Monsoon Restaurant Review- Colombo, Sri Lanka

Think South East Asian cuisine with comforting authentic favourites alongside fusion dishes with the freshest, local Sri Lankan ingredients. Monsoon is no doubt a restaurant born in equal measure of soul and culinary expertise.

In all honesty, there aren’t many restaurants in Colombo that have impressed me quite as consistently. Alongside August by Mama Aida’s, a Middle Eastern foodie’s dream, these are the only two where quality has been wholly consistent, becoming my go to spots to wine and dine family & friends visiting Colombo.

No detail goes unnoticed and there is a real sense of ownership in style. While some restaurants and hotels actively poach ideas from others, Monsoon is no doubt an original.

The restaurant itself is in the epicentre of Colombo’s international foodie scene, a buzzy street favoured by expats and the Capital’s it crowd, Park Street Mews. The good news is that Monsoon is at the end of the Mews and is a kind of foodie oasis, patronised by diners for the incredible cuisine than the desire to be seen.

Speaking with Henry, the managing director of Teardrop, he explained the recent process of choosing new dishes for the menu. They arranged a tasting day with staff to try new ideas by the chefs. The final choices were made and all are now featured in the latest edition of the menu.

One dish Henry was particularly excited about on the new menu is the beef wrapped in wild betel, a leaf popular with locals in Sri Lanka. While Monsoon is not a Sri Lankan restaurant, the seamless marriage of South Eastern flavours with local ingredients is quite an achievement.

Personal highlights include prawns wrapped in vermicelli noodle, Thai steamed barramundi, tom yam goong soup and the refreshingly light young papaya salad. For the meat lovers; Malaysian chicken satay, Vietnamese duck salad, Balinese seared pork belly and slow cooked Indonesian mutton amongst many others.

My favourite dish however is the crispy black pepper tofu, flavoured with a piquant onion and tomato glaze. I had never particularly liked tofu before, but the flavour and texture of this dish inspired me to reconsider my opinion!

Monsoon recently decided to start serving complimentary prawn crackers at the beginning of the meal too which is a nice touch.

Dishes arrive as soon as they’re ready, piping hot and an ideal portion size to share. If dining as a couple, be careful not to over order. My partner and I tend to order starters first and wait until we’ve finished to judge how hungry we still are for mains.

If you’re visiting in the evening, especially on a weekend, it’s best to make a reservation. They have a great value set menu for lunch which tends to be easy to drop in without booking. Be aware not all a la carte items are available until the evening, for the full spectrum go for dinner!

The Kandy Samadhi Centre Hotel Review- Kandy, Sri Lanka

I sit outside the room on the terrace watching the forest awaken before me. A pen clasped in my hand with determination above an empty notebook. I write down thoughts and feelings as they spring into my mind, all of which are abstract. I sit somewhat frustrated with my inability to articulate. It’s 2011.

Freshly graduated from a degree in media studies and photography, my brain had been somewhat programmed by the subject of ‘discourse & representation’. I haven’t quite grasped the notion of sitting in stillness with an empty mind. Everything had to mean something, instantly.

The truth was, I felt something I had never felt before, a connection and awakening of spirituality between myself and nature, a journey continuing to this present day which would bring me back to the Samadhi Centre again and again.

While I could describe the literal appearance of the Centre, it is not at this level where it makes the greatest impact. It is somewhere deeper within, a primal ignition of nature and humanity in its purest, simplest form.

The centre is both silent and incredibly loud, the forest constantly chattering in harmonious synchronicity. A perfectly compiled playlist of ‘nature sleep sounds’ without pressing play. Insects making high pitched, vibrational sounds louder than I could imagine them capable of, the energy echoing though my body. It feels like being reborn and experiencing nature for the first time.

My eyes light up in awe of a tree bearing dozens of oversized jackfruit, balancing almost unbelievably on thin branches from the towering tree. Elegant rose pink jambu fruits hang from smaller trees. An abundance of lemongrass and mint in the upstairs zen lounge herb garden, enticing me to rub a small piece between my fingers and admire their invigorating scent.

So many thoughts, ideas and contemplations come to me without force, reminding me of the quote by Albert Einstein. “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me”. It’s almost as though, through some divine intervention, 3G and 4G doesn’t work everywhere. WiFi is actively placed in just one area. In the early days I struggled to find connection at all, resulting in an internet dance at the top of the pavilion in an attempt to ‘connect to the world’.

The Samadhi Centre is a space for peace. Its name is no marketing ploy. Authenticity radiates from every corner. A place for reflection, healing of the mind, body and soul. The food is nourishing and wholesome. I find myself eating slower, more consciously and less. As the centre is spread on a hill, an amount of energy is needed to walk from the restaurant to the rooms and zen lounge pavilion (with the wifi!) at the top. In pockets of Japanese culture, one stops eating at 70% full. Here it is necessity.

I even spot Hannah the dog in what appears to be a meditative trance. I begin to wonder what a dog’s thoughts may be. Can they appreciate the simplicity of nature too?

The furnishings and decorations are a combination of antiques and natural materials, collaborating in harmony with the vast surroundings of nature. While many hotels in Sri Lanka use antiques to radiate an air of style, they are used differently here. Waruna, the owner, owns an antique shop in Kandy, previously run by his Father. Antiques are an intrinsic part of him.

The Samadhi Centre cannot be wholly explained, it can only be felt, experienced and imprinted on your soul. One who experiences the Samadhi Centre will experience the simple beauty of life itself. It remains my favourite place to be in Sri Lanka.

The Centre offers yoga, authentic Ayurvedic treatments & massages, bathing in the crystal clear stream or nearby lake and visits to a waterfall (where you can swim) 30 minutes on foot from the Centre. They treat employees ethically and use produce from their organic vegetable garden when possible.