The Gallery Cafe is one of those perpetually hip spots in Colombo. The ambience is one of a kind and the food is consistently good, but it will leave a dent in your wallet.
The menu at Gallery Cafe is an amalgamation of a number of cuisines which include western, Italian, Asian and of course some locally inspired dishes like their ever popular black pork curry. The prices vary greatly with soups between Rs. 600 and Rs. 800 and mains anywhere from Rs. 1200 for certain rice dishes and Rs. 5000 for more exotic produce like lobsters. However, as a rule of thumb expect to pay around Rs. 2000 - Rs. 3000 per head, at least.
So before we get to the mains, let's talk about their bread basket for a second. For all the praise Gallery Cafe gets, they really need to offer a bit more value for money when it comes to this. We literally got one bun, which didn't really have a hint of warmth. I'm not too big on my breads but this isn't the way to make a good first impression.
The pan-fried pork chop (Rs. 1295) was pretty good overall, with a good balance of flavours, textures and spice. It's served with a smooth mash, a spicy chilli based gravy, salad and a brilliant sweet pepper sauce. The pork chop itself was a good cut with a good ratio of meat to fat with the fat rendered very well. We wish we could say it was rendered to the point where it melted in your mouth, but it wasn't quite there.
The risotto marinara (Rs. 1750) was also quite nice, but did have a few areas for improvement. A risotto is arguably one of the toughest Italian dishes to pull off successfully. Cook it for too long and the rice becomes grainy, vice versa and you'll end up with a porridge.
In that sense, this was one of the better risottos I've had in terms of texture. The emphasis on the marinara part was also satisfactory, with a good amount of pan-fried shrimp, calamari and fish. The only issue with this one was that it lacked a bit of seasoning and spice. While it wasn't supposed to be a spicy dish, it needed a contrast in flavours.
For dessert we tried the pavlova with dulce de leche (Rs. 745). This one was decent, but it didn't blow us away. While the pavlova had just the right sweetness, it lacked the soft center that we were looking for. Most other places serve their pavlovas with just whipped cream, but Gallery Cafe opted for a mix of cream and dulche de leche, which is a sort of caramel-like syrup which is made by slowly heated sweetened milk. It sounds fancy and while it did add a bit more sweeteness, we wouldn't say it made a world of difference. We would also have liked a bit more passion fruit, to cut through that sweetness.
For a more detailed look at their desserts scroll all the way down in our previous review for a sort of breakdown.
The Gallery Cafe is beautiful, and we'd expect nothing less from the former office of Geoffrey Bawa. Everything about this place is both unique and eye-catching, without looking gaudy. The open-air seating area shares a resemblance to that of Barefoot Cafe, which is to say it too looks pretty neat.
It goes without saying that Gallery Cafe is extremely popular and when we dropped in for lunch it was packed nearly to capacity with just a few tables free. The service while very professional and friendly, was a bit too slow with the food taking around 30 minutes to arrive, most likely because of all the patrons at the time. So if you're going at crowded times, go with a bit of time to spare.
The Gallery Cafe is considered one of the top restaurants in Colombo, and we're on board with that. 17 years down the line, the food is still good, the place still looks amazing but the service could be a bit faster.