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The Garden: Excellent dining in Thalawathugoda.

Yes we've been quiet for a while but we're glad to be back again!

Recently we read on Happening Colombo about a new rooftop restaurant that had opened up. It sounded good so we decided to go and see what it was like. We're glad we did!


Address: No. 668 Pannipitiya Road, Thalawathugoda, Battaramulla

Phone: 011 277 4949

Email: res@sanora.lk

Facebook: @The-Garden-Lounge

Instagram: @thegarden6211

Directions: on the main road in Thalawatugoda, a short distance above Spar supermarket. On the Sanora Hotel rooftop, access by a lift at the entrance to the main building.

Covid Care: Temperature check on arrival at Sanora. Inside, all wear masks, hand sanitiser available, QR-code menus available. Cutlery is provided in a sealed bag.


First Impression

The rooftop has been divided into several diverse spaces. To one side there is a nice open lounge area, with several garden style sofas and, under cover, a couple of tables for four. Up a couple of steps is the bar with a small display of fresh seafood. To the other side is a long, narrow strip with a couple of high tables for two people and, next to them and discreetly behind behind some plants, are a few private spaces with a sofa for two to enjoy the view.


There are also three private rooms for business meetings, family dining, or just for people who want to come to a rooftop garden restaurant and shut themselves away in a windowless room...


There is a nice ambience, with a garden patio or veranda feel. Although the location is next to a fairly busy road, it is set back from the road and also a few floors up so that there is very little traffic noise. There is piped music, tasteful tunes and at a soft volume so as not to disturb the peace of the garden. When I visited it had just been raining, so the open air part was wet and the seat cushions had been removed but the dining tables and tables-for-two were dry. I sat at one of the dining tables and enjoyed the nice, relaxing atmosphere.


The open garden area; dining tables; secluded seats for two.


Menu

The menu is truly international, with particular emphasis on Italian and Mexican but with some other flavours in the mix, including seafood. It gives a good choice of dishes without going on for page after page which is painful for the indecisive - and those dining with them!


Starters include Caesar Salad, Crab Cakes and Caribbean Chicken Liver, or a choice of three soups: chicken, tomato & basil and cinnamon infused pumpkin - sounds delicious, especially for those cool winter nights!


The choice of main courses takes up most of the menu and is divided into four sections: House Specialities, which includes chicken, pork, a mixed grill and Spanish seafood paella; Mexican which offers four choices of fajita; Pasta which also offers a choice of four; and a Healthy option" which is again a choice of four simpler, healthier dishes. The selection includes several vegetarian options.


They also have a small seafood market selection. The bar counter, instead of being used as a bar, holds a display of fresh seafood including crab, prawns, fresh fish and lobster. You can select any of these and have it prepared and cooked to your liking from a choice of grilled, battered, devilled, fried or barbecued with a choice of sauces and side dishes.


There is a small selection of desserts but it covers the main options: tiramisu, crème brule, cheesecake and fruit.


All in all a decent choice, wide enough to give some real variety but small enough that you can be expect that whatever you choose will be done well.



The Food

I decided to try food from a couple of different places so I ordered the Caribbean Hot Chicken Liver as a starter, followed by a relatively simple Pan Seared Chicken Breast. As an aperitif I chose a Mango Colada which was brought from the bar downstairs.

Top: Mango Colada cocktail; Caribbbean Chicken Livers.

Bottom: Pan Seared Chicken Breast; Cutlery pack, in a sealed bag.


I assumed that the Mango Colada would be like a Pina Colada but with mango instead of pineapple and that was pretty much correct - good call! It came in a simple glass, no embellishment apart from a slice of lime, but had a nice, cool, refreshing mango taste to it - and it was good and strong! It was loaded! Very nice.


The Caribbean Chicken Livers were coated in a tempura type batter and were served with cherry tomatoes, salad leaves and a fruit salsa. It looked good - and it tasted great! The livers were nice and crispy on the outside so the first taste was of crunchy tempura, but that was quickly followed by the hot, soft taste of chicken liver. Two textures, two flavours. The fruit salsa on the side was a great accompaniment, slightly sweet, slightly tangy. Excellent.


I expected the seared chicken breast to be light and simple and it was, but it was also very good. The chicken breast came resting atop a medley of garden vegetables and mashed potato, with a salsa on the side. The mashed potato was smooth and creamy and had a nice taste of potato with a hint of ginger. The vegetables were not overcooked, they retained their flavour and a slight crunch, and the chicken itself was tender and flavoursome. The salsa was slightly sour, tangy and contrasted wonderfully with the savoury flavours.


Both dishes - and the cocktail - were excellent. The dishes were creative, well presented and tasted excellent. I also got a chicken fajita to take home for Sudda teen; I wasn't offered any to try but it was all eaten and was "very good".


A Covid note: the cutlery was not placed out on the table but provided in a sealed plastic bag, which was a small but welcome assurance of health and hygiene.


Service

Like the food, the service was excellent. The restaurant manager saw me looking around and happily showed me the various areas and the seafood selection. He called the chef to explain a couple of the dishes. The waiter was welcoming, friendly, attentive and proactive, offering another drink, asking how the food was, without being intrusive.


Prices

The prices overall are very reasonable, especially for the quality of food and the rooftop garden ambience. Many places with this standard charge more.


The chicken livers cost Rs670. Most of the starters were between Rs600 and Rs740, only the Caesar salad was higher. The soups were Rs450 to R520.

Prices for the main courses varied quite a bit more. My chicken breast cost Rs760; the Italian pasta dishes are mostly around Rs1070 to Rs1270 and the fajitas were from Rs1000 for veggie, Rs1260 for chicken up to Rs1770 for seafood. I don't normally look at the healthy options (!) but, for those that want to know, they range from Rs580 for a crudité platter to Rs1290 for grilled tuna.

The desserts are priced between Rs550 and Rs790.


Summary

All in all, it was an excellent meal in a calming and charming environment. The menu options were diverse and appealing, the food that I had was delicious, the service was welcoming and hospitable. Considering that they had only been open for a couple of weeks, they have really got off to a fantastic start.


Any areas to improve? The cocktail, while it tasted great, looked a bit bland; maybe a nicer glass and dress it up a little more. The bar area currently holds the seafood display; it feels a little wasted, like it could be used as an actual bar - I think that may well be happening soon. But in short, it was very good and is well recommended.

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