8 Places to eat local in Colombo

To say that food and drink plays a big part in Sri Lankan culture would be the single  greatest understatement in the world. When you are the producer of almost all of the world’s cinnamon and  most of its spices it follows that your cuisine would be pretty darn good. Mix in the Dutch colonial and South Indian influences with centuries of being a trading post and you have a pretty picky bunch of locals when it comes to food. So, here to help you eat local when in Colombo is a short list of restaurants, cafes and after hours joints in the city. Here’s where to eat local in Colombo.

Sunday lunch – Barefoot garden cafe (704 Galle Road, Colombo 3).

Barefoot is somewhat of an institution in Colombo. Nestled in the heart of the city it’s an accessible, vibrant space typical of Colombo. The garden cafe here is consistently packed on Sunday afternoons. Get here earlier than midday on Sunday to grab a table in the shade. Any later and you’ll be sitting under the baking midday sun.

Sunday lunch at Barefoot is popular locals. The freshly cooked food is to die for. Ask to see the specials and the waiters will bring a giant chalk board up to your table. Barefoot is renowned for its black pork curry if you can handle it. However, pretty much everything on the menu is scrumptious. Even on a busy Sunday afternoon the service is quick. Just to make your meal a little more special there’s a live jazz ensemble to entertain you while you eat. This is alfresco dining at it’s best.

What to eat – Chargrilled butterfly prawn salad

What to drink – Lime and mint juice

Spoil yourself – Orange cake and vanilla ice cream.

Mid week lunch – Dutch Burgher Union  (114 Reid Avenue, Colombo 4).

Lamprais in a banana leaf

The Dutch Burgher Union is a gem in Colombo serving great food that’s far too popular for its own good. The Lamprais here is possibly the most authentic that you can buy. Consider the Lamprais a gift from the Dutch Burgher community of Sri Lanka to the rest of us. Traditionally it consists of savoury rice, a mixed meat curry of chicken, beef and pork and vegetable accompaniments baked in a banana leaf. In recent times however, it has been adapted to chicken, mutton or fish only – a testament to its popularity outside the Burgher community where beef and pork maybe avoided. The aroma of the baked banana leaf and all the spices within it will have you salivating while you scramble to open it. Speaking from experience this is also a great hangover cure.

What to order –  Chicken or Mutton Lamprais

What to drink – Lime juice

Spoil yourself – Another lamprais

Short Eat lunch – Fab

Lunch is considered the main meal in Sri Lanka. This is a busy old time in Colombo. Miss the lunch time rush and you will find there is no food left any where in your locality. As such you’ll have to down grade to eating short eats for lunch. If you find yourself in such a predicament hail down the first tuk tuk you see and ask to be taken to the nearest Fab. You will never be too far away from a branch because they are conveniently scattered through out the city.

This chain has the best offering of Sri Lankan short eats. They are usually served as snacks at parties before the main meal. The most popular are cutlets, patties and Chinese rolls; filled meat, fish or veg rolls breadcrumbed or encased in crusty pastry and deep fried. Dip your short eats in the nectar of the Gods that is Sri Lankan chillie sauce for a great alternative to a rice and curry lunch.

What to eat – Cutlets, patties, Chinese rolls.

What to drink – Water

Spoil yourself – Chocolate eclair

Organic Food – The Good Market (http://www.goodmarket.lk)

As the name suggests The Good Market in Colombo is an offering of all things good. As well as local handicrafts, the market offers organically farmed fruit and vegetables, spices and cooked food without additives. There are also stalls representing local charities if you wish to support them. The market happens twice a week – Thursday afternoons in Diyatha Uyana, Battharamulla and Sundays at the Racecourse Grounds, Colombo 7. Both locations are easy to get to. More refreshingly, they will take you off the regular tourist hot spots. You will see people of all backgrounds buying, selling and generally mixing at The Good Market. The range of food here varies from traditional Sri Lankan to tasty cup cakes. More importantly, the food is of the home-cooked variety. Eat small amounts and taste everything. The traditional food stalls are as authentic as you will ever find.

What to eat – Everything

What to drink – Everything

Spoil yourself – A 30 minute massage from the blind therapists at Thusare Talking Hands.

Dinner – Upali’s by Nawaloka (C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha, Colombo 7)

Located in Colombo 7 Upali’s has secured its place in the hungry bellies of Colombo dwellers as the go to for traditional cuisine. Don’t let the impressive building and affluent location put you off. At the heart of this establishment and its success is traditional cookery. Upali’s has established itself in Colombo, where there is no shortage of quality food on offer, due to its village food menu. This is a feat that at best would be a challenge and at worst impossible to pull off on this scale. However, Upali’s succeeds where many have failed.

