Colombo, Sri Lanka places to eat: Six of the best cafes

BLACK CAT

This hip cafe occupies the ground floor of a 1920s-era mansion in upmarket Cinnamon Gardens, the Mosman/Toorak of Colombo, which was recently transformed into a B&B. Upstairs are five high-ceilinged minimalist rooms. Downstairs, the cafe is all retro velvet couches and young freelancers working on laptops at wooden tables or on the sunny, tiled terrace. Black Cat's drawcards are its hip and healthy breakfast menu, which includes a smashed avocado-and-poached egg dish called The Downpayment (for a very Gen Y-friendly 900 rupees, about $8), and the artisanal Temple Grounds coffee; they even do flat whites. See blackcatcolombo.com

T-LOUNGE BY DILMAH

Lounge by Dilmah Chatham St Colombo SatMar23Six - SIX OF THE BEST Colombo cafes - text Louise Southerden
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Photo: MaLaKa Mp

Sri Lanka's best-known tea brand has two "t-Lounges" in Colombo and several more internationally. Situated in the historic Fort district, the Chatham Street lounge is an inviting space with comfy leather chairs as well as bar seating, friendly waiters in candy-striped waistcoats and quotes from Dilmah founder Merrill J Fernando printed on the exposed brick walls. Your tea arrives in a pot with a timer to ensure the perfect strength and the inventive menu includes tea mocktails, bubble teas, tea faludas (rosewater-flavoured Sri Lankan sundaes) and "tea with a touch of kitsch" – single region Ceylon tea served with hot, frothy condensed milk infused with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and lemongrass. There's also comfort food such as pies and pizzas, toasties and tea-infused dishes. Earl Grey chocolate ice-cream, anyone? See dilmaht-lounge.com/sri-lanka

CAFE KUMBUK

Cafe Kumbuk  SatMar23Six - SIX OF THE BEST Colombo cafes - text Louise Southerden
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Photo: TAVISH GUNASENA

Sharing a colonnaded building with Prana Lounge yoga studio, Kumbuk is popular with Colombo's expat Lululemon set. It's light and airy with white walls, high ceilings, plants galore and communal wooden tables, and the menu is a wholefood song sheet of local, seasonal and organic dishes (vegans welcome); even the coffee is locally grown and roasted. When it's too hot for coffee, or tea, there are iced options such as the Kumbuk Colada, a fruit smoothie made with coconut milk, coconut ice-cream, sea salt and toasted coconut flakes, served with a sustainable stainless-steel straw. Out the back is a gift shop selling yoga wear, handicrafts and linen shirts. See cafekumbuk.com

GALLE FACE HOTEL

Galle Face Hotel  SatMar23Six - SIX OF THE BEST Colombo cafes - text Louise Southerden
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Photo: Supplied

It's an institution within an institution: high tea on the verandah of the Galle Face Hotel, built in 1864. Select your beverage from the leather-bound tea menu and it promptly arrives accompanied by a three-tiered, cross-cultural feast of curry puffs and cucumber sandwiches, samosas and scones (said to be the best in Colombo) – for only 1800 rupees (about $13). Of course you can come just for a cuppa, served in the GFH's own china, and perhaps a lime-green Nonya pancake with coconut and mango ice-cream. Either way, the real treat is sitting in a wicker chair under whirring black fans competing with a sea breeze off the Indian Ocean – while the hotel's "crow man" roams the grounds armed with a slingshot to scare away birds, keeping the colonial peace. See gallefacehotel.com

BAREFOOT

Back veranda of the BAREFOOT GALLERY and BAREFOT GARDEN CAFE.  Barefoot, 706, Galle Road, Colombo 3. SRI LANKA. SatMar23Six - SIX OF THE BEST Colombo cafes - text Louise Southerden
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Photo: DOMINIC SANSONI

Save your souvenir shopping for the day you visit Barefoot, established by Sri Lanka-born artist Barbara Sansoni in 1964. The only way to reach this courtyard cafe is to pass through a vast emporium of rainbow-hued cotton, silk and wool placemats and rugs, tablecloths and quilt covers, soft toys and shirts, all ethically hand-made by women outside the city. There's also an art gallery, a bookstore and live jazz on Sundays. The cafe can get touristy, particularly around lunchtime, perhaps because of its predominantly Western menu, but offers a leafy respite from the traffic-choked Galle Road just outside. See barefootceylon.com

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KOPI KADE

Kopi Kade high res - pic by Waruna De Silva SatMar23Six - SIX OF THE BEST Colombo cafes - text Louise Southerden
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Photo: Supplied

Said to serve the best coffee in the city, Kopi Kade ("coffee shop" in Sinhalese and Tamil) showcases the new Colombo with its hip, minimalist interior and espresso, aeropress and pour-over coffees that would do a Melbourne barista proud – not surprising when you learn that the Sri Lankan owner has lived in Melbourne and now trains baristas. Each cup comes with a note about the bean's specs and origins, and the menu features Sri Lankan tapas-style dishes such as paneer (cottage cheese) sliders and salted palm sugar ice-cream. See facebook.com/thekopikade

Louise Southerden travelled with the assistance of G Adventures.

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