Sri Lanka – Kandy

With only one night in Kandy, you’d think we’d have done a bit more research, but that’s not our style. With temples on offer and storms forecast for the afternoon, we decided to head straight out and have a wonder. What an assault on your senses – Kandy is a little bit manic.

Cars, tuk tuks, buses and scooters everywhere. No one following any rules and non-stop horns beeping. We quickly escaped into the Secret Alley Cafe for a cooling iced coffee made with coconut milk and cinnamon. Other people clearly had the same idea as it quickly filled up and was obviously a tourist bolt hole.

Nearing lunch time but not feeling particularly hungry, we braved the streets once again. An old guy helped us cross the road to then tell us he was from Surrey and would like to show us his kitchenware shop…err, no thanks.

Making our escape, we headed for the lake which is in the centre of Kandy and an easy walk around. Feeling a bit despondent we remembered our friends Hannah and Chris recommended a rooftop bar nearby, Slightly Chilled.

We headed straight there and ordered a couple of beers and some cashew nuts. The menu was Chinese influenced and we got very excited to see they served dumplings. Another round of beers and a portion of dumplings ordered. Happy customers.

A quick stop at our homestay and feeling refreshed we were soon back at Slightly Chilled to watch the sun go down. Needless to say a few more beers were had and some tasty Chinese food including Sichuan Gang Boa Chicken and sizzling beef.

Slightly Chilled KATER Score 7/10 – £15 for two inc. service

A quick tuk tuk back to our homestay, Sweet Lanka Kandy. Wanting something sweet, we popped into the restaurant above our place and ordered some ginger tea and curd and honey. That’s all they had, but boy I’m glad as it was delicious. The curd is made from buffalo milk and the locally made honey gave a perfect sweet and sour contrast.

Our breakfast was probably the best so far – simple yet delicious. A well seasoned omelette served with the best tasting daal yet, coconut sambal and taboula. Followed by fresh pineapple, banana and papaya. Yum.

A perfect start to our long train journey to Ella.

Sri Lanka – Sigiriya

We arrived in Colombo in the early hours to be greeted by our driver Anoj, booked via withlocals.com. After a 11 hour flight we were shattered, so took the opportunity to have a snooze in the car as we had a three hours transfer to Sigiriya.

On route we stopped at the side of the road, welcoming the opportunity to stretch our legs. Anoj treated us to our first taste of King Coconut, a local favourite here in Sri Lanka and a perfect way to refresh after a long journey. We watched as a guy expertly opened up the coconut, stuck in a straw and handed them out. They were surprisingly full of coconut water too.

We arrived at the Hotel Sigiriya in Sigiriya and took in the amazing view of Lion Rock whilst enjoying our welcome drink of fresh watermelon juice. The afternoon was spent snoozing by the pool.

We decided to venture out into the local town for dinner, so after a few local Lion beers we set out. I knew I wanted to go to the top rated Wijesiri Family Restaurant, a family run restaurant known for its tasty food at amazing value. We were not disappointed (only that they didn’t serve beer!). We quickly ordered a fresh pineapple juice and perused the menu. Chicken curry and rice – served with 8 curries was definitely happening, along with their local speciality of devilled king prawns. And for good measure a portion of the vegetable kotthu roti.

The curry was something else, so many dishes of tasty daal, okra, green beans and curry. We probably could have shared but that would have been boring. The devilled prawns reminded us of a sticky Sichuan style Chinese dish, really tasty. The kotthu roti is a mix of diced up vegetables, noodles and herbs and a famous snack in Sri Lanka. I have a feeling we may be eating more of this over the next few weeks.

Wijesiri Family Restaurant KATER Score 8/10 – £11 for two inc. service

The following morning we were up with the birds for an early breakfast Sri Lankan style followed by a hike up Lions Rock. Breakfast was a buffet serving everything from hoppers to curries – the perfect fuel for our walk.

Climbing Lion Rock was tiring in the heat, but well worth getting there early to beat the crowds. Over 1600 years old and a UNESCO world heritage site it’s impressive, with fantastic views across Sigiriya and surrounding areas. It’s £21 entrance which for Sri Lanka is steep.

We were back by the pool at 9.30 and a rewarding beer ordered by 10am – we are on holiday after all!