There’s an extensive menu of traditional food such as pittu, string hoppers and hoppers. That’s before I can even mention the tear jerkingly tasty lunch buffet. You will need to visit more than once to enjoy everything on the menu here. Due to it’s popularity it’s commonly accepted that tables are not readily available particularly in the evenings. However, true to Sri Lankan hospitality, they will never turn a hungry person away. During peak hours, provided there’s enough space, you’ll be escorted to their coffee shop next door where you may order from the restaurant’s menu. I kid you not!

What to order – Hopper special which arrives with two curries and a coconut sambol.

What to drink – Papaya Juice

Spoil yourself – Watalappan

Sri Lankan-Chinese Fusion food – Chinese Dragon Cafe (http://www.chinesedragoncafe.com)

Hot butter cuttle fish and Kun Kung

With a considerable Chinese community, based mainly in the city, Colombo has always been spoilt with magnificent Chinese food. Chinese restaurants in Colombo have been part of the landscape since my childhood. The community has been kind enough to tweak the cuisine to suit local palettes with the use of spices and freshly caught seafood. The result is lethal! This is possibly the reason that Chinese eateries outnumber traditional Sri Lankan eateries in Colombo. They range from 5* restaurants to busy little places with plastic chairs and queues out of the door.

The Chinese Dragon Cafe is a small chain and one of the best known in Colombo. Their take on seafood is not for the lighthearted. This is hardcore fusion cookery. The chillie crab, cuttle fish and prawns will sizzle on your tongue. Eat your seafood with Kun Kung – a local stir fried green which is executed to perfection. Skip the fried rice and eat them together.

What to eat – Hot Butter Cuttle fish and Kun Kung

What to drink – Lime juice

Spoil yourself – Chillie crab

Dinner – Flamingo House and The Love Bar (Horton Place, Colombo 7)

Flamingo House is a recent addition to Colombo’s culinary landscape. It has however, established itself fiercely amongst Colombo’s big players. With decor that is easily set to become one of the most Instagrammed spaces in Colombo, it rivals no other. An absolute credit to Flamingo House is that the same attention to detail has been extended to it’s food. The carefully curated menu is as eclectic as the decor. Order the dim sum and you will get a treat that is as light as a breath which melts on your tongue. If this is your cup of tea, get there on a Sunday for their “Sumday” special – All you can eat dim sum. All day! If you are at Flamingo House for an evening meal spend a little while admiring the space. It looks its best when the sun goes down.

Once you finish your meal carry yourself upstairs to the Love Bar – the hippest venue in Colombo at present. Order yourself a Kalinga Gimlet and dance the night away.

What to eat – Dim Sum

What to drink – Kalinga Gimlet

Spoil yourself – Anything bubbly

8. Pilawoos – After hours (Galle Road, Colombo 3).

No night out is complete without a 3am Milo

Of all the places on my list there are none more typical to eat local in Colombo than the national treasure that is Pilawoos. Serving Sri Lankan street food and open 24 hours, it’s come a long way since its humble beginnings on the sidewalk of Galle Road. It has grown to become an icon of the city’s nightlife. Night clubs have come and gone but mighty Pilawoos survived. Arrive here by car and you need not leave it’s comfort; waiters come to your window. This unique service naturally makes it popular with clubbers and night owls (and drunks). Pull in to the sidewalk at 3am and you will see all of Colombo’s elite hanging out of their car windows ordering Kottu Roti and Milo. Kottu, as it’s commonly known, consists of chopped roti, veg and meat. Cheese is added at your request. Wash this down with an ice cold Milo and you will be more than ready for bed.

What  to eat – Chicken and Cheese Kottu

What to drink – Milo or Iced Milo

Spoil yourself – Don’t

Five ways to power nap like a pro when you’re travelling

When a major part of your life is getting on planes, trains or tuk tuks one thing you take for granted is your lack of sleep. However, If I don’t sleep I am less productive. In fact I’m downright miserable. I am the worst company when I haven’t slept. No fun AT ALL. You get the picture?!

Sleep is integral to our well-being. This is particularly true if we are on the road for long periods at a time. Any regular sleep pattern is obliterated after your third flight. Late schedules, time zones, varying temperatures, crying babies and crying parents can wreak havoc with sleep.

In a recent interview, Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution, offered some great advice on sleep and wellbeing for frequent travellers. It got me thinking about my own sleep hacks which I hope you too find useful in your travels:

1. Have a sleep-kit at the ready

I can never fall asleep if my toes aren’t toasty. So my sleep-kit consists of a pair of socks, ear plugs and an eye mask. I roll everything up in my socks and have it in an outside pocket of my carry-on luggage. This works well whether I’m on a plane, train or car. You can also add a neck pillow to yours.

