Empire Cafe.

Empire Cafe is a little restaurant-cum-cafe housed inside the Olde Empire Hotel, a 200 year old building, right next to the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. It’s a popular tourist hangout, is surprisingly affordable, and has the best chocolate cake we’ve had in ages.

Service & Ambience

There was just one very polite and friendly guy handling the entire place – so service can be slow when the place is full (like it is during Perahara season). The interior of the place is beautiful, with big white cane chairs, Sri Lankan and Indian vintage posters and a happy teal-and-pink theme. If you go up the old wooden stairs you’ll be met with an old-fashioned reception counter, narrow corridors and a balcony: remnants of a hotel that was once glamorous. The hotel is under different management – the rooms are few in number but are still available for rent.

When you step outside the ‘olde’ hotel, you see rows of flower stalls – glorious purple lotuses being sold for visitors of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which is just next-door. A lot of people stop by here when they’re touring Kandy and are visiting the famous temple.

The Food

Kandy, it seems, has not caught up with Colombo’s ‘great ambience – ridiculous prices’ trend. If you put a restaurant/cafe like this in Colombo, you’d have to spend through your nose to hang out here. But it’ll cost you less than 1,000 bucks at Empire Cafe to enjoy a filling meal and dessert.

We got pasta dishes: a creamy chicken carbonara (Rs. 650), a tagliatelle with puttanesca sauce (Rs. 550) and a macaroni and cheese (Rs. 500). We also got their Empire Classic chicken rice and curry (Rs. 380). The pasta dishes were meh – they tasted alright, but lacked spice and were of average portions. The rice and curry was very good – typical bath kadey rice, but it was satisfying and came in a huge portion with generous sides.

Desserts

This deserves a separate section because though the main courses weren’t anything much, the desserts were worth the trip. Their home-made ice cream is absolutely delicious – we got one with jaggery and cardamom, and one strawberry (Rs. 280 each). The mango sorbet (Rs. 280) was tasty but a little too sweet. These guys also make a strong Moroccan mint tea (Rs. 220).

Hands-down, their aptly titled Regal Cake or quadruple chocolate cake is one of the best chocolate cakes ever made (Rs. 310) – it was a huge piece, soft, creamy and slathered in copious amounts of chocolate sauce. Utter decadence in a plate. The coconut, honey and banana smoothie (Rs. 330) sounded interesting, but just tasted like a banana milkshake. Drinks like ginger beer and coke (Rs. 150) came in very large glasses.

Conclusion

Empire Cafe is a very cosy, comfy space with great ambience. It’s got both the charm of an old Kandyan building and the feel of a trendy new cafe. It isn’t too pricey, and it’s a super place to stop for rice and curry, tea or some good old chocolate cake.

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