Surrounded by hills on every side lies Kandy, a city known for its historical importance and scenic beauty. For the growing number of foodies among us, it’s good news that Kandy’s cafe scene too has been growing rapidly and this week we feature three interesting theme cafes we came across on a recent visit to [...]


Cafe-hopping in Kandy

From a cafe tucked away in an alley to one that resembles a garage, Tera Jayewardene finds little foody gems with distinct vibes

 Surrounded by hills on every side lies Kandy, a city known for its historical importance and scenic beauty. For the growing number of foodies among us, it’s good news that Kandy’s cafe scene too has been growing rapidly and this week we feature three interesting theme cafes we came across on a recent visit to the hill capital.

Café Banana Chill

Viraj Livera: Focusing on plant-based food. Pix by M.D. Nissanka

Cafe Banana Chill is one of Kandy’s hidden gems. Located at 5, Rajapihilla Mawatha, Kandy, it is owned by Viraj Livera, who started off his journey as a bartender learning to make drinks by watching YouTube tutorials. Viraj launched this café as a vegetarian and vegan restaurant with his focus on plant- based food, more than a year ago.

Small and unpretentious, the Cafe Banana Chill logo’s bright yellow glimmers in the sunlight catching the eye of passers-by. Inside in keeping with the banana theme, the walls are bright yellow, with messages written all over it with black sharpies. The murals on either side are of an elephant and a girl.

“After three months in Sri Lanka, the best breakfast we had! We loved it, thank you:)”, one person wrote on the wall. It makes an interesting read with writings in many different languages, like this message in German, “Das Beste Avo toast auf dieses welt”, meaning the best avocado toast in the world, signed Carl and Tim from Germany.

Among Cafe Banana’s variety of tasty vegan food, the Avocado Toast made with mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, sesame, corn, and bell pepper stands out. The Avo Coffee is something really special, with a message written on the wall explaining it best: “I never knew I needed Avo Coffee, until I came here!” The avocado taste is subtle, and the drink is made with both coconut and regular milk on request. In