hoppers were lovely; crispy on the edges and thick and milky at the bottom. The chicken and prawn ones were an interesting new experience. The savoury taste of the meat and seafood really appealed to our Sri Lankan craving for spicy food. The hoppers were accompanied by very generous portions of dhal curry, seeni sambol (caramelised onion relish) and lunumiris (a Sri Lankan sambol paste of shallots, chilli, pepper, Maldives fish and lemon juice), making it a very filling meal. We’re also huge fans of the attractive way that the hoppers were presented. Instead of the usual messy pile of hoppers, they were presented on a stand that held each hopper separately, preventing them from being crushed. Curry Club is also happy to customise your “aappa” order as per your requirement.
Price: LKR 2470
4. Egg and Prawn Gothamba Roti
Gothamba roti are a paper thin, almost elastic Sri Lankan flatbread made of white flour. Usually when you think of gothamba with egg and prawn, you’d expect them to be presented as a pile of flat roti with the curries in separate bowls. However, Curry Club surprised us yet again by serving us rolled-up roti; two with a savoury egg filling and two with a spicy prawn filling. We had never had gothamba with anything other than chicken curry before and were delighted at the novel fillings introduced by the restaurant. The roti were soft, fresh and not overly-oily, while the fillings provided the perfect burst of flavour. Once again, we must comment on the unique method of presentation; the roti rolls were held upright separately by a stand. This option was also served with dhal, lunumiris and seeni sambol.
Price: LKR 2230
5. Curry in a Hurry
We were also introduced to Curry Club’s signature rice and curry meal. This was included in the menu mostly for the benefit of those who visit the restaurant every day during their lunch break from work for a quick, tasty, filling and affordable meal. This comes as a serving of yellow rice, papadam, brinjal moju, dhal, prawn vadeh, along with a choice of chicken or fish curry. This meal also offers a complimentary dessert of either baked curd or sago pudding, along with a mojito to wash it all down before resuming your busy workday.
Another thing we really loved about the mains was that the portions were so generous!
- Creamy Baked Curd
This Sri Lankan dessert came with a pitcher of thick kithul treacle and was garnished with a pretty edible flower. The curd was incredibly creamy and tasted like it was of premium quality, without that sour taste that I tend to generally dislike in curd, even without the addition of any extra treacle. It had the perfect level of sweetness.
Price: LKR 1240
Helapa is a traditional Sri Lankan sweet prepared using kurakkan flour, rice flour, treacle, grated coconut and cardamom, usually presented within a folded “kenda” leaf. However, Curry Club has taken a more modern approach to its presentation, serving the helapa on a layer of cream cheese, garnished with edible flowers and accompanied by a kurakkan paste. Helapa is generally an acquired taste and it didn’t really appeal to my tastebuds, but my lunch partner, who is a fan of helapa, said it was really good, with the cream cheese adding a pleasant twist to the natural taste of the sweetmeat.
Price: LKR 1240
3. Coconut Creme Brulee
This dessert was a Sri Lankan twist of the traditional creme brulee; instead of using plain cream in the custard, Ceylon Curry Club uses coconut cream. It tasted wonderful, with the coconut cream lending a unique creaminess and milkiness to the custard. The smooth texture paired perfectly with the crunch of the top layer of caramelised sugar. This was, overall, my favourite dessert.
Price: LKR 1900
Ambience and Service
When entering Ceylon Curry Club, the first impression is that of splendour and luxury. The primary use of dark coloured wood on the floor, furniture and roof go hand-in-hand with the shades used on the walls and the muted yellow-based lighting to give a warm and cozy, yet elegant air to the space. The beautifully set tables were arranged to seat two or four, but the staff are very accommodating and are happy to join a few tables together if you wish to visit with a larger crowd. It can get rather busy, especially at lunch and dinner hours, so we suggest you call and make a reservation. An aspect of the space that really caught my eye was the meticulously arranged bar. If any of you have watched the TV series “Lucifer” and remember the protagonist’s penthouse suite bar, you’ll know exactly the vibe I’m referring to.
The staff were very friendly and polite and were very diligent about taking our orders and serving our food as quickly as possible. Our glasses of water were kept full throughout. We also noticed members of staff taking pictures of patrons upon their request.
Overall, we had an exquisite experience at Ceylon Curry Club. We really love how they’ve contrived to fuse Sri Lankan culinary craft into every single dish or drink they serve. This was honestly one of my most memorable restaurant experiences – visit them for something truly unforgettable!
Opening Hours: 11:00 AM to 11:30 PM