Kolamba

Sri Lankan·
££££
·
Silver Award
·

SquareMeal Review of Kolamba

Silver Award

Setting up shop next door to Dishoom is a punchy move from first-time restaurateurs, but Kolamba’s immediate success proves there’s nothing wrong with sizing up to the big guys.

Kolamba serves up Sri Lankan small plates in an Insta-friendly setting of concrete greys, bold artworks and the now-obligatory foliage-filled shelves. The kitchen is headed up by MasterChef: The Professionals’ Malin De Silva and majors in the careful balance of those all-important sweet, savoury and sour flavours the island nation is famous for.

It seems like there’s a surprise on every plate here; poppadoms come with unusual pickles that are crunchy, hot and sharp, while fluffy bowls of rice are adorned with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Not all surprises were of the good kind though, with cuttlefish arriving sweet and ferociously spiced but also chewy and a little overcooked.

The slow-cooked jaggery beef brought things back with meat that fell apart thanks to hours of marinating in aromatics and an almost toffee-tasting date palm sugar. Elsewhere, a cucumber curry was mellow in its coconut and turmeric gravy and imparted some much-needed cool creaminess. To mop it all up, the fermented rice flour flavour of the hoppers was subdued enough not to overshadow other dishes in our collection of colourful curries, sambols and sides.

The drinks list feels as if it has been specifically created to compliment the kitchen’s work. Cocktails aren’t too sweet, and the team has given the classics a twist in serves like the Kolamba-Colada; a more savoury riff on the usual, making use of lime juice to cut through the fresh pineapple pulp.

Service is upbeat and knowledgeable with staff happy to translate trickier menu listings and even doing their best to explain how hoppers are made to one extremely earnest customer. From the sharing size of the mini plates to the upbeat energy of the room, there’s a generosity at play here that we’re sure will keep diners returning and recommending until it’s as much of a household name as its neighbour.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - Under £30
Cuisines
Sri Lankan
Ambience
Cool, Lively
Food Occasions
Dinner, Lunch
Special Features
Counter dining, Gluten-free options, Vegan options, Vegetarian options
People
Dates, Group dining [8+]

About Kolamba

This Sri Lankan restaurant on Soho’s Kingly Street is the brainchild of first-time restaurateurs Eroshan and Aushi Meewella. Kolamba’s interiors are inspired by the green landscapes of the Indian Ocean island nation, which means you can expect to find a mix of earthy tones, exposed brickwork and plenty of plants.

The menu features several family recipes taken from the cookbooks of the owners as well as the kitchen team and is divided into ‘bites’, curries and sides. To start, there are snack-style dishes such as Aunty Nalini’s fish cutlets (rice balls stuffed with spiced fish and potato) and meat patties, before moving on to a range of curries which includes a kalu pol pork variety and a black pepper prawn option.

Much of Sri Lanka’s cuisine lends itself to plant-based dishes and vegetarian and vegan diners do well with the likes of pineapple curry and spicy potatoes fried with chilli and onions. Side dishes include fresh sambols (veggie salads) as well as hoppers, turmeric rice and coconut flatbread topped with diced onion and green chilli.

If you’re wondering about the name, Kolamba is the Sinhalese word for Colombo, which is Sri Lanka’s capital. The city is home to people from the Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor (Muslim), Burger (Dutch), and Malay communities, all of which are represented on Kolamba’s menu.

Both Eroshan and Aushi grew up in Colombo and want their menu to hark back to the childhood dishes that once filled the kitchens in their home. Sri Lankan cuisine is still largely underrepresented in central London, with the current most-famous Sri Lankan restaurant in the capital being Hoppers from the JKS Group. Hoppers’ original location is in Soho, the same neighbourhood as Kolamba, while JKS opened a second Hoppers site in St Christopher’s Place near Selfridges in 2017.

Location for Kolamba

21 Kingly Street, Soho, London, W1B 5QA

020 3815 4201

Website

Opening Times

Lunch
Mon Closed
Tue 12:00-15:00
Wed 12:00-15:00
Thu 12:00-15:00
Fri 12:00-15:00
Sat Closed
Sun Closed
Dinner
Mon Closed
Tue 17:30-22:00
Wed 17:30-22:00
Thu 17:30-22:00
Fri 17:30-22:00
Sat Closed
Sun Closed
All day
Mon Closed
Tue Closed
Wed Closed
Thu Closed
Fri Closed
Sat 10:00-22:00
Sun 10:00-21:00

Reviews of Kolamba

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8 Reviews 
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Service
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Anon

An update following my previous review
09 September 2020  

Seven months ago, before lockdown, I reviewed a disappointing meal at Kolamba. This was obviously a one off as I have been twice since lockdown and had excellent meals both times. Todays lunch was lovely and I am so glad you found a way to survive the last difficult six months. I shall be back soon!
Hannah

