Known for its stunning scenery, the Temple of the Tooth Relic and a large cluster of verdant tea plantations, Kandy has long been a cultural hotspot in the heart of Sri Lanka. Fine-dining is another string to Kandy’s bow, with the city offering an excellent selection of elegant restaurants embracing the Sri Lankan penchant for coconut and seafood. From simple home-cooking with a twist to all-out upscale dining, we’re revisiting Kandy’s best restaurants.
Chicken biriyani at Honeypot Restaurant
The Honeypot Restaurant is a simple, family-owned establishment known for its fantastic river views. The menu features a mixture of traditional Sri Lankan, South Asian and Halal dishes, as well as a number of Western favourites perfect for those craving the flavour of home. Go for the chicken biryani, served with dhal maharainie, pineapple, boiled egg mint raita and a poppadum. The interior is elegant and charming with exposed brick walls, wooden tables and large windows that illuminate the interior with plenty of natural light. The balcony offers gorgeous views of the river below, making it a great spot to linger with a Lion Lager for a post-dinner treat.
Housed inside the Olde Empire Hotel, the Empire Café is a quirky, relaxed establishment with an affordable menu. Popular with tourists and locals alike due to its close proximity to the Temple of Tooth, the café’s interior features eclectic artwork and a bright pink-and-teal colour scheme. The menu offers a mix of Sri Lankan curries, pastas, salads, sandwiches and soups, as well as a variety of snacks and desserts. Go for the Empire Classic chicken rice and curry for lunch or the Sri Lankan-style eggs at breakfast. Be sure to save room for the Regal Cake for dessert, a rich chocolate cake covered in chocolate sauce.
Helga’s Folly is easily the most intriguing hotel and restaurant in Sri Lanka. The childhood home of Helga de Silva Blow Perera, the hotel is said to have hosted dozens of famous figures over the years, from Gregory Peck to Mahatma Ghandi. The interior is a dream-like haze of colour and decoration, from paintings and sculptures to Indonesian shadow puppets and deer heads. The hotel’s restaurant is open to non-guests, offering set menus that include a starter, soup, bread, fresh vegetables, salad, and dessert alongside a choice of entrées varying according to the day of the week and dictated by season. Typical mains include a delicious, spicy chicken biryani or the vibrant red chicken curry. If looking for something a little lighter and typically Sri Lankan, opt for the fish of the day poached in tea.
The Kandy House is a charming boutique hotel and restaurant nestled in a restored 18th century manor house, once belonging to an aristocratic Sri Lankan family. Located on a tree-covered hillside overlooking rice paddy fields, the interior is decorated with antiques, old photographs and colourful silks. The restaurant’s menu is Sri Lankan fusion with daily set menus based on what’s available at the local market. A typical menu might include chermoula-crusted mullet with tomato and avocado salsa or carrot and cumin soup with slow-roasted tomatoes. The restaurant also regularly serves special dinners focused on Sri Lankan curries – perfect for those wishing to experience a truly authentic taste of Sri Lanka.
Kandy isn’t particularly famed for its nightlife, making Slightly Chilled Lounge and Bar an appropriately named and particularly welcome addition to Kandy’s dining scene. A popular expat hangout, the restaurant is known for its daily Happy Hour, live music and great selection of beers and cocktails. Seating is offered in a partially-covered lounge or on the outdoor terrace, with fantastic views over the city. At dusk, diners on the terrace can often spot flying fruit bats and birds. The menu is a mix of Chinese cuisine with a few Western favourites, such as burgers, sandwiches, salads, and a classic ‘steak n chips’.
White House is a unique restaurant, café and bakery set in a single building. The hip café on the third floor is a great place to stop for coffee and snacks, but the first floor restaurant is the place to go for lunch or dinner. The interior is remarkably elegant with hardwood floors, glittery chandeliers and warm colouring. The menu is divided into several different cuisine types: Chinese, Indian, Sri Lankan, and Western. The restaurant is particularly well-known for its grilled prime scotch fillet, but you can also opt for more traditional dishes such as lamprais.
One of the few vegetarian restaurants in Kandy, Balaji Dosai is a low-key establishment specialising in Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine. The restaurant has several branches throughout the city, but the Colombo Street location is the most popular due to its unrivalled menu. Most diners opt for the delicious, soft dosas made with the finest black lentils, topped with aromatic chutneys and layers of spicy vegetables. The restaurant offers several different types of dosa including ghee, masala, onion, and plain, all of which come served with sambar. The cafeteria-style interior allows the food to take centre stage – the perfect venue for a relaxed night with friends.
The Mlesna Tea Centre is one of the few remaining places where tea is prepared in the traditional Sri Lankan way. The intimate tea room is decorated with dark woods and leather, an inviting setting that encourages customers to linger over their brew. The menu offers delicious cakes and other light snacks to enjoy alongside the tea, making it an ideal spot to take a break during a hectic day of sightseeing. The centre also sells a variety of packaged teas and related products, so customers have the option of bringing their favourite brew home with them.
Sharon Inn serves delicious, home-cooked Sri Lankan food in friendly, no-frills setting. Overlooking Kandy Lake, the restaurant is nestled within a guesthouse, but non-guests are welcome to make reservations. The restaurant offers a popular nightly buffet dinner which features a spread of over a dozen different curries, with plenty of vegetarian options such as beetroot, cabbage and pumpkin. The curries are served with fluffy rice, a roti, poppadums, dhal, Sri Lankan pancakes and a variety of other carefully crafted sides. Diners can enjoy their meal in the verdant garden or even on the beautiful rooftop area, if requested in advance.
Soya Centre serves up a variety of creative dishes made entirely from soya beans. The restaurant offers roti rolls, sandwiches filled with soy sausage and soy-based drinks as well as traditional veggie buns and sweets. The soy soft-serve ice-cream cones are easily the restaurant’s most popular item, available in flavours such as vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Set in the YMCA, seating is outside on an overhanging porch, where guests can gaze over at the street scene below. The restaurant often gets busy but service is always fast and friendly.