2. Wind down with a book

Pack a Kindle. There are hundreds of great books available as downloads at a fraction of the cost of a paperback. Kindles weigh nothing and can hold a library of books and fit into your handbag or backpack easily. Reading for a little while before your nap will help you wind down for it.

3. Carry your own snacks

After your third fight on a single journey there’s only so much airline food you can stomach. I always carry my own snacks and where possible, water. Adjust your snack pack depending on the length of time you will be in the air; more snacks for a long-haul and fewer for short-haul. I rarely wait for meals to be served on a flight. I’d rather sleep instead. Inform the stewards that you do not want your meal, fasten your seatbelt and SLEEP!

  4. Schedule a nap in to your day

If you don’t manage your forty winks on the flight try to plan some sleepy time for when you arrive. Power naps are great for pacing yourself and slowing things down. Ask for a quiet room when you check in to your hotel. There’s nothing worse than a party next door when you’re exhausted and trying to rest. I’ve been there too many times to mention!

5. Put away your electronics

I prefer not to wake up to an alarm when I’m travelling. I always book a wake up call if the service is available which means I don’t need my phone next to me. So before I sleep, whether it’s a nap or I’m down for the night, I plug my phone and laptop away from my bed. This means I resist the temptation to scroll social media while I’m trying to fall asleep.

Happy napping!




What’s good Singapore!

As a frequent traveller I can say that I have passed through a few airports in my time. They generally do not stick in my mind for any reason. However, as far as airports go Changi airport is a monster! It was voted the World’s Best Airport (Skytrax 2016). It’s certainly easy to see why. There are grand open spaces with sculptures, art, massage chairs and hundreds and hundreds of shops. If you really wanted to you could possibly spend a couple of days there. The single most memorable thing about Changi airport? Baby changing facilities in the men’s washrooms. Talk about progressive.

Travel and guidebooks list lots to do in Singapore. However, as with any short stay planning your time well is key because this is a great big place. I had no intention of doing everything on my list. So I chose Gardens by the Bay due to it’s proximity to my hotel. There’s a real “otherworldly” sense about Singapore. It’s certainly true here. These vertical gardens are set on reclaimed land and stretch an impressive 250 acres. They look and feels more like a feat in architecture and engineering than in gardening. If you would like a better view of the gardens you can purchase a ticket for the train which takes you up to an elevated walkway. Visitors can walk between each of the 5 vertical gardens.

If you really love gardens then by all means walk the walk.

If you like a little grit every now and again go to Chinatown. It’s vastly underrated in the guidebooks. As the name suggests, Chinatown Food Street is packed full of street food stalls. How many dumplings can you eat in an hour? Well, go find out! The food stalls are packed with locals – a sure fire sign that you’re onto a good thing.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Chinatown you will also find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It’s a place of worship for Singaporeans as much as it is a museum for travellers and tourists. Standing majestically in the middle of Chinatown it offers a glimpse of everyday life in Singapore.

As with all Buddhist temples you will need to be dressed modestly before you enter. Don’t worry if you find yourself in shorts like I did. Thankfully, cover ups are provided. With 5 floors filled with beautiful and curious objects there is enough here to make your entire trip worthwhile.


The ceiling of the grand hall on the ground floor is decorated with hundreds of gold lanterns. Thousands of tiny carved  identical statues of Buddha are inserted into the walls. Each Buddha has been individually carved by a different sculptor and is marked with a unique serial number. Each room is home to colourfully decorated statues. You can purchase flowers and incense from the temple premises as offerings for the Buddha.

There is a lift to all the floors which is handy. The mezzanine floor gives a great view of the main hall below. There is also a wax works museum of prominent monks of Asia on this floor. There is an outdoor garden housing the prayer wheel on the fourth floor. The garden is a riot of colourful orchids. Flowers bloom in abundance here due to the humid climate.

The top floor houses the tooth relic of the Buddha. It sits behind a glass screen in a golden casket. There were lots of people meditating on this floor and no photography was allowed. It took me over an hour to see everything inside this temple. If you are planning a visit make sure you give yourself plenty of time too.

On a broader note, public transport in Singapore is amazing. It’s punctual, affordable and clean. So getting around any where is easy and stress free. There is an endless list of things to do here. It has the feeling of a giant theme park where the fun never ends if you can keep up. There are water parks, night safaris, bird parks and light shows. Millions of dollars have no doubt been spent constructing them. And they truly are impressive.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat! There are places I have since read up on such as Kampong Glam and Pulau Ubin that I would love to explore. Another trip might be in order!


Demi xx

Travel tip: I travelled to Singapore from Colombo on a 3 night package deal booked with Hema’s Travels, Colombo, Sri Lanka. 