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Alex G

Serendipitous
02 September 2020  

The joy of new discovery – or serendipity – is one of life’s pleasures. So it was with Kolamba, a newish restaurant serving Sri Lankan food on the edge of Soho. Maybe no coincidence, but Sri Lanka was, of course, once known as Serendip. Most diners are familiar with Indian food, but do not go to Kolamba (the local name for the island’s capital, Colombo) expecting anything close to a tikka masala or vindaloo. The premise behind Sri Lankan cuisine is a harmonious merger of sweet, savoury and sour flavours. It’s mostly executed very well here. The venue has the Instagram community in mind with its muted décor, distressed walls and plant-based decorations, but the food is mainly what does the talking.

At first sight, the menu may appear somewhat bewildering, divided into sections spanning bites, sambols (salads), large dishes and condiments, but it is a darned sight less complicated than that on offer at Hoppers, the venue which first popularised Sri Lankan food in London. Conveniently, there is an informative box at the menu’s top, advocating 1-2 bites, 2 meat dishes and 2-3 veg options (with the possibility of a smabol too) for a group of two to share. This was broadly the formula we stuck to, even if the dishes arrived in a somewhat random order with one severely delayed (generously) or perhaps erroneously forgotten about. Despite both my dining comrade and I being avowed omnivores, we both agreed that Kolamba excelled most strongly with its vegetarian dishes. Other reviewers have justifiably raved about the venue’s dhal, which did just what a good dhal should do – be rich, deeply comforting and flavoursome. Nonetheless, the pineapple and aubergine dish – our other vegetable option – was amazing. This surprising combination did actually work and was executed with panache. Slow-cooking seems to be the order of the day here, with the aubergine reduced to an intensely tender state (Sri Lanka’s pineapples are apparently the world’s sweetest, the menu helpfully notes). The black pepper prawn stir fry was a real zinger of a dish too, with the prawns among the largest and juiciest seen at any venue recently, lockdown notwithstanding. The Jaggery beef – another clearly slow cooked dish – was, however, something of a disappointment. The meat did indeed fall delightfully off the bone, but the sauce lacked verve in our view.

For ~£30/head, this is certainly money well spent. One caveat though: owing to the recent late August Bank Holiday, Kolamba had none of the beer we wanted to accompany our meal. Not a problem, since we were allowed to bring pints over from the neighbouring pub. It speaks to a good attitude on the part Kolamba (and indeed the pub), but does mean that diners should normally expect to stump up a bit more if they do want drinks.

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Anon

Shirani & Amrita
28 February 2020  

Been to Kolamba twice in the last 10 days.  Had such delicious meals both times.  Specially enjoyed the hoppers and monk fish curry, but the cutlets top it all!  Will definitely be visiting often....

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S H

Brilliant!!
21 November 2019  

A lovely find just off regent street. Great atmosphere, smells incredible!  Delightful staff who offered great advice and helped us with our order. The food was really delicious, so tasty. Gorgeous beef and the lentils were particularly amazing. Will def go again, thank you!!

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REDR

REDR
12 November 2019  

If you love Sri Lankan food then this is the place to go.  Loved the curries, hoppers, sambals and chutneys. Great atmosphere and great value

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RanilB

Authentic Sri Lankan in the heart of Soho
20 October 2019  

Really authentic Sri Lankan food, with an amazing array of vegetables and sambols, typically not found in the UK or outside of Sri Lanka for that matter.  Would recommend the Gotukola Sambol, Polos (  Young Jackfruit) Curry and the Kalu Pol Pork Curry. Order lots of dishes, Sri Lankan styles,  is my recomendation. All delicious! We went in their first week, during the soft launch, for lunch....was awesome and can't wait to go again! 

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LAddison

Wonderful Evening
17 October 2019  

Wonderful experience dining at Kolamba. The staff were very friendly and food delicious.

Would highly recommend!

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PN

A culinary delight!!
16 October 2019  

This gem of a restaurant is an absolute MUST for anyone looking for a dining experience which ticks all the boxes. As a Sri Lankan who is no stranger to the fantastic flavours of good old fashioned home cooked food, I am able to confidently state that Kolamba delivered a home away from home culinary experience. 
Every dish which I tried from the pollos patties, cutlets, hot butter cuttlefish and chatti roast starters to the mains of jaggery beef curry, parripu, kalu pol pork, turmeric and curry leaf rice and pol roti were nothing short of delicious. The food was full of flavour yet balanced to perfection. 
The coconut and lime sorbet was just the right palate cleansing finale. 
The cocktails were shaken and stirred to perfection and beautifully presented. My favourite was the Kadju Sour!

The staff are helpful and friendly and the ambiance was just right. 
I cannot wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!!!

 

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