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What’s in a name?

Plenty, it turns out. Among the many things I was looking forward to in Sri Lanka was to sample a variety of its cuisine. Thankfully, this small family run business on a hill in Kandy didn’t disappoint, barring its odd name – No Name Restaurant.
The seating inside the restaurant
The seating inside the restaurant
The pleasures of dining locally

One of the joys of travelling to another country and its cities to so experience its varied cuisine. Sri Lanka was no different. The last time I was there on the beaches of Hikkaduwa, we had hired a tuk-tuk. Hungry for a decent meal after our tour of Galle, we asked him to take us to a local restaurant – one where the locals sit to eat themselves. He took us to a small restaurant by the roadside in Hikkaduwa town. It was the most delicious and wholesome lunch I’ve had, till now.

I hungered for something similar this time round too. Reinforced after a rather disappointing dinner on our first night in Kandy. Not entirely the restaurant’s fault. We weren’t aware that the city many restaurants and shops start to shut down at around 9 pm.

Inside the kitchen and home
Inside the kitchen and home
Third time lucky

We had booked ourselves into a small guesthouse on the top of the hill. To get to the main city, which in this case was around the lake, we would take a shortcut downhill, passing lots of hotels and expensive looking restaurants along the way, and occasionally stopping to say hello to strangers.

No Name Restaurant kept enticing us each time we passed by, in no part to its odd name. However, with our luck, it was either a little too early for lunch, or they were shuttered for the evening. Nevertheless, it looked tempting, and we promised to make a serious effort to walk in when it was open and try out its menu.

Finally, on the night before we left Kandy, we did make it. Third time lucky, I say. And I can guarantee you I have no regrets. It was what I was looking forward to, and didn’t disappoint at all, barring that the only meat on their menu was chicken. But heck, I was here to eat, not complain. And eat we did.

Currencies from around the world make for a nice gallery
Currencies from around the world make for a nice gallery
The restaurant

From the outside, the first impression is not a place you may want to dine in. It has a basic décor except for a few signs pasted on the windows. Yes, it gets a mention in Lonely Planet. What catches the eyes though are the various currency notes pasted. If there is one way to bring in a customer, then nothing works better than currency. In its own weird way, it is just the kind of reassurance that a tourist may want.

The insides are as basic as they can get. Nothing fancy. Just four small tables inside a room. A budding artist has taken the time to paint one side of the wall with an assortment of fruits and juices. At the other end is what felt like a small store, with plenty of souvenirs on sale. A small window against the main wall gave you a peek into the kitchen and the family home. In fact, from where we were seated, we could see our food being freshly cooked.

Interior of No Name Restaurant
Interior of No Name Restaurant
The set menu

When we walked in, a little after 9 pm, the owner was standing at the entrance. After sitting down at one of the tables, he came over with the menu. A quick glance of the basic menu and we knew exactly what we were going to order. A set menu that included rice, two vegetables, papad, sambal and dal, with chicken curry as an extra side dish. Exactly what I had been craving for all these days.

Now, if you are expecting quick service or very ravenous, then the restaurant may not be for you. Instead, what you can expect is a leisurely service. Every item served is freshly cooked after all. To while away time, we ordered for a chilled beverage each, and then settled down to look around this small restaurant, including the currency collection.

About half an hour later, the lady, who I presume was the owner’s mother, came with our plates and a bowl of rice. The other dishes followed shortly. Really hungry by this time, it didn’t take us long to wipe our plates clean. Turns out the lady eventually ended up doing everything for our table, from serving us our drinks and dinner, to clearing up and finally handing us our bill. As we were leaving, it only felt right to leave a generous tip for her. It’s not every day, or night, that one steps out of a restaurant feeling totally satiated.

A simple set menu
A simple set menu (Photo credit: Neel Mitra)
A great place to dine

Our meal finally cost us just LKR 550 per person, not including the chilled beverages. Great value, if you ask me, considering we had spent over LKR 1,000 per person on our first night for food that didn’t even satisfy us.

Would I recommend this place? Absolutely, so long as walking uphill in search of an authentic home cooked style Sri Lankan meal doesn’t bother you one bit. Think of it as one way to work up an appetite.

Would I visit again? Definitely.

No Name Restaurant
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