The prices at Chola are rather high end, a meal for two will set you back something like Rs. 5,000, so the place definitely falls into the fancy category. However compared to slightly more expensive places like Maharjah Palace and Chutneys, the food offered here is downright mediocre. I've had better in fact, for far less money, on the streets in India.
Chola is located down Lily Avenue in Wellawatte, there is ample parking on either side of the road, the restaurant is housed in a refurbished, old bungalow and has a very fetching outer facade and garden.
The Restaurant offers both veg and non-veg, and both South Indian and North Indian cuisine. We went for a mix of both. For starters we ordered the Gobi Manchurian (Rs. 550), this is a dish of cauliflower which deceptively looks like meat, and is usually crunchy and delish. But the one we had tasted a little too salty and was way too spicy.
There was a 'destructive abundance' (to borrow a term from my friend Altaf) of spices in most of the dishes we tried. It was as if the kitchen was trying to cover up a lack of skill by dousing the food with as much flavor as possible. Hah, but they failed to trick us.
For mains we ordered the Paneer Tikka Masala (Rs. 800) and the Mutton Chetinad (Rs. 1100). The Paneer was tough, and it felt like I was munhing into little peices of rubber, and the problem with the overspiced curry persisted with this dish as well.
The Mutton Chetinad however, was better. As in, the gravy tasted great, the spices weren't too overpowering. But the mutton was a little too bony. Now I don't know about you, but I prefer a bit of mutton in my mutton curry. Especially if I've paid Rs. 1,000 plus for it.
Our mains were accompanied by garlic naan (Rs. 250) and chilli cheese naan (Rs. 325). For the prices asked, the naans were pretty average. They weren't overly crispy, nor overly soft. Again, nothing really to sing or dance about.
We rounded off our meal with some Mango Juice (Rs. 300), which the staff promised would be fresh and sweet. Instead it tased rather sour.
Chola did much better with the dessert we tried, the Kesar Badam Kulfi (Rs. 450) had a subtle taste and wasn't too sweet, the sprinklings of almond were generous and it had a nice, smooth texture. Loved it.
Their masala chai was fantastic also, probably the best I have tried in the country. It was lightly spiced and served in eversilver cups, two in fact, and you can sit outside in the nice evening breeze and pour your tea from one cup into the other until it cools down enough to drink. But at Rs. 325, it was also rather pricier than your average kadey the.
The house is beautifully decorated with a subtle touch of red on cream walls, with embroidered tapestries decorating the inside. However, it can be accused of being a touch less classy than it should, going by what their price signals promise. Only the main dining area has been decorated with any care, the rest of the premises, like the bathroom for instance, is plain and rather tacky. If you were with a date you wanted to impress, you'd probably find nicer places to go to that cost the same or less.
Really good. Friendly and informed about the food.
A great location and ambience doesn't do enough to redeem the lack of value for money when it comes to food. Colombo offers far better alternatives for Indian food for the same price or less.