Sri Lankan cuisine is nearly synonymous to extravagant flavours and spicy goodness. Thanks to Quench, I was able to experience this myself, in the newly opened street food bar and restaurant, The Coconut Tree. For good measure, and as an expert of spicy food, I took my boyfriend along as well.
Situated right next to Cardiff Central Library and Cardiff Market, the restaurant is marked by a red tuk-tuk. Once we walked in, we were greeted by an extremely friendly member of staff who guided us to our seats.
The dining room is absolutely gorgeous. The furniture and walls are made of wood, and retro-looking lamps hanging from the ceiling coat the room in a warm and comfortably bright light. The tables are decorated with actual coconut halves containing tea lights and on the walls, there are some Sri Lankan masks. Outside, is a wall full of Sri Lankan style graffiti, adding to the exotic atmosphere of the bar. There is light music in the background and the chattering from diners makes the room even more inviting.
Once we relaxed and settled down, another tremendously friendly member of staff came and explained the menu to us. They suggest that every person orders three to four tapas-style dishes, although obviously they can be shared. The menu itself can be written on, and dishes are accompanied by fitting emojis, indicating spiciness or large quantities. The cocktail menu is in a more formal booklet, with lovely little drawings on each side.
As we chose not to drink that night, I ordered a virgin raspberry mojito and my boyfriend a Sri Lankan “damn good Cream Soda”. Both were absolutely delightful, sweet but not too sweet and were a lovely contrast to the rather spicy food.
First, we tried the Egg Hopper. This is a sort of pancake with spices, caramelised onions and coconut. As tasty as it was, it was too spicy for me, but my boyfriend said it was absolutely amazing.
Next, we ate the Chicken Kotthu, which also exists as a vegetarian or vegan option. This dish is made of finely chopped roti, fried with egg, vegetables and optional meat. It has a very soft, omelette like taste and texture, paired with an explosion of herbs, which are just not too spicy.
One of the most popular dishes is the Cheesy Colombo. The cheesy cubes are fried in slightly spicy, but mostly lovely sweet sauce, of which you just can’t get enough. The same sauce is also found in the Devilled Prawns, which are a bit spicier, but once peeled, the actual prawn is delightfully sweet and flavourful. On the topic of fish dishes, I strongly suggest the Clay Pot Fish. The slow-cooked tuna practically melts into a spicy, peppery cream sauce, overloading with meaty deliciousness.
Similarly, the Coconut Sambal is very spicy indeed. The coconut relish is blended with chillies and shallots, giving it a lovely juicy taste contrasting the flaky consistency. The Fat Sister, on the other hand, is pumpkin cooked in creamy coconut milk and turmeric. This cools your mouth and counteracts the spiciness of other dishes, whilst still being pleasantly herby.
Also vegetarian, are the Battered Mushrooms. As I told the lovely waitress that I am awful at spice, they were pleasantly mild and tremendously juicy. In addition, they come with the most amazing caramelised onions, which I would devour on their own if given the chance. My favourite dish, however, was the Battered Cuttlefish, again being a less spicy version of the actual dish. Also with those divine caramelised onions, the fish itself tastes delightfully fishy and fresh, with a hint of spiciness, herbs and lemon. Overall this dish is absolutely perfect, light and delicious.
The entire experience itself was actually tremendous as well. The atmosphere of the restaurant was brilliant, and the staff were the friendliest I have ever encountered. This topping already fabulous food makes us definitely recommend paying The Coconut Tree a visit!