Sundowners in Dubrovnik.

You can hardly open a newsfeed without seeing alluring pictures of Dubrovnik simply calling you to jump on a plane. The music festivals, the cruise ships and the tv series all keep this part of Croatia firmly on the tourist trails. According to the locals, ”The season” starts in February and ends in October. I am not a fan of big crowds or selfie sticks where they are not needed. So, being the maverick I am I travelled to Dubrovnik in January.

As I arrived around 10pm local time nothing was open and the streets were deserted. However, getting a taxi just outside the airport was easy and felt safe. My driver was remarkably chirpy for someone who was still working at 10pm.

As late as it was I could make out the coast line from the back of my taxi. The flickering lights of houses and hotels on the cliffs made the whole place seem magical. I was like a like a child on Christmas eve by the time I arrived at my hotel. I woke up to a view beyond my dreams. The sky seemed so close I could touch it. The sea was as calm as a lake and the rays of the sun filtered through the clouds. In the light of day I could see that the hotels and houses built on the cliffs had taken nothing away from it’s natural beauty. A real credit to the Croatians and a great lesson to the rest of us.

My hotel, Rixos Libertas, is a grand place boasting it’s own boutiques, gym, spa and indoor and outdoor pools. From anywhere in the hotel it was possible to see breath taking views of the Adriatic sea. The service here was amazing. No sleepy porters here! The staff have incredible local knowledge and are happy to help at any time of the day. Kudos to the chefs and the kitchen staff who turned out the most sumptuous feasts every evening despite it being out of season and the hotel having just a handful of guests. Standards never slipped.

The must see  sight in Dubrovnik is Grad or The Old Town. I won’t bore you listing all the things you should do and see here. As with all major tourist hotspots there are hundreds of guide books listing the same things over and over. What I will say however, is as a Unesco World Heritage site The Old Town is not just well preserved but a close knit hive of schools, offices, shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a buzzing metropolis. With the help of my map I walked around the Old Town in less than two hours. As it was out of season a few places on the map were closed or under renovation. But there was still so much to see.

The highlight of my walking trip was definitely St. Ignatius Church right at the very top of the old Town. It’s towering presence on the outside is no match for it’s humbling interior. Go in and sit for a while. Let it soak you in it’s history. The centuries old Baroque frescoes will draw you gently into their past until you find yourself searching in every crevice with child like wonder.

Walk down to the bottom of The Old Town and you will find the Serbian Orthodox Church. In Contrast to St. Ignatius the most striking feature of this church is it’s orchard. Stone corridors open out into the courtyard. The immaculate garden here is surrounded by trees heavy with oranges glistening in the sunshine even in January. In the summer months this place must feel like the garden of Eden.

Another highlight in Dubrovnik is its City Walls. Walking the city walls is a must. It takes around 40 minutes to complete but every minute spent up there is worth it. As the light changes you will be treated to spectacular views of Dubrovnik. On one side the view stretches from the coast across the ocean as far as the horizon. On the other side it starts at the edge of the city walls right up towards the mountains as far as your eyes can see. Just when you think this place couldn’t spoil you any more it does.

There is no shortage of places to eat in The Old Town. You can find coffee shops, restaurants and bars down any one of the narrow cobbled streets. Eating outside appears to be the norm. You cannot ignore the Mediterranean ambience of this place. Ever the maverick, I stopped off at a an Irish pub – The Gaffe! The staff were attentive and the coffee was perfect. However, the buzzy atmosphere and live football coverage means this is not the place for a quiet drink.

You will never be hungry in the narrow cobbled streets of Grad.

In the evening The Old Town simply comes alive. I stopped off for a sundowner at the Buza Bar. This you MUST do. I am a sucker for view of the sunset and have been known to sit and wait for hours! (Sad but true). The bar is set on a cliff side with a panoramic view of the sea. Entrance to the bar is through a literal hole in the wall hence it’s name (Buza means “hole” in the local dialect). This is also a local swimming spot when the weather is warmer if you’re that way inclined.

The thing I would most recommend doing in Dubrovnik is walking. Yes, walk! Walk as much as you can to really take this place in. Let it get under your skin. Or rather get under it’s skin. Talk  to the buskers, the teenagers kissing on benches, the strangers. Ask for directions and listen to the patient responses in return. Watch the kids play and  the adults laugh. Eat the pastries in the local bakeries along your walk. Drink the local wine. Do the things which aren’t listed in your guidebook. I guarantee you will not want to leave.


Demi xx

Travel tip: Go out of season and get the place to yourself. I travelled from London Gatwick on Croatia Airlines and stayed at the Rixos Libertas Hotel.