That night we ate in the hotel, enjoyed their buffet of various local curries including a rendang style beef curry, vegetables and sambals, the coconut sambals being my favourite. We treated ourselves to a bottle of red which cost more than our meal – what are holidays for!

The following day we relaxed by the pool some more and decided to venture out and climb Pedurangula Rock later that afternoon. This rock looks over Lion Rock, is a fraction of the cost and overall felt like a much more rewarding walk (£2 entrance). The views are spectacular, the climb hard especially in flip flops (don’t believe all you read on trip advisor) and I’m not surprised this is favoured over the two rocks. Oh and be prepared to do a little rock climbing at the top.

A quick walk down we found the only bar in town (or so we thought) that served beer, the Rasta bar. It was a bit run down and full of mosquitos so we quickly moved onto to Pradeep Restaurant for dinner. We were happy to discover they too sold beer (whoop) so another round of beers ordered along with their vegetable curry and some chicken fried rice. All very nice but not a patch on its neighbour Wijesiri.

Pradeep Restaurant KATER Score 6/10 – £8 for two inc. service

For our last breakfast in Sigiriya I enjoyed an omelette with chicken curry and Sam had his first egg hoppers filled with daal and sambals.

Next stop Kandy.

Frog by Adam Handling

I was lucky enough to visit The Frog by Adam Handling with my work colleagues on a rare night out last week. It was so good that I just have to tell you about.

First impressions of the restaurant itself were that it was a bit of an odd space, and a bit sparse. We were warmly greeted but the cloakroom unfortunately felt a bit temporary. But then we spotted Adam on the pass, and all we could look at was him and the decor was forgotten.

We quickly ordered a cocktail. For me it was an Adam’s Apple, which is the frog gin, pink apple cordial and calvados served with a gorgeous mini toffee apple on the side. A bit sweet (for me) but delicious and the sourness of the apple helped offset some of the sweetness. We all agreed on the five course tasting menu and accompanying wines. We also ordered an extra helping of the now famous cheese doughnuts – a must!

First to arrive were the ‘snacks’ or as my colleague calls them, the shnicky shnacks. Wow.

We started with the most delicious crispy cylinder filled with soft velvety smoked cod, topped with caviar and beautifully presented. Then came the beef tartar which was my favourite and the tastiest tartar I have ever eaten. The final snack was smoking mussels, literally served with smoke pouring from them and flavoured with lemon and sherry vinegar. Amazing, and a real touch of theatre. Of course these snacks were additions to the five courses, we hadn’t even started yet!

Next came the bread and butter – this is not your ordinary bread and butter but the most amazing sour dough and soft butter flavoured with crispy chicken skin with the most delicious morsels of crispy chicken skin on the top. So good we had to ask for more butter (diet was on hold this evening). With this and the snacks, if I ate nothing else ever again, I would have been very happy.

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We were finally ready to start our five courses; first up and delivered by a lovely chef was the ‘Celeriac, date, lime, truffle’. This was the perfect start as it was light, fresh and delicious. Next up was the ‘BBQ mackerel, potato, apple’, another beautifully presented dish with really smokey notes from the mackerel. We washed this down with a fruity little Spanish white.

Our third starter was the ‘Cod Prawn Cocktail’, the Frog’s take on a classic. The cod was perfectly cooked served with a lightly cooked piece of cos lettuce on top still with a nice crunch. I wish I had saved some of my bread for this one to mop up some of the delicious sauce. The Australian Riesling served alongside was the perfect accompaniment. All three dishes presented and delivered by the chef who had prepared each one, such a lovely personal touch.

It was finally time for the main course of ‘Pork, cauliflower, kimchi’ and wow what a dish. The pork served pink and the cauliflower lightly roasted. The kimchi was a revelation and really bought the dish together. I could quite easily have eaten another portion. We were served a Romanian Pinot Noir with this dish was perfectly light and complimentary to the pork.

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Our additional course of cheese doughnuts came next. These have become the must try in any of Adam Handling’s restaurants and rightly so. Soft doughnuts with melting rich cheese in the centre topped with truffle shavings. What’s not to like?

