While it’s true that there are far more Indian restaurants than there are Sri Lankan restaurants in London, it doesn’t mean that these Sri Lankan restaurants aren’t worth your time – quite the opposite, in fact. Remember the frenzy around Hoppers when it opened its very first restaurant in Soho? And you can still expect to queue there today. And that’s just one Sri Lankan restaurant London has to offer!
It’s no wonder that the number of Sri Lankan restaurants in London is on the rise, given the wonderfully aromatic and spicy dishes that make up the island’s distinctive cuisine. As well as hoppers – those steamed rice noodle pancake bowls – other Sri Lankan staples include curries (made with plenty of chillies), kottu, sambols and dosa, so whether you’re in the mood for something bread-based or a rice-based dish, you won’t be disappointed.
We’ve listed some of the best Sri Lankan restaurants London possesses in our handy round-up below, so you can either pick your favourite or make it your mission to visit each one. Most are slightly outside of central London, but if it’s authentic, spicy Sri Lankan food you’re craving, they're worth the tube fare – trust us.
Why: With five stars all round from our readers, this restaurant in Soho is a must-visit for anyone looking to sample authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. Run by two native Sri Lankans, the menu here harks back to the childhood dishes that once filled the kitchens in their home, so diners can expect everything from traditional snacks to full-flavoured curries. Vegetarian and vegan diners do well at Kolamba, though there are plenty of meat and fish dishes to get stuck into as well.
Where: Kolamba, 21 Kingly Street, Soho
Why: Whether you choose to visit the intimate Soho original or its spacious Marylebone sibling, we guarantee you’ll be blown away by the selection on offer here. You’ll want to order the whole menu, but we’d suggest starting with a few ‘short eats’ followed by one of the eponymous and exceptionally good hoppers. Prices are also wonderfully reasonable, especially considering Hoppers’ perennial popularity.
Where: Hoppers Soho, King’s Cross + St Christopher’s Place
Why: This neighbourhood restaurant in Ealing is a little-known gem that merits a stint on the Piccadilly line. The kitchen pays lip service to the Indian subcontinent (especially Kerala), but its main geographical focus is further south in Sri Lanka, with specialities from all parts of the island, including mutton rolls and lumprais – a Dutch-influenced dish involving rice boiled in stock served on a banana leaf alongside an assortment of curries, fish cutlets and sambal.
Where: Papaya, 161 Northfield Avenue, Ealing
Virundhu Street Kitchen
Why: Vibrant curries served on colourful crockery are what diners can look forward to at this family-run Sri Lankan restaurant on the outskirts of northwest London. The extensive menu includes an array of traditional Sri Lankan fare, so you might need more than one visit to try everything that catches your eye. Unusually, there’s also a selection of desserts on offer at Virundhu, including a traditional Sri Lankan dessert called watalappan, made using coconut milk, kithul (a type of syrup), eggs, nutmeg and cardamom.
Where: Virundhu, 113 Field End Road, Pinner
Why: It might not look all that inviting from the outside (or the inside, for that matter), but if you can get past the neon sign and bland décor, you’re in for a good meal. Located just a short walk from Victoria station, Dammika’s is a destination for anyone in search of authentic Sri Lankan food cooked well. The menu is a blend of south Indian and Sri Lankan classics, but you’ll find all the staples on there, including hoppers, kottu rotis and dosa.
Where: 3 Lower Grosvenor Place, Westminster
Why: Inspired by the chic bistros of Sri Lanka’s capital and the fortified old city of Galle, Paradise brings the essence of the country to the heart of Soho with this brand new restaurant. Sleek interiors are a good indication of what you can expect food-wise: pared-back ingredient-focused cooking with fiery island overtones. Spiced cocktails complement the seasonal fusion menu nicely and a meal here won’t break the bank.
Where: 61 Rupert Street, Soho
Why: We understand why you might be sceptical about this one, since it’s located within Canary Wharf’s bustling shopping centre, but this Sri Lankan kitchen is a gem of a find. Hidden away in The Limehouse pub, Karapincha serves up short eats and sharing platters such as stuffed roti and devilled seafood, while main dishes include a range of hoppers and curries to suit every taste.
Where: Canary Wharf Shopping Centre, 10 Fishermans Walk
Apollo Banana Leaf
Why: Apollo Banana Leaf won’t win any awards for interiors, but we promise you won’t care a jot about your surroundings once you’ve tasted your first mouthful of authentic Sri Lankan curry. The menu here is vast and includes all the staples of the island, including oothapam, parotta, kothu, stringhoppers and curry dishes. There’s plenty for vegetarians and dishes are keenly priced.
Where: 190 Tooting High Street
Why: We’re not sure where the slightly odd, voyeuristic name comes from, but we are sure that this family-run restaurant is a stickler for high-quality ingredients and excellent customer service. The menu at Watch Me covers the spectrum of Asian flavours, so whether you’re in the mood for traditional Sri Lankan specialities such as hoppers kottu, sambar or mutton biryani, or South Indian classics, you’ll be spoilt for choice. It’s quite far south, but the Northern line will take you straight there.
Where: 108 Morden Road, Merton
Why: Another Tooting stalwart, Jaffna House has been going strong since the nineties. The homely interior is instantly inviting, as are the staff who go out of their way to treat everyone like an honoured guest. The menu aims to bring the authentic flavours of Sri Lanka to life through fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods, so whether you choose to sample a vadai (a spicy doughnut), devilled mutton, seafood kotthu, or any of Jaffna House’s other dishes, you can be sure of the fullest flavours.
Where: 90 Tooting High Street
Looking to spice up your life even more? Check out our round-up of the best curry in London