Kandy Muslim Hotel
Sri Lankan cuisine is criminally underrated. I can only compare it to Indian food but with more seafood and more spices. Sri Lankan food is hot, hot, hot. One of the hottest meals we had during our time in Sri Lanka was at the tiny locals restaurant in Kandy, Kandy Muslim Hotel. Our guide Padmah tried to warn us when we suggested lunch at Kandy Muslim Hotel that it “was not a restaurant for tourists”. Perfect. Sure enough we were the only non-locals in the place and attracted much good natured attention. The restaurant is fairly scruffy with communal tables and well worn plastic menus. At the front of the restaurant in a little booth a chef stands expertly twirling and twisting dough into roti.
We started by ordering a plate of the roti (R 60) which was paper thin and light. Copying our table mates, we washed our hands before the meal using the jug of water and bowl at the table and then ate our meal with our right hand. Cutlery isn’t generally used in Sri Lanka which takes some getting used to but is quite fun once you get the hang of it. The chicken curry (R 180) comprises a small leg of chicken, dahl and a huge platter of rice reflecting the value of protein in Sri Lanka. The curry is so hot it is almost unbearable, a meal for real curry masochists. Less spicy is the chicken biryani (R 140) where flakes of chicken are scattered amongst rice and quarters of boiled egg.
Curry and condiments
The no frills nature of Kandy Muslim Hotel only added to its appeal. We had a really exciting and interesting meal there for a ridiculously cheap price. Our waiter was incredibly friendly and took time out from his busy afternoon to spend a good amount of time discussing the ins and outs of Ricky Pontings career with MTV boyfriend. A real gem of a place.
Details: Dalada Vidiya, Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve. The equivalent of £3 for lunch for two.
Perched high above the hills of Kandy, Helga’s Folly
has some of the most madcap and eccentric decor you will ever see. The folly is a famous boutique hotel and restaurant although I fear it has seen better days and is looking rather faded. I was glad we were staying elsewhere. The walls are chock full with golden statues of Buddah, Indonesian shadow puppets and deers head fight for position on the walls. It was lucky there was lots to look at as service was creakingly show and we waited over an hour for lunch.
The dining room at Helga’s Folly
The only option we were given for lunch was a set three course lunch for USD$20 a person. This was more than we really wanted to eat for lunch, but we weren’t given any choice. To begin we were served coconut soup in a coconut shell. This was the highlight, creamy with a hint of ginger. From the mains, the tuna and potato fish cakes were the size of small footballs and laced with hot green chillis. I could not even finish one as the chilli hit was masking the stodgy, monotonous taste. A better option was the chicken with sweet potato which featured a generous serve of chicken served with rice and chunks of sweet potato. Still, these unexciting mains were a let down after the delicious soup starter. The whole meal took so long to arrive that we did not have time to stay for dessert (although we were still charged full price for the lunch). Helga’s folly is worth a visit just to see the faded grandeur but it is probably best to just stop for a drink rather than a meal.
Details: Off Mahamaya Mawatha, Kandy, Sri Lanka (Ph +94 814 474 314)
Damage: Budget breaking
The exterior of Kandy House
While in Kandy, we stayed at the Kandy House
, a beautiful old Walawwa which I highly recommend. Dinner was served under the cover of the old verandah surrounded by flickering lanterns in the jungle garden. One night of our stay the chefs cooked a variety of curries for R 2750 (the equivalent of £15 a head). Our table was piled high with a fiery beef curry, a milder, almost creamy cuttle fish curry and a sweet and sour vegetable dish of brinjal moju. Next up came a, so hot it brings tears to your eyes, breadfruit curry along with a beetroot curry, pol sambol and papadams. To finish a fabulously rich mango kulfi studded with nuts. The price of the curries was pretty steep when compared to Kandy Muslim House but given the spectacular setting and atmosphere it was a price that we were happy to pay.
Details: Amunugama, Gunnepana, Kandy, Sri Lanka (Ph +94 81 492 1394). People who are not guests at Kandy House dine there by calling ahead to book.
Tips for Travellers
We stayed at Kandy House which is a boutique hotel housed in an old Walawwa about 20 minutes outside of Kandy. The setting is fantastic, right in the middle of paddy fields and jungle and the house has been restored with beautifully to house only 8 rooms. There is also a fantastic infinity pool that you will never want to leave. It was pricey but luxurious at USD$195 a night.
While in Kandy walk around the lake, visit the brilliantly named Temple of the Sacred Tooth and check out the Kandy botanic gardens.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in the cooking course
we did in Sri Lanka near Galle.