While a handful of Colombo’s restaurants have gone on to become Immortals, a far greater number haven’t made it. Over the years they have fallen by the wayside, leaving behind intermittent yet insatiable cravings for dishes that can no longer be found and rose-tinted recollections of days when everyone was younger and social media was a bunch of friends staring at a TV.
Continuing YAMU’s efforts to thoroughly document Colombo, here is a list of places we liked that didn’t make it to the present, and places we didn’t like so much and had the satisfaction of seeing bite the dust. While this is basically an exercise in nostalgia, we are nevertheless giving some of these restaurants their only chance to live on in the digital afterlife – a space where they can be properly mourned.
The Death Toll
- Garfields – Very tasty hot dogs and burgers. Located somewhere near Royal College, they had some good food and were, of course, named after everyone’s favourite comic book cat.
- Prawnies – If you hadn’t already guessed, every single dish was prawn-related. For reals. Prawn burgers, prawn rice, garlic prawns; the list goes on. Used to be somewhere along the Galle Road near Bamba. Given that Sri Lanka benefits from a rich bounty of tasty prawns, this was a good concept and someone should give it another shot.
- Don Stanley’s – There was one around Colombo 7, and another on top of a high-rise building near the Beira Lake. This was probably the first attempt at fine dining outside the major hotels and we recall some excellent meals. Their reasonably priced café outlet essentially introduced the cheesecake to Colombo.
- Il Capriccio (The Fork) – Located on De Fonseka Road and run like an endless house party by an elegant Italian couple. There was prosecco on the house and perhaps the best Italian food ever to grace Colombo. Fine seafood aglio olio, gnocchi, ossobuco and much more tastiness we struggle to remember and pronounce.
- Max’s San Remo – A 90s Italian attempt, located somewhere near the original Pizza Hut on Union Place. We can hardly remember if the food was bad or good, but it was a definitely a staple of the scene for a while.
- Rock Café – This was our ersatz Hard Rock Café, and in many ways the imitation surpassed the original. We remember the crab and lobster dishes, as well as the pasta and burgers being very good. There was an assortment of rock memorabilia and various layers of garden and terrace packed into somewhere on Green Path. It felt genuinely glamorous while it lasted.
- Hakata – Graced the early 90s with authentic Japanese food opposite Police Park.
- Saras – An Indian cuisine heavyweight that ran from the late 1980s till the early 2000s on Duplication Road. It pioneered the Indian takeaway scene until it was surpassed by Agra, Mango Tree and other new arrivals.
- Japan Doll – Possibly Colombo’s first Japanese Restaurant that might have occupied the location which later became Koluu’s Kiss Bar (also defunct).
- Guido’s – A recollection from another generation. Apparently this was Colombo’s Italian place in the 70’s.
- Eastern Wok – Located somewhere near Liberty Plaza a generation ago, serving up Szechuan Chinese food for 70s diners.
- Bairaha Chicken – One of the local KFC imitations that went under once the multinational monster opened its jaws.
- Fountain Café – This place seems to have defined a generation, but we at YAMU feel unqualified to write adequately about it.
So for now, here’s what we have in this roughest of lists. There’s nothing like a little nostalgia, and as we enter a new era in the country’s chronology and anticipate a revival in Colombo’s dining scene, perhaps the restaurateurs of the present can learn from the mistakes of the past.
On a side note, there is a possibility that we may have prematurely buried some restaurants since it is hard to rule out some establishments moving to more humble lodgings or reinventing themselves entirely.