Published in Travel Sri Lanka magazine, September 2004
By Laurie Ashton
As I put the mouthful of sweet, creamy pudding with the crunchy sweet meringue into my mouth, I concluded that I was, indeed, in heaven. Fresh Fruit Pavlova (fresh, crispy meringue with a mountain of fresh fruit served with fresh cream and drizzled with a tangy orange sauce – Rs. 185) – it was superb. Light. Sweet. Rich. A little tart. Fruity. All those contradictions bound into a consummate ambrosia. Definitely heaven.
Except for one thing. The meal was over and soon I’d be going home.
It started at the beginning, as these things usually do, when my husband and I arrived at the large, ornate wooden doors, complete with metal inlays of, perhaps, snakes. To either side old-fashioned wrought iron lamps were ensconced on the artistically pitted brick wall.
We walked through the front gates into a wide and spacious courtyard, complete with a large stone water bowl resting on a stone stand and two smaller water containers beside, all with floating jasmine flowers. Large clay jugs, candelabras, and potted plants surrounded the courtyard.
La Ramble is situated in a house that was transformed into a restaurant and is decorated with panache. I loved the blue tiled bird overlooking the pool in the back yard, wings aspan as if in flight. Then there were the masks with teal, purple, red, mustard, green, and browns and had, in the headdress, snakes and something that looked like a leopard. Stone statues rested among plants in a tiny interior garden space – sitting, arms crossed, and eyes closed as if in deep contemplation. Another stone statue of mother and child stood in a mock window. A Nefertiti vase held violently orange flowers.
Then there was the almost-life-sized horse with knobs for a mane and a whimsical painting of a chef on a bicycle balancing wine bottles in one hand and umbrella in the other. A beautiful depiction of a Mayan Jaguar god hung along the stairs, and a little further up, a circular object whose function I can only guess at. Aztec? Probably. Stunning? Definitely.
Even the newel posts and handrail on the stairs were interesting to look at, and like many other things at La Rambla, were meticulously handcrafted. Each room held paintings, statues, or other beautiful and interesting works of art.
My husband and I sat at a table at the far end of the large backyard. Our table, like all the backyard tables, was constructed with concrete table tops, complete with a circular design in the middle of it, and wrought iron frame and legs. Likewise, chairs were wrought iron with padded seats and were unexpectedly comfortable. The tables gracefully line one side of a pool while, at night, trees light up, candles on tall wrought iron candelabras cast a soft glow, and citronella candles keep the bugs away.
We had papaya juice that, while tasted good, was lukewarm. On a hot day like this, we would have preferred as cold as possible. We later had lime juice that was cool, tart and sweet, and oh so refreshing.
We were served garlic bread almost immediately that was quite good. I would have preferred more garlic butter on it, but my husband dissented and said they were fine as they were.
We ordered appetizers. Bruschetta (Sliced French bread grilled and topped with ripe tomato, basil, olive oil with mozzarella, garden herbs and black olives – Rs. 225). All artfully arranged on curly inner lettuce leaves delicately balanced on top of slices of bread. While difficult to eat with any amount of grace and dignity, they were a delightful delectation to the taste buds.
The Two For All Platter ( Chicken wings, loaded potato skins and batter fried vegetable kebabs with a selection of dips – Rs. 325) arrived alongside the Bruschetta. The potato skins weren’t – instead, they were half potatoes with toppings. They were uninspired but good, as were the battered vegetables, although they were too doughy.
Then there were chicken wings. They had a sweet and hot barbecue sauce on them that beat all my previous barbecue sauce experiences, hands down. The chicken wings were tender. Juicy. Flavorful.
Other choices include Asian Combination Platter (2 persons. Deep-fried Thai style spring rolls, samosas (veg) and chicken satay served with sweet and sour sauce – Rs. 325), Greek Salad (Feta cheese, peppers, tomatoes, olives, cucumber and crunchy salad leaves tossed in French dressing – Rs. 225), and Batter Fry Mushrooms (Fresh mushrooms lightly batter fried, crisp and golden perfect for dipping in a garlic, lime and coriander mayonnaise – Rs. 200).
I looked through the menu to decide on the main course. I was torn. Should I have the Tagliatelle Carbanara (Ribbons of pasta enrobed in a creamy garlic and bacon sauce – Rs. 385), The Oriental (Lemon grass skewered chicken served on mash potato with mango sauce, cucumber, eggplants, and tomato salsa – Rs. 450), or the Spanish Chicken (Citrus coconut chicken balls served with Spanish rice vegetable fritters – Rs. 450)?
But when I saw Voodoo Skewers (your choice of two spicy skewers (chicken or seafood) over a sizzling skillet of roasted vegetables, cheesy mash, grilled and buttered corn and garlic bread – Rs. 450) I was immediately intrigued and the decision made. Seafood option, please. I was not disappointed. Cuttlefish, prawn, and fish was dressed in a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, probably the same one as used with the chicken wings I mentioned earlier. Yu-um! When I read the menu, I had no idea what the cheesy mash was supposed to be, but it turned out to be cheesy mashed potatoes which were very good. The vegetables – carrots, cauliflower, squash, and zucchini – were still a tad on the crunchy side, exactly how I like them. The corn, however, was on the half cob – exactly as the menu indicated, if I’d read it more carefully – which, to me, is a messy venture. The garlic bread was welcome as it made sopping up the barbecue sauce – oh so delightful! – that much easier.
It wasn’t until I was nearly done the main course that I turned around the cucumber that the skewered seafood was resting in and realized that a happy face was carved into it!
My husband had the Cod Fillet (Golden brown pan-fried codfish fillet served with anchovy-kalamata dressing with tomatoes and new potatoes – Rs. 480). They also came with the same vegetables I had. He enjoyed the potatoes, soft on the outside and crispy-crunchy on the outside with parsley and garlic seasoning. And he loved the fish and sauce. The sauce was delightful and complemented the fish very well.
While my husband and I ate there during the day, the romantic ambience was still alive and well. Sitting among trees and other beautiful plants at the side of a pool tends to have a peaceful, calm, and very relaxing effect.
La Rambla isn’t an open style restaurant you’re used to seeing. Because it’s a modified house, there are, instead, many smaller rooms. On the lower floor, there are three rooms that can seat 15 or twenty guests each, which leads to its intimate atmosphere. For special occasions, the upper floor is used for parties as well as for the occasional buffet. There’s also a VIP room that holds a dozen and another room that seats 25. Backyard seating can accommodate a further 100 guests.
Service was quick and unobtrusive. La Rambla has been open for only six months and deserves its reputation as a fine restaurant. I’ll enjoy going back again and again.
La Rambla Restaurante
18 Tickel Road, Borella
Hours of Operation:
Tuesday through Sunday: Lunch from 12 until 3, Dinner from 7 until 11pm.