Our first in the Eat Street series is Stratford Avenue in Kirulapone. On one half of Stratford Avenue – or the Gandhara Street as it is commonly referred to – is a temple and a smorgasbord of small, assorted shops hugging the canal. On the other half of the road is a lifestyle store, galleries, [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Stratford Ave: Fine dining to cosy cafes


Our first in the Eat Street series is Stratford Avenue in Kirulapone. On one half of Stratford Avenue – or the Gandhara Street as it is commonly referred to – is a temple and a smorgasbord of small, assorted shops hugging the canal. On the other half of the road is a lifestyle store, galleries, boutiques and cafes.

Cricketer’s Arms: Fine dining with a sporty background

Gandhara, the lifestyle store which became synonymous with Stratford Avenue, began operations in 2004 after Dian Gomes converted his house into a lifestyle store along with a few other shops offering arts and crafts and designer sarees. The street has gradually come of age and evolved into what Dian refers to as, “Sri Lanka’s first art street”. “I envisioned the street to be a haven for artists and art lovers. An art street that inspires and brings people together,” explained Dian via email to the Sunday Times. The street has 25 shops/stores offering food, furniture, historic artefacts, art, rare crafts, limited edition clothing, interior design solutions and handcrafted jewellery.

Barista: A place for coffee and conversation

Today, the street’s cafes and restaurants are on the cards. The first is Barista Lavazza. Before you skip this paragraph thinking that the ever-present coffee-shop chain has nothing new to offer, hear me out. The Barista at Gandhara’s most redeeming quality is its space – the coffee shop is far larger than it looks and is tastefully designed. Picture brick interiors with accents of cement and wood, and the occasional black and white photography prints on the wall. The coffee shop contains nooks, corners and comfy sofas which lend themselves to conversations, and work spaces, for those who prefer working out of the confines of a cubicle.

Admittedly, the food is the ordinary coffee shop fare and doesn’t have any surprises, but the staff is always helpful and friendly and the ambience, pleasant enough to linger for a while instead of dining and dashing. There’s also an enclosed meeting space for about ten people. You can rent it out for meetings if your bill is over Rs. 3,000 – the perfect solution when you want to meet in a public space but would also like some privacy.

Schakasz is the new kid on the block at Stratford Avenue. The space is a small, intimate area and when I walk in, the heady aroma of butter and sugar assails my senses. Chanika, one of its co-owners, is busy making a summer cake and there’s a light sponge on the counter, waiting to be sandwiched with cream and topped with fruits. From the all-white interiors and window seats to the canister of strawberry infused water with a handwritten sign saying ‘Try Me’ and a carefully curated playlist to give the ambience of a French Café (Charles Trènet’s ‘La Mer’ plays softly in the background ) – it’s the attention to detail which makes the little dessert shop notable.


‘Schakasz’ : Sweet delights

Schakasz started in May 2015 and is a partnership between childhood friends, Chanika Mallawarachchi and Kasuni Silva – Chanika handles the bakery and patisserie side while Kasuni focuses on the business. “‘Schakasz is quintessentially a Parisian!” they explain, instilling their dessert bar with its own personality, “She loves good quality desserts and reading a book on a cosy window seat. Her roots are classic, yet her choices are fashionable and confident. She is the kind of person who loves playing Edith Piaf in the background – the kind of person who loves decorating her minimalistic space with pastels and fresh flowers and filling her home with the aroma of good old-fashioned baking. Basically, we tried to bring the essence of these brand qualities to our food, décor, music, packaging and every element of Schakasz.”

They explain that the name ‘Schakasz’ is an amalgamation of both their names and aptly enough, also comes close to the word ‘sugar’ in languages such as French, Albanian and Norwegian. The dessert bar offers classics and usual favourites but also introduces innovations to keep things interesting. The No-Bake Cheese Cake is a best-seller, along with the Baileys Crème Pot and the Chocolicous (a light buttery tart with a ganache filling). For first timers, Kasuni and Chanika recommend the Triple Layered Chocolate Caramel Tart for chocolate lovers or the Crème Brûlée. Other dishes on the menu include chocolate roulade, panna cotta, devil’s food gateaux and red velvet cake.

Next to Schakasz is a café with an unlikely theme inspired by Argentinean-born, Cuban revolutionary leader, Che Guevara. Alberto Korda’s iconic picture of Che is unmissable amidst the Che paraphernalia which forms the backdrop for the café.
Why the homage to the Marxist revolutionary leader? “Che Guevara is one of my idols. I have been known for my anti-establishment ways from a younger age, and it was no surprise that I took interest in those who have made a lasting cultural change in history. Che was renowned for his revolutionary ways; he had individuality, style and charisma and these are the traits that inspired me to pay homage to him through Café Che, now known as Che by Relish,” explains Dian. The paintings and pictures at the restaurant have been handpicked by Dian to bring a slice of Cuba to Colombo.

Taken over by a corporate catering company last year, Che by Relish easily seats about 54 people across two floors, and can also be rented out for events and parties. Apart from its theme, what is it that makes Che by Relish unique in a street which offers plenty of dining options? “The restaurant is a fine dining service but with a casual environment,” says Gayan Perera, Manager and Executive Chef at Che by Relish. Best selling items on the Cafe’s menu include the Javanese mixed rice, black pepper pork curry, BBQ jerk chicken and the Che by Relish combination which is Malai chicken served with coriander chutney, grilled masala lamb chops, marinated jumbo prawns served with mint aioli vegetables and jeera potatoes.

Further down the road is cricketer, Tillakaratne Dilshan’s maiden venture into the food and leisure industry. Cricketer’s Arms is a fine dining restaurant and is next to a restored colonial villa built in 1957 which houses D Pavilion Inn, the cricketer’s boutique hotel. The restaurant takes on a cricket theme and contains cricketing paraphernalia and memorabilia certain to bowl cricket lovers over and reflects highlights from Dilshan’s cricketing career.

Framed and signed t-shirts owned by cricketing legends such as Sachin Tendulkar adorn the walls as well as monochrome photographs of Dilshan’s cricketing highlights and bats signed by the Indian, Australian, New Zealand, Pakistani and the West Indies teams. Cricket ball shaped menus, cricket bat shaped cutlery from Turkey and cricket themed dishes offer the finishing touches to the cricket theme.

The restaurant’s general manager, M. Mohanraj, explains that Cricketer’s Arms seats about 55 people in the restaurant and also has a pub and private lounge upstairs and caters to private functions. Although the restaurant is yet to acquire its official liquor licence, restaurant-goers can bring their own liquor. The menu has a range of fusion continental dishes to suit a variety of palates and its kitchens come under the helm of Chef Anura de Silva who brings three decades of culinary expertise into the restaurant. The menu features baked crab (a favourite at the restaurant), mock duck, Nasi kampong, vegetable burrito, duck ragout, roasted belly pork and Japanese tempura tiger prawns as well as coffee and desserts.

From fine dining to dessert bars, Stratford Avenue provides a host of lively dining options for varying budgets and is poised to add more to its street. Shiraz, the street’s current Iranian restaurant, is being revamped with a new management and a new menu and is set to reopen next month. Dian also informs us that a new coffee-shop is in the pipeline as well.

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