Kandy (Gourmet Chick in Sri Lanka)

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.

Roti making
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.
Helga’s Folly
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.

Fish cakes
Details: Off Mahamaya Mawatha, Kandy, Sri Lanka (Ph +94 814 474 314)
Damage: Budget breaking
Kandy House

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.
Mango kulfi
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.
Damage: Pricey
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.


  1. I kind of doubt my journeys will ever take me to Sri Lanka, but if they do, I wouldn’t mind that desert ;).My new blog went up today and I am so excited. Stop by and check out my brand new and improved site daaaahling. I want to know what you think. I’m also doing a fab give away.
    *kisses* HH

  2. Sri Lankan food sounds exactly my sort of thing, I love spicy and I love seafood. Great pictures too.

  3. Your trip looks fascinating! Loved the photos – felt like I was whisked far away from rainy London for a few minutes!

  4. The food looks amazing, and freshly made roti is always a treat. I do love eating with my hands – once you commit to it, it’s so much more intimate and textural and fun. I love the quote by Charmaine Solomon on Gourmet Safari where she said “eating with cutlery is like having sex through a translator” or words to that effect!

  5. I love when ‘really local’ places work out, complete with above-and-beyond-friendly service. It just makes the whole trip seem better.

    and I also dislike when “cool” places are a letdown, so I feel your pain about Helga’s Folly.

    Looking forward to more posts about Sri Lanka!

  6. Please check out my new and improved blog. It just went up yesterday. I’d love to know what you think. Plus you can enter my giveaway for Amazon books 🙂
    *kisses* HH

  7. Heavenly Housewife – good news on your blog.

    Sarah – It is a great combination I have to say.

    LexEat – Thanks it does seem a world away now.

    Helen – That’s a great quote – I love it.

    American in London – Yes Helga’s Folly has had its time sadly.

  8. Excellent post – Sri Lankan food is not something I have extensive knowledge of, but it sounds delicious. Congratulations on your nuptials!

  9. It all looks gorgeous – I went to Sri Lanka some years ago in my pre-kids days and I’d love to go back – very gentle people. I’m surprised at the high prices you mention though – although I guess you were splashing out for being on honeymoon, but even so, it’s practically UK prices

  10. Lizzie – I didn’t know much about it either before our trip I have to admit – apparently there are a few Sri Lankan restaurants in London which I will have to check out.

    Heather – We were splashing out because we were on our honeymoon although these were certainly not UK prices – the sort of accomodation and meals you got for that price would buy you nothing close in the UK. I think that in Sri Lanka you can either live very cheaply or else it is relatively expensive, there is not much inbetween.

  11. Helga’s Folly Food. Yes, once I experienced a delay from kitchen to table but the ambience and charm of this hidden gem more than made up for the wait. The food is delicious ! Plus the knowledge that delays are de rigeur anywhere in Sri Lankan restaurants should really be appreciated by diners. So I feel this was an unfair comment (generally).

  12. Interesting reviews here. I go to Kandy once a year and always stay at Helgas Folly. I have eaten at many hotels around the town and always found that what’s on offer in the menu is very samey. At Helgas Folly one is proferred a large scroll with a vast choice. Very different.But then so is Helga’s Folly. This isn’t a hotel – if anything it’s anti-hotel. Yes, the kitchen can take ages but not always. To stay and eat here is rather like being invited into someone’s personal house. Helga’s is a unique place…….so is she. Like Marmite – love it or hate it – but check out the vast doodle books on the tables and you will see excatly who loves it. You will be surprised and amazed. Add your own doodle to and be a part of history. Enjoy ! Chill. Take time to really let Helgas Folly get under your skin – its Sri Lanka’s answer to Babington House. Like fine wine, do not hurry your experience here.

  13. As a sri lankan, who regularly visits the place the no frills, good cheap food offered by The Muslim Hotel definitely does appeal. Must give it a try when im there next. The disappointing thing about Sri Lankan restaurants in London is that most seem to cater for people who also like Indian food.

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