A Fusion of Spices


There are plenty of places to eat down south no doubt, but when you head towards Ahangama, your choices tend to be very limited. Whilst many of the dining spots steer towards either local cuisine or the typical Sri Lankan favourites like pizza and pasta, Spice Lane brings a fresh outlook on fusion gourmet food.

Aimed at the every day traveller as much as the local foodie, it is a food nook that is located in Kabalana, on the southern coast of the island, the restaurant is headed by Chef Nav, who hails from Sydney, Australia.  

Open only for lunch and dinner, all days of the week except for Mondays, the meals served at the restaurant are created with an emphasis on the many spices found in Sri Lanka. From the local favourite cinnamon to aromatic nutmeg, fresh coriander to cumin, there’s attention to what each spice brings out of each dish; whether it’s the simple yet flavoursome appetizers or the scrumptious mains.


Having been to the Spice Lane a couple of times myself, here’s what I’d recommend and suggest you give a try and why; the trevally ceviche (includes a fresh mango purée that adds a tangy flavour and served with papadums), the pol roti tacos with prawn, homemade lunu miris and curry mayo sauce (which also happens to be a major favourite amongst other diners), roasted chicken marinated in spices and treacle (served with sweet potato mash flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg and yet another homemade curry sauce) and the beef burger (made of a freshly made pattie, garnished with melted cheese and eggplant served on a homemade brioche bun with sweet potato fries and garlic aioli). Each dish has been carefully crafted, ensuring flavours fuse together to create a mouthwatering experience with each bite.

From homemade pasta (ravioli) to in-house baked brioche buns, freshness and the best in quality is what Spice Lane prides itself upon. The atmosphere at the restaurant is very relaxed and easy-going. There are no fancy trimmings of décor but the simplicity is quite appealing.

Chef Nav is self-taught and passionate about food and serves what he calls modern Sri Lankan inspired fusion cuisine, using fresh local seasonal ingredients. Having spent his early childhood on the island, his culinary influences are a combination of local flavours and produce, and modern Australian cuisine. His aspiration to introduce a different approach to food, while sticking to a certain level of authenticity is what gave birth to Spice Lane.


Photography by Christian Hutter

 

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TacoCat Colombo


Are you a taco or burrito lover? If yes, then you need to head over to TacoCat!  

TacoCat is a pop up space operating out of Black Cat Colombo, for those who have ben wondering as to where they operate. They serve Mexican food, the basics really – tacos, burritos and nude bowls. If you think you love the food served at fast food joints like Taco Bell or Let’s Taco, you’ll need to revise your Mexican food palette as TacoCat is as authentic as it gets in Colombo.  Stepping inside, your eyes would gravitate towards the colourful pink walls. It’s got a quirky vibe to it and comes across as a more funked up space than a chilled out café or diner. Priced at Rs. 999 for three tacos, or one burrito or a nudie bowl, I think they’ve hit the nail right on the head. And oh, if you happen to go by on Taco Tuesdays, you’ll get each item for just Rs. 299! Having decided to go there on an impulse, my friend and I realized it was unfortunately a Wednesday, ha!

As said, the menu is pretty basic but who wants a complicated menu any way? Customers can pick between three fillings for each items; beed, chicken or beans. My friend opted to have the three tacos with three different fillings and I opted for the burrito.


Each taco got filled with purple slaw, tomato salsa, coriander, cheese and pineapple. The beef taco got the garlic aioli sauce, the chicken taco got the snake chili sauce and the beef taco got the tomato salsa sauce. My burrito was filled with lettuce, purple slaw, tomato salsa, coriander, cheese, red rice, and topped with tomato salsa sauce.

Now, if you’re going to pin point a couple of authenticity details let me be frank with you and inform you that the tortillas are not made of corn but of wheat. Still, I’d say it’s a pretty decent alternative. The tacos nor the burrito were heated prior to serving but this isn’t something that bothers me. I do realize however that some customers might want it that way though.


They do serve up vegan and vegetarian alternatives to the meaty tacos and burritos but unfortunately there isn’t something for seafood lovers. Perhaps it could be something to add to the menu later on.  

There are a couple of picnic benches under lofty summer umbrellas so we both decided to enjoy our lunch over there. The bean filled tacos wasn’t exactly something I’d prefer but I did like the garlic aioli sauce which added a nice flavour to it. The beef and chicken tacos however were super delicious. A change of sauces added a good punch to each bite. My burrito on the other hand was another hit and I greedily munched into it in a matter of minutes. Can’t really explain how good it tasted so I’d just recommend you go try it out yourself.

There aren’t any beverages or desserts on the menu but Black Cat is literally a door away so no qualms there to be honest.

TacoCat is located at No. 11 Wijerama Road and closed on Mondays.

Nomad

Nomadic, minimalistic vibes are the rave and yes, even in a tropical country like Sri Lanka, you’d find homes, hotels and even restaurants picking up on the trend and following the simplicity in their individual concepts.  Nomad is no different – well, maybe slightly. It’s a restaurant/cafe located on the surfer hotspot down south outskirts of Weligama. Even before it had properly opened doors, the food nook was creating great content on social media and attracting the attention of everyone in the southern coast all the way up to Hikkaduwa. Yep, that’s the power of social media and yep, their photos definitely hit the right spots.

Traveling down south on work or even for a mini weekend getaway means I also get to visit many of the new food spots that are popping up on the southern coast, including this one. Nomad opens doors every day from 8am to 3pm, except on Tuesday when the team takes a day off. It isn’t too hard to find either, and the place is a familiar sound on the tongues of the people in the area so you won’t have a tough time finding it.

Stepping inside is like walking into a homey and cozy atmosphere. The vibe, like their name, is minimalistic. There are no fancy tables and chairs, décor on the wall and expensive looking bits and bobs to decorate the space. Everything is kept in theme with the name.

There’s plenty of seating right at the front, which includes a small verandah as well, and further at the back garden. It’s a hot and sunny day so it’s the back garden with low crate tables, large flat cushions and a tent over our heads for my first visit. The prints on the cushions give off a moroccan vibe but it blends well with the basic beige and white cotton cloths over the head. Unfortunately there are a couple of flies that hover around, but one member of the team rushes over and lights a few incense sticks to ward them off. It doesn’t necessarily do the trick but I overlook it and give the menu a glance.

It’s a brunch menu that includes smoothie bowls, wholesome food and also teas, coffee and cakes. I wouldn’t call it a simple menu because the items on the pages are making my mouth water as I read. No complaints whatsoever though. As hungry as can be, my friend and I order our brunch beverages first. He picked out the Kickstarter which includes an espresso shot, cacao, dates, cashews, coconut milk, vanilla and cinnamon for Rs. 550 and I chose an iced tea with lemongrass and ginger for Rs. 450.

As our mains we decided to get items that could be shared, so he picked out the avocado on toast with two additional poached eggs for Rs. 1,250 and I opted for the shakshuka on toast for Rs. 1,000. The prices are non-inclusive of a 10% service charge; just to note. Personally, I’d have to admit the prices do seem quite steep.

The beverages arrived first, and unfortunately I did not like my iced tea very much. It lacked a bit of flavour in both parts of the lemongrass and ginger. The Kickstarter however was a surprising super hit. It was a somewhat thick blend, not too sweet and had excellent taste. I’m not quite sure how long the food took to be served, but it wasn’t too long for us to notice. Presentation is certainly on point – both brunch meals looks absolutely divine by appearance. There was a great deal of colour that was very appealing and I couldn’t wait to dig in after taking a couple of hurried photos.

I’m not sure how they got a hold of fresh avocado (because it was supposedly out of season) but it tasted yummy atop the toasted bread, together with the poached eggs (which were well done, runny in the centre) topped with cucumber, pickled onions, cilantro and pomegranate. The shakshuka did not disappoint either and was served quite differently; atop two slices of toast. I didn’t mind the change because every bite was full of flavour. As much as I’d have liked to try either the chia pudding or the zoodles (zucchini noodles), we were too full to even opt for a sweet treat. I’ve plenty of reasons to head back there for more.

PS – Nomad is run by two lovely ladies from Barcelona, Spain.

The café interior section is also home to a little boutique that houses artisan craft and clothing items.

Coco Veranda

Everyone has a favourite hangout in town. Mine (for pretty much since its inception)has been Coco Veranda.

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Coco V

That’s what it looks like from the outside. It’s located at No. 32 Ward Place, Colombo 7. To be honest, the space isn’t all too large but is cosy and neat.

I love two things about this place – oki on second thought maybe three: firstly I love that the food and drinks are always so good. Consistency is great and customers are hardly ever disappointed. Secondly the oh so friendly staff who are pretty much like friends to me. Lastly I simply love that its located just a street away from where I live!

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Black coffee to wake you up!

Here’s what I love on their menu – my favourites might be extensive but hey that’s gonna give you a wide range of choices if you ever do want to try it out! The chicken peri peri sandwich comes in a baguette or ciabatta filled with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, a couple of onions for zest and dynamite tossed up chicken slices. For those who love spicy food, give this a try. I’d recommend you try it along with a fabulous strawberry mojito. Non alcoholic! 

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Refreshing iced tea

They keep introducing new items on their menu every month or so there’s always something great to look forward to. Last night I tried out a new addition – a kiwi and apple crush. I loved the tanginess of the kiwi and the fruity apple combination. As a chilled drink, this is something that would melt away the heat and make you feel totally refreshed. I’m also a huge fan of iced teas so anything from lemon to peach is damn good enough for me!

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Zesty beverages

Do give their salads a try; the strawberry salad is a must. I also favour the saffron rice with chicken satay for a light lunch. The peanut sauce is perfect unlike in some other restaurants that just can’t get it right.  They’d also personalise certain items on the menu so you can turn a creamy prawn pasta into a chilli spicy one like I do whenever I go there for an early dinner. Pair it with their deluxe white chocolate frappe and you’re set.

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Yummilicous!
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Spicy rice

You can’t leave without trying some of their desserts! The famous death by chocolate is a rich chocolaty cake but I’d also recommend you try each and every one of their mouth watering cheesecakes. My favourite is the passion fruit one. Their banofee is something I can’t speak for because I’m not a banana fan but I do have plenty of friends who simply love it.

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Passionately passion fruit

Other snack type of foods include tacos – they do a vegetarian version as well as a non vegetarian one with minced meat. It could pass for a light lunch but the average Sri Lankan will find it not too filling. The creamy pumpkin soup is an ideal appetizer if you decide to pair it with a healthy salad. I like having rice in the afternoons so I usually go for a tossed up rice and curry – Coco style! Newly introduced on their menu is also the jollof rice (South African apparently) and their spicy mixed rice (also vegetarian)as part of their daily lunch offers.

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Juicy burger

They also have an outlet at Crescat Boulevard located at Colpetty and next to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Do hope on over and you’ll definitely keep going back! 🙂

Have a great day all! ♡

*ps – pix courtesy Coco Veranda