What's the draw?
Wade through the crowds of Kingly Street to Kolamba: a restaurant that's been lying supine since its opening, biding time and waiting for you to walk through its doors. Which you should. Because when you do enter Kolamba, the first thing that'll smack your senses are the ambrosial waves of sweet tamarind and nostril-singing mustard seeds wafting from the open kitchen. Owners Eroshan and Aushi Meewella have crafted a Sri Lankan menu here inspired by their upbringing in Colombo and the space – a design collaboration between Studio Fils and Whitebox London – is sharp and chic without sacrificing any of the warmth you'd want from a neighbourhood restaurant.
What to drink?
The drinks list at Kolamba is sufficiently infused with Sri Lankan flavours – well stocked with local spirits like Colombo No.7 Gin and Ceylon Arrack as well as ice-cold bottles of Lion Lager. A Bentota Bittersweet (Colombo No.7 Gin, coconut water, ginger beer, and Angostura bitters) is easy to knock back and tastes almost healthy. A real taste of Colombo is also made front and centre in the 1948 – a pour where vanilla-infused Ceylon Arrack, curry leaves, jaggery and Himalayan salt are given free reign to ping it across your palate to one another. Considering the cocktails have been developed by the ever-brilliant Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, we can't say we're surprised by their adroitness.
What to eat?
Dishes all arrive at once, giving the meal a communal-eating feel. We'd recommend starting your feast with Nailini's fish cutlets; a dish named after Nalini Meewella that highlights how being a dab hand in the kitchen seems to run in the Meewella clan. Those deep-fried breaded balls – a traditional Sri Lankan short eat inspired by Dutch bitterballen – are stuffed with a redolent and spicy pilchard mixture that sets your tongue alight and sets the tone for the rest of the great meal. Aunty Mo's 'chatti' roast (another recipe borrowed from a talented family member) shines as sticky sweet dry-fried morsels of beef sprawl themselves comfortably on a bed of idiyappam. Yellow monkfish curry ensures its fish remains flaky and its sweet flavour isn't overpowered by the bright and fragrant pool it wallows in. Vegetarian dishes are also given room to stretch their legs. Parripu – a Sri Lankan version of daal – is warming and hearty while Kolamba's fresh and aromatic polos curry shows what a jackfruit is capable of when it's not deep-fried to death and abused as a meat substitute. Add a spoon of fiery tomato sambol to a pol roti flatbread or crisp and chewy hopper to keep your body temp up before cooling off with a kiri pani (a thick set curd swirled with kithul treacle) for dessert.
Small plates from £4.5, cocktails from £9. 21 Kingly Street, W1B 5QA; kolamba.co.uk