rare Bar + Kitchen.

Residence By Uga tries to push Sri Lankan ingredients further than they’ve ever gone before. For the most part, it works. It’s an expensive restaurant, but there’s a really high level of creativity and attention to detail going on here, and we think you get your money’s worth. If for nothing else, go for the cocktails and ice cream. They verge on mind-blowing.

The Food

Rather than mindlessly aping western cuisine, Residence does what actual fine dining restaurants do – they source the best local ingredients and use them creatively. This is what modern fine dining is, and western chefs would kill to have some of the ingredients our little island grows. For this creativity alone Residence is worth trying, and highly recommended for tourists. They import what they need to, but what they do with Sri Lankan produce is incredible.

We started with the mutton and pumpkin curry soup (Rs. 850), which was amaze. The base, aside from being generously green, is seriously savory. The mutton bits are tender and buttery and the pumpkin and arrack base is perfectly balanced. This is a bang on soup.

We also tried the beef tenderloin steak. We know we just talked about local ingredients and stuff but the steak is imported from New Zealand, which is a good thing. The tenderloin was mad expensive at Rs. 5,200, but was also the most tender steak we’ve had outside of Clique. This steak melted like butter in your mouth, which is what it should do, but which never happens in Sri Lanka. They said that the prices would drop next week, but even at Rs. 5,000 you are getting something that’s honestly rare.

We also tried the cuttlefish with roasted root vegetables and a cheesy marscapone bisque (Rs. 1,200). As you can see, they have a good range of mains below Rs. 1,500, which is actually competitive with regular family dining restaurants. 

The base is basically cream cheese and cured pork (marscapone and guanciale), so can’t go wrong there. Very cheesy and rich, which mixes well with the relatively bland cuttlefish. One thing is that the cuttlefish was a bit chewy, you have to fight it a bit. This ends up being quite a savory dish.

We tried just a sampling, but overall we love the menu. Everything has really simple names – OYSTER, KOSS ATTA, BLACK PORK – but the waiters have actually tried everything and can talk about them. You can tell that the Residence chefs are sophisticated in terms of cooking skill – sous vide lamb, freeze dried goat cheese – but there’s a simplicity and real attention to the quality of each ingredient. There’s also a cheeky bit of experimentation, which we love, and will get to in the ice cream section.

Desserts

Wow. The ice creams (Rs. 550 each) are where the chefs seem to have gone crazy, and they’re really good. Above is the salted peanut ice cream which I didn’t try (I’m allergic) but which I’m told was delicious. With their ice creams, Residence really plays with your perceptions, mixing salt and savory with sweet, and even stranger things

This is the passion fruit and chili ice cream, which literally sparkles in your mouth. It’s sour and they’ve put so much chili that your mouth tingles. This ice cream is actually spicy, and it works. 

Finally, the piece de resistance – the seeni sambol and sprats ice cream. Yeah. Sounds crazy, but the manager said they were inspired by the sweet caramelized onions you get in a seeni sambol. To be honest, I actually really liked this. To my mind it tasted like durian – something strange but which I still liked. This is such a weird mix of flavors that it’s hard do describe. You get sweetness and cream, but also a saltiness and chew from the dried fish. Surprising, but for me it works. Mind blown.

If you want something more conventional they have a take on chocolate lava cake (with a mint ice cream, Rs. 600) and I had a creative billin tart (Rs. 550).

At this point I was honestly too full to enjoy properly, but again they take a somewhat obscure ingredient, prepare it very well and something wonderful ensues.

The Drinks

The cocktails are basically average price for Colombo (Rs. 900) and way more creative than anything we’ve ever tried. We’d recommend Residence for the cocktails alone. Again the menu is super simple, just the names of the base ingredients – veralu, woodapple, etc. We tried the veralu and it was a revelation. Veralu has a kahata taste which we don’t know how to translate, it’s kinda pasty and acidic, verging on bitter sometimes. It’s basically a difficult ingredient, usual achcharu’d into submission. For this cocktail they combine it with apple juice and sugar, which tempers it, and then they rim the glass with salt. So you get a novel sweetness, mixed with a surprising saltiness. This is a long paragraph, but it’s quite a drink.

Price

No lie, this place is expensive. Our bill for two came to Rs. 11,000. Admittedly, if we didn’t get the steak it’d be closer to Rs. 8,000. You can eat here for less than 5k if you just get main, but why? For us this is a special occasions and out of town guests kinda spot. The food is quite rich, but it’s a real culinary adventure that you can remember for a long time.

The Location/Ambience

This is the old Park Street Hotel. It’s a beautiful old house walking distance from Park Street Mews. It centers around a pool courtyard and they’ve done the space up quite nicely. It’s an active boutique hotel, you see families and kids wandering around.

You can dine outside, but it’s near Avurudu, too hot. The interior dining area is really big, dimly lit and quite posh. Everything from the cutlery to the linen to the furniture is top-notch.

The ambience feels like Gallery Cafe but without the people. That is, however, I think because they basically haven’t launched or advertised yet. They seem to be in a soft opening stage until after the new year. We think this place can give Gallery Cafe a real run for its money. The ambience is on par and the food is far more creative.

Service

About the service I’ll start with one thing – the waiters have tried the food. This is so rare and so important. They know what they’re serving and can talk to you about it. Everything else is on point – drinks refilled, clearing the table, being nice – but that level of training makes all the difference.

The manager also spent a lot of time with us and you could tell he’d been involved in the design of the menu and was also able to tell us what not to order (what wasn’t in season, or what cocktails went better with dessert), which was great.

Conclusion

We’d say that this is the first truly Sri Lankan fine dining restaurant. They’re experimenting like crazy so you may not like everything, but it’s definitely an adventure.

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