Located at: 11 South Lake Road, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka
Visited on: 22 Jun, 2017
This was a lunch stop we made while on a visit to Kurunegala, prior to The Eat Log days. Hence details are comparatively minimal and I have just a single, candid (and poorly focused) picture of the spread. But the food at this place was so good – even on a second visit – that I thought it’s definitely worth a mention. So I guess one could call this a retrospective review of sorts.
Ranthaliya is a state-owned guest house that overlooks the Ranthaliya Lake, after which it is named. The location is a bit perplexing to define as it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere and yet is in the middle of everything. In fact, it is very much centrally located in the Kurunegala town, but two turns off the main road hide it away almost completely from the hustle and bustle of the rushed town. Although apparently renovated a few years ago, the place is dated, in the sense that it has maintained its “government rest house” look and feel. I guess you could say the same about the people who work there – courteous, but old-fashioned and laid-back.
Rice (plain, white) with vegetables was what we ordered, along with crumbed, fried fish (small fillets). Out came a large platter of rice with a whopping eight accompaniments. These accompaniments of the day were a dhal curry, white murunga (drumstick) curry, an interesting concoction of alu kesel pothu (ash plantain peels) with kos ata in the form of a dry curry, gotukola mallum, a delicious home-made lunu dehi pickle, coconut sambol, fried dried fish, and papadam. Although I do consume it every afternoon, I’m one to easily dodge the rice-and-curry staple without a second thought. But I can tell you, without exaggeration, that I ate considerably more than my usual quantity on this particular day. The food was so tasty. You could say that the spices had been hand-ground (“galey ambarala”, as we call it in Sinhala), and the condiments were balanced perfectly – not too salty, not too hot. Good stuff!
And oh my goodness (as if all this wasn’t good enough) that fish – beautifully seasoned and fried to a lovely crisp – was absolutely scrumptious. Just the recollection itself makes my mouth water. The best crumbed fish I’ve had in quite a while. We were told that we were lucky that day as a young wild boar had been obtained the previous evening. I’m not a big fan to be honest, but (again) it had been prepared so well that I helped myself to a second serving. Tender and cut into bite-size pieces, it came in a delicious, spicy gravy. Hats off to the chef!
For dessert (yes, we had dessert after all of that), we had kiri-pani – buffalo curd with kithul treacle. It was refreshing to notice that the treacle was viscous – not watery as is the case with some mass-produced varieties these days. It complemented the curd, which also seemed to have been obtained from a source of quality, very well. And just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, the steward handed us the bill for the meal; LKR 300 per head for the rice-veg combo, LKR 700 for the wild boar, LKR 150 each for the kiri-pani, and so on. A grand total of LKR 3,080 for a hearty meal for three including beverages and dessert. To say that this was reasonable would honestly be a massive understatement.
In a city where you won’t find any fancy hotels or restaurant chains and where the only “hotels” are the little road-side restaurants that locals refer to as “hotels”, Ranthaliya was undoubtedly a delightful find. I’d go so far as to say that it’s a hidden gem – solely for the food they dish out. Of course, I strongly recommend sitting in the veranda area, vacancy-permitting, as the interior is rather dim (and dated) to say the least. You can’t really say much about the facilities either, and I don’t want to imagine what the accommodation must be like. But the food, let alone the incredible value for money, is definitely a winner and well worth a visit – two thumbs up.
Yummy Rating: 4.5 / 5.0