Eating when you're outstation is a gamble we've all gone through. It's fine when you know where the good places are, or the places in the vicinity have a Google Maps location. But, in most cases, you don't have a clue about the place you're in and you just wind up eating from the next place you see.
So, if you do happen to be on your way to Hambantota, and you're looking for breakfast or lunch that's not going to give you any sort of stomach bugs (unless your stomach is a bonafide weakling, in which case, we suggest you wait till you get to the hotel before eating anything) Robin Inn is a good place to look out for.
Note: We apologise in advance for the horrible, horrible pictures.
Let's get this straight. Robin Inn is more or less like every other buth kadey on the way from Colombo to Hambantota. So, don't expect anything too fancy.
It's surrounded by a leafy glade of natural attributes which they have used to their advantage because they have a seating area outside which mainly comprises of cement garden chairs and tables – you know, the ones in every evil rich person's house in Sinhala teledramas. Apart from the seating outside, they also have a seating space inside the inn with plastic chairs and wooden tables taking up most of the space.
With red flooring, a tiny prehistoric TV showing an old Sinhala movie, a fridge full of soft drinks and clay walls, Robin Inn was – essentially, the epitome of a buth kadey that's not in Colombo. And unlike many others, it was clean, which is why we're even writing about this place.
After a bunch of stops including thambili, corn and a few other trip worthy essentials we're not going to tell you about, we weren't really hungry. And the only reason we even stopped at this place was that we realized we were going to survive on nothing till dinner. So, after making up our minds to maybe get a Fried Rice to share, we decided to go in.
Now, here's the deal. We wanted to get the Fried Rice only till we saw the lunch buffet. A lunch buffet, in outstation standards, refers to an unlimited amount of food for just one price, and not to the lunch buffets which have 30 varieties of which you'll eat a teaspoon of one type.
And the spread at Robin Inn, albeit small was brilliant – two kinds of well-cooked fluffy rice (white and red), ladyfinger curry, eggplant curry, mallung (without coconut), dhal curry, fish curry, freshwater fish fried, papadum and deep-fried red chillies.
The rice and curries that were served in clay pots where steaming when we arrived.
Now, let's get to the curries. Creamy, thick with lots of cut-up ladyfinger sticks that were super soft on the inside, it was brilliant. Maybe it's the fact that you don't get ladyfingers everywhere or it's the fact that it was seasoned really well, this was the first tick on the plate. The tempered Dhal curry followed suit. With bits of mustard seeds and a hint of chilli to give it that extra kick, it was thick in texture and wonderfully wholesome.
The mallung was my personal favourite. It's not everywhere that you get mallung without grated coconut and this was simply wonderful. Slightly bitter with bits of cut-up green chilli and plenty of lime and salt, it was the perfect accompaniment for the other curries that leant to things creamy.
The eggplant! Mushy, spicy and not very oily, the tempered eggplant curry was similar to the other curries but somehow managed to make things a bit more spicy for which we're very grateful for. However, the one that really stole the show was the freshwater fish. Crunchy on the outside, delicately soft on the in, salted to perfection and without the distinct muddiness of the normal freshwater fish we're used to, this was the literal cherry on top of your plate. This, accompanied by the spiciness of the salted fried chilli and the fish curry all teamed up to be one of the nicest rice and curry experiences we've had in ages! The fact that the buffet cost you just Rs. 200 per plate is exactly why we're urging you to keep a lookout if you're ever in the area.
In terms of service, we have nothing to complain about. The staff was super friendly, welcoming and all smiles throughout the experience.
The experience we had at Robin Inn was wonderful and is one that you should really keep a lookout for. If you find yourselves around, drop by and bask in that truly authentic Lankan rice and curry goodness.