The finale (or so we thought) was pudding which was the one course we had to pre-select. I went with the ‘Caramelised apple, vanilla, salted peanuts’ and was not disappointed. In fact I think I chose the best. We of course made sure we had all four puddings covered on the table so we could try them all.

We ended the evening with a few very well made cocktails in the basement bar which I highly recommend you do, an Old Fashioned being my drink of choice. The sugar coated doughnuts filled with rhubarb were the final treat in what was one of the best meals / experiences I have had in a long time.

I will be back and be sure to have my husband Sam with me next time, he will love it.

Frog by Adam Handling KATER Score 10/10 – £140 for one inc. service

The Frog by Adam Handling, 34-35 Southampton St, London WC2E 7HG | 020 7199 8370

Keeping it local – Singburi

It gives me great pleasure to tell you all about my favourite Thai restaurant, Singburi right here on my doorstop in Leytonstone, London.

singburi

Sam and I absolutely love this place and have been coming for well over eight years now. Every year we are forced to go through a weird kind of withdrawal when the owners take a break and close for two months. Well, last night they reopened and we were quick to call and book our spot.

Singburi is run by a lovely couple, Thelma and Tony along with their son Richard. Thelma is originally from the Philippines and Tony from Thailand and the food is authentically Thai. I can honestly say I have not had better Thai food in London, or anywhere outside of Thailand for that matter. The menu at first glance includes all the classics but you’ll find some really interesting regional dishes that won’t be so familiar, along with regularly changing specials.

You can also ask for your preferred level of spice, mine being Thai medium and Sam’s Thai extra hot. They also accept western medium etc. You get the jist. After so many years they know us well and get the spice level spot on every time; although sometimes testing Sam’s request for extra hot!

We can be creatures of habit and tend to choose the same main dishes which Thelma often rolls her eyes at. We like to try their specials though which means we also order far too much. Sam’s go to is usually the Gaeng Daeng (red curry) and mine is the Gaeng Penang Nua which is a dry curry of tender beef strips in an aromatic and medium spiced Penang sauce. Last night we kicked off with some delicious Miang’s, a traditional Thai snack. Fresh and aromatic flavours of lemongrass, shallot, garlic, pomello (which Thelma hand carried all the way from Thailand), Thai basil and peanuts piled on top of a betel leaf and sprinkled with toasted coconut. A mouthful of pure deliciousness. I could have eaten many more. We shared another special of the day called Larb Moo Tod, a croquette of pork served with a Thai shallot salad which perfectly cut through the fatty pork.

For mains, I stuck to my usual Gaeng Penang Nua (its been over two months) and Sam choose the special Gang Keow Wan, a green curry with beef short-rib. Of course a meal at Singburi is not compete without their vegetable Pad Thai. Not a dish we particularly loved in Thailand, or in any other Thai restaurant since, but this one is amazing. Whilst chatting with Thelma last night we asked what her secret was and she let slip that it was the tamarind. I’m sure there is more to it but either way this dish is a winner.

It’s worth mentioning some of our other favourite dishes that we have been lucky enough to eat in the past. The Moo Crob, delicious pork crackling and chilli. The chilli clams are amazing. Every now again they include whole seabass on their special board. This is another must try. Steamed in sweet soy, ginger, coriander and a very special secret ingredient.

Their Som Tam (papaya salad) is deliciously spicy and fresh. The Yam Samun Phrai is a herb salad of ginger, lemongrass, cashews, sesame, carrot, crispy shallot and crispy bean curd and really yummy. The Gaeng Daeng (red curry), Gaeng Massamun with beef and the Moo Pad Prig King (stir fried pork with chilli and long beans) are also some of our favourites and well worth trying. I could go on…

Thelma operates a strict seating schedule of 7pm and 9pm but you can get a table in between you just have to book well in advance. This place is always busy. The staff who work there also deserve a mention – they have been loyal to Thelma and Tony for years and provide some of the best and friendliest service I have experienced.

Singburi is open Tuesday – Sunday for dinner and it only accepts cash. Smaller dishes cost around £5 and the larger main courses around £10 – incredible value for money, especially with their BYOB policy too.

KATER Score 10/10 – £40 for two inc. service

593 High Rd Leytonstone, London E11 4PA  | 02082814801