Where can you be sure to find pork curry for lunch? A good Sinhalese rice-and-curry kade, of course. That is exactly what Nelum Kole does. If you live or work around Maharagama/Boralesgamuwa, this spot off Lake Road is one you need to try out. It ought to go without saying, but I’ll reiterate, their food is not halal, and they do not serve beef.
The Food & Service
Ideal for takeaway, Nelum Kole serves up pork, chicken and fish options, along with an array of greens and vegetables. For a little over Rs. 200, you can grab a full or half plate of red or white rice, with a meat of your choice, and choose what else goes on your plate as the server runs through the options with you.
They’re really busy during lunchtime, so be prepared to stand in line. If you’re eating in, the food is served on a lotus leaf (hence the name), and offered to you in a woven basket. As you pay for your meal, notice that the cashier will touch the inside of his right elbow with his left hand. This is a gesture that is best returned as you hand over the cash.
I had the pork curry with red rice, parippu, manioc curry, pol sambol and beans. I was then asked if I would like any additional meat that included two types of fried fish, fried chicken neck and batter-fried prawns. I was curious to try the prawns, so I did, at an additional cost of Rs. 240.
The food here is salty by my standards, so if you're watching your blood pressure, drink plenty of water. The parippu was neither hard nor too mushy, and a lively shade of yellow. The manioc curry was my favourite as the salt hadn’t saturated it, so it helped balance out the rest of the meal. The beans were nothing to write home about — they were green, they were curried, and they were beans. And I didn’t get my money’s worth on the prawns. Although they weren't aggressively seasoned, they had been chilling outside on the display for a while and had lost their crispness. If you’re going to go for any of the fried options, go early! Like at 12 noon.
Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s talk about the pork. You have the options of grilled pork, curry pork and devilled pork to go with your rice. The curry pork I had was a generous portion, but when closely analysed, it turned out to be 60% fat and 40% meat. The meat itself was flavourful, but by no means could you call it a good cut. If you’re into the juicy, fatty bits, then you’re going to love it. Next time, I’ll be trying the grilled pork.
When you’re done eating, you can leave your lotus leaf and basket on the table, wash your hands and head out, while the servers swiftly ready the tables for the next lot of customers.
This is where Nelum Kole really scores. Though it looks rather unassuming from the outside, you notice the rustic decor and thatched roof the moment you step in. It has the authentic Sinhalese buth kadey feels, and warm yellow lighting that really brings out the earthy walls.
The tables and chairs are the furthest thing from fancy, and that’s part of the charm. It’s rustic. It’s warm. It’s welcoming. And, if you ask nicely, you can join a table where there are already others sitting down to a meal.
Nelum Kole is not necessarily a place you’d take your better half to on a date. But it’s a convenient and cost-effective option for lunch if you work or happen to be driving through the area.
Their regulars claim it is the best option in the vicinity and find no fault in the food. I think it’s too salty, and I would have liked more meat in my pork curry. The positives? They do a great job of dealing with a high volume of take-away orders, and I didn’t find myself wasting time standing in line. Besides, two people can eat here for Rs. 500. Need I say more?