A toast to seventh heaven
By Apsara Kapukotuwa
You name it and you have been there-Colombo's hippest, trendiest, classiest restaurants, lounge bars and pubs hold no more surprises for you and you are longing for something at least a tad different. Something that will capture your imagination, someplace that will not give you a feeling of deja vu come dinner time…a place where the taste is different, the atmosphere's great and most of all, a place that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.

Now, just around the corner from Lionel Wendt at Cambridge Place, Colombo 7 is Number 18-Colombo's answer to a truly cosmopolitan fine dining experience. A brainchild of Nayantara Fonseka (Taru) who already spearheads a successful fashion design company, two stylish boutique hotels down south and also has just set up a trust, neha, to help those children orphaned by the tsunami, Number 18 not surprisingly targets a broad segment of society. Nayantara’s aim is to provide a "seven star" service as she calls it-service and food beyond compare. The smoke-free dining room, the air-conditioned lounge bar and the variety of flavours on offer as well as the indoor and outdoor dining options are just a few reasons why this place is becoming a hit with bar hoppers and dinner guests alike. The upper section of Number 18 is also available for hire for private parties.

From the moment you step into its 1960ish interior, (the very psychedelic wall hangings, bright orange ashtrays and dolomite walls are not the only features which make you feel this way) you just know that your dining experience is not going to be any ordinary one. The cocktails are indescribably yummy- perfect to get the conversation going and spirits high. Don't forget to try out Turkish Delight (vodka, crème de cacao and rose syrup) and Caipiroska (vodka, lime and brown sugar)-I've become an instant fan of both. As for their mocktails, they too are absolutely delicious and a must try along with the great snacks on offer.

I chose the spiced tuna tataki as the entrée (even though I was in two minds, wanting to try out the puff pastry tart of tea-smoked tomato as well). The tataki comes with daikkon salad and preserved lemon guacamole while the puff pastry tart is accompanied by roasted balsamic onion and tallegio cheese. My choice for the main course was the Chicken Casserole with green herb couscous and harissa, a serving so large that two can easily share. I even tried out a scrumptious bite of Homemade Potato Gnocchi with blue cheese and mascarpone sauce.

My most vivid memory of dinner at Number 18 was the dessert. Chocolate Decadence is what I tried out and one tiny bite was enough to put me in chocolate heaven. Made from a secret recipe that Taru is proud of, this consists of a blancmange and homemade chocolate ice cream in a delectable wafer container.

Consultant Chef Russel Gronow is the secret behind No 18’s culinary success He along with local chef Mark Smith -incorporate a blend of modern Australian cuisine, infusing flavours from Sri Lanka to the Mediterranean.

Thus the menu at Number 18 is "Modern Cuisine" a mix of local and imported dishes, "new flavours complementing the old, a fusion of two worlds" is how he likes to describe it.

The emphasis being on high quality produce, which is largely imported from Australia, the food is made to order 'in house' from the ice-creams to the pastas and even the bread sticks. From the attentive and friendly staff to its soothing ambience, Number 18 is perfect for those who crave an outing to a place where being yourself is not taboo.

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