For those who love spice, and more specifically Sri Lankan food, a trip to newcomer Paradise on Rupert Street is definitely worth a visit. It is the brainchild of Dom Fernando, whose inspiration comes from his native Sri Lanka. There are five chefs in the kitchen (which is hidden away from view) all with Sri Lankan heritage – with head chef Charith Priyadarshana leading the brigade.
I visited at lunchtime recently and secured a perch at the bar. You can only book a table for 4 diners or more – walk-ins are given a place at the bar counter or window. Apparently on busy evenings you can expect to wait up to an hour – there are only 30 covers – so choose your timing wisely. Lunch times seem perhaps a better gamble for a first visit if you are not fond of waiting.
Before I get on to the food, let me just speak about the overall look and feel of the restaurant. The attention to detail is so on point. Of particular note: I loved the herringbone style floor tiles (see in photo above) which were made in Bali I am told; the fact there are hooks to hang things under the bar (so obvious but so many places fail to do this); the industrial style brushed concrete grey walls and black steel light fittings; the dark brown water glasses, which are made from their recycled beer bottles then cleverly cut and smoothed off to make glasses; the hand wash and hand cream in the bathrooms smell divine and are made in Sri Lanka.
Whilst we are talking bathrooms, I also liked the fact that a small trug of plants was sitting on a shelf under the hand dryer allowing ones wet hands to gently provide drips of water to the plants underneath. In short, A LOT of care and attention has gone on the aesthetics and mood of the place, which has not gone unnoticed. In an increasingly competitive market the ambiance works hand in hand with the whole dining experience. I was not surprised to hear that East London designer, Dan Preston (who was commissioned to do Smoking Goat, Kiln and Brat) was behind the stylish interiors.
Now onto the food. Firstly the menu is short – big tick – nothing worse that a menu that is too long. It also lists all the places it buys its meat, fish and eggs, which as a diner, I find really helpful as increasingly we all want to know the provenance of the produce we are eating. The menu itself is broken up into ‘short eats’, ‘hoppers & breads’, ‘sambols & rice’, ‘veg & plant’, ‘land’, ‘sea’ and ‘dessert’. There are between 3 and 6 choices in each section – the largest choice being under the ‘veg & plant’.
We kicked off the proceedings with the ‘short eats’ and opted for the mutton shoulder rolls with fermented chilli, crab patty empanadas with lunumiris mayo (Sri Lanka version of Sriracha) and sea-salt fried whitebait, black garlic mayo. The standout was the mutton shoulder roll. The whitebait was tasty, but I felt was not particularly ‘Sri Lankan’ – I would have liked to have had a delicate spice rub on them perhaps, instead of just seasalt!
The hoppers were both excellent – I liked the originality of the turmeric and fennel seed hopper, but the classic egg hopper also got a definite thumbs up. I accompanied both with the mango and chilli chutney. In the ‘veg & plant’ section I opted for the dahl and was pleased to see the pandan leaf and curry leaves making an appearance giving it a genuinely authentic taste. I will definitely try more of the veg next time as the charred pineapple salad with green chillies and the southern cashew curry with Maldive fish definitely sounded appealing.
This was all followed by the Jaffna spiced lamb chops and the roasted baby squid curry with cardamom and coconut. The former was a little fatty and I personally would want more heat to the rub. The squid however was a delight and highlight sitting in a creamy coconut infused sauce with hints of cardamom. Definitely slurp worthy!
Being rather full at this point we weren’t able to squeeze in ‘dessert’ but the buffalo milk ice cream with cashew and butterscotch brittle, the lime and coconut sorbet, basil and chilli oil and the Wattalapam gelato, salted cinnamon meringue, stem ginger caramel all sounded heavenly – especially that buffalo milk ice cream. Next time.
The menu, I am told, changes every 8 weeks. I’ll be back before then though to work my way through the menu – especially the veg and plants as I feel I didn’t give them much air time this time round. Always good to have an excuse to go back.
Short Eats/Hoppers/Rice/Sambols: £2-5.50
Paradise | 61 Rupert Street, Soho, London W1D 7PW
All views are my own and this is NOT an ad