Sri Lanka’s magic explodes through its sizzling seafood curries flash-tempered with aromatic spices and served in some of the country’s best restaurants.
From curries, kottu rotis to hoppers – Sri Lanka trumps as a flavour-filled destination that should be on every seafood lover’s itinerary. Sharing a close affinity to South Indian cuisine and staying true to its tropical location, Sri Lankan dishes are all about coconut, fresh fish and a big dash of spices. Fondly known as the ‘Island of Rice and Curry’, delve into a vibrant smorgasbord of rich crab, prawn, fish and lamb curries. Prepare to be taken on an epicurean journey with our guide to the best restaurants in Sri Lanka and their must-try dishes.
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Ministry of Crab, Colombo
The island nation of Sri Lanka is hugged by ocean waters that are a haven for crustaceans big and small. A regular feature in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants since 2015, Ministry of Crab invites you to indulge in an epic crustacean feast, with crabs, prawns and clams being the highlight. Co-founded by renowned chef-restaurateur Dharshan Munidasa and Sri Lankan cricketers, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, Ministry of Crab celebrates the culinary homecoming of the famed lagoon crab.
Choose from 10 different crab sizes – from the 500-gram crab to the fierce two kilo ‘Crabzilla’ and prepare for a flavourful and juicy feast. Sample their star dish, the chilli crab, made from Dharshan’s secret recipe and generously cooked in fiery Sri Lankan red chillies, or go gentle with a succulent butter crab. Moreover, the restaurant prides itself in offering the freshest of seafood with a no-freezer policy.
Must-try dishes: garlic chilli crab.
Make all your seafood cravings come true at Ocean, a restaurant located in The Kingsbury Hotel serving dishes featuring crabs, prawns, cuttlefish and oysters. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the stingray baked in banana leaf and served with Assam seafood paste or savour squid stuffed with crab meat. Other dishes include mussels cooked in white wine and garlic butter and lagoon crabs made into a classic Sri Lankan curry. Be sure to end things on a sweet note with a honey-glazed baked yoghurt with flamed orange, or delve into a triple chocolate mousse, served in a crispy tuile cup. Happy feasting!
Must-try dish: squid stuffed with crab meat.
Featuring treasured local recipes, Upali’s channels the perfect blend of Sri Lankan flavours. A labour of love by Upali Dharmadasa, Upali’s – boasting a second location in Melbourne – offers a home-away-from-home dining experience through its wide variety of local dishes. Within a stone’s throw of the serene Viharamaha Devi Park and the iconic Town Hall, Upali’s is a legendary dining destination. Enticing you with rich Sri Lankan flavours, try the unique seven-in-one vegetable curry or the maalu oluwa (fish head curry) cooked in a coconut curry broth and their mutton varuwal. For classic Sri Lankan fare, sample the parippu (a traditional lentil dish), egg hoppers or indulge in a grand feast with Upali's lunch set menu featuring delicacies like coconut sambol and dry fish curried with red chilli.
Must-try dish: maalu oluwa (fish head curry).
The Gallery Café, Colombo
The unique setting of The Gallery Café at Paradise Road has been featured in the Australian Gourmet Traveller, New York Times and Conde Nast Traveller. This stylish restaurant houses a constant rotation of art exhibitions featuring both budding and established artists to create a surreal dining experience. Once the office of world-renowned Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa, this transformed gallery-restaurant offers a romantic escape with an alfresco courtyard, a pond dotted with lily pads and glimmering candelabras.
Relish simple Sri Lankan delicacies like a hearty prawn curry or a black pork curry, with refreshing tiki cocktails at this chic café that dabbles well across both local and international cuisines. Don’t forget to indulge in a neat sugar rush with a tall list of 30 desserts to choose from – think jaggery crème brûlée, mocha pot and a good ol’ pecan pie!
Must-try dish: jaggery crème brûlée.
A Minute by Tuk-Tuk, Galle
Picture yourself sitting on a large veranda overlooking the Indian Ocean and enjoying a balmy breeze as you feast on a delightful platter of seafood kottu roti. Paying homage to the three-wheeler tuk tuk, this quirky restaurant enjoys a scenic location, a 10-minute walk from the historic Galle Fort and is especially renowned for its unique recipes. Let your tastebuds enjoy a classic black pork curry tempered with Sri Lankan spices or experience a flavour-fest with a classic prawn curry with coconut sambol. The tuna steak is another must-try when at this seaside restaurant. While you’re at it, be sure to enjoy a fruity, tropical cocktail (or two) and catch an epic sunset over the ocean.
Must-try dish: prawn curry.
Ready to visit? Soak in the sun-kissed splendour, feast on the best seafood delicacies and explore the historic port town with a stay at the five-star Radisson Blu Resort Galle.
How does a colonial-era spice warehouse with dimly lit 16th-century walls sound like for a unique dining experience? Welcome to Fortaleza Hotel Galle’s lavish restaurant in Galle where fresh seafood is roasted on charcoal embers, tender meat is grilled, and Middle Eastern-inspired mezze platters are served. As historic as the building and the port city of Galle itself, Fortaleza retains an old-world charm and features a leafy courtyard setting. For seafood lovers, this is another joyful affair as Fortaleza specialises in tiger prawn delicacies, seared tuna with wasabi and spicy chilli crab preparations, that will leave you wanting more.
Must-try dish: seared tuna with wasabi.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out Seas the Day: The Six Best Beaches in Sri Lanka.