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.