Salty Swamis is a new little cafe open down Hikka's busy beach strip. Funky international design, locally sourced ingredients and coffee, and inventive food pairing make this cafe one of Sri Lanka's sexiest new spots. The saltiest aspect of our experience here was that it got us questioning why Colombo can't seem to create or retain spots like this.
The menu is concise yet varied. It's generally a good sign when a tightly-curated menu still has you struggling to choose. They've also got options that are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. Being none of those, we opted for the Roasted Pork Belly and the Pulled Beef Brisket Sliders.
At Rs. 1000, the pork belly came with a potato and corn croquet, corn and miso puree, and a couple of poached eggs. The price here was more than justified, with a sleek plate full of perfectly-executed, fresh ingredients coming together for a layered, compelling meal. Our favourite bit of this meal was actually the corn/miso mash - the lovely umami flavour was a treat. There was a sprinkling of what I suspect to be raw quinoa, which was visually great and palate-wise pointless.
Our second main, the sliders, came with coleslaw, curd, and coriander. Also retailing at Rs. 1000, these delicious little burgers featured some well-seasoned Australian beef and crispy coleslaw ensconced in buttery soft fresh-baked buns. My only criticism of this dish was that it wasn't as texturally vibrant as the pork belly, and would have benefited from perhaps some crisps, chips, or just anything a bit crunchy and salty to offset and provide balance.
The scorching blue sky got us aching for something icy, so we couldn't opt for a hot cuppa during our visit. We did, however, get a Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Rs. 550) and an Iced Milo (Rs. 500). The Iced Coffee was a proper cà phê đá, an easy mix of ice, condensed milk, and slow-drip espresso.
The Milo was a super blast from the past, a throwback to school canteens and rushed breakfasts, but with a bit of gentle froth (and maybe ice-cream?) thrown in for that Kelis milkshake effect. Both were a little steep price-wise, but we couldn't find fault with the quality at play.
The cafe is the nucleus in the middle of their surf shop, design shop, and their beach access.
The surf shop features a wide selection of imported boards, surfing accessories, and more. We're not attuned enough to surf gear to tell you if this stuff is expensive etc so you'll have to contact them about that directly.
The design shop is lovely. A little spot on the road with oodles of natural light and products like recycled bags from Rice & Carry, art, postcards, accessories from Minnie, and more. The beautiful design is carried over into the cafe, which features swami-themed artwork, posters, and wall design.
The cafe ambience is light, with lots of whitewashed walls, fresh flowers, chill tunes, and the heady smell of brewing coffee. It's the sort of location you could curl up at for a solid hour or two if you didn't feel guilty hogging the space. We particularly loved the Tiamo brewing contraptions, it's like a Dmitri Mendeleev got a hipster makeover.
Salty Swamis has that bustling, laid back informal feel of a West Coast cafe. The brothers who run it (the same guys of Hideaway Arugambay fame), are generally around to give you advice on what to order, where to sit, and what to do in the neighbourhood. Everything came out within 10-15 minutes, we were checked up on often, and they were clearly super passionate about what they were doing - which illuminates the place.
It's rare that we've visited a place that smacks us in the face with how good it is. The idea, the design, the sheer quality and inventiveness of the food are of an impeccable standard we're yet to see in Colombo. The ambience also oozes the sort of cool that keeps you coming back.
HEADS UP : They don't serve booze and they close kind of early, so watch out for that. You also have just about a month left to check the cafe out before the Salty Swamis go Hideaway for the East Coast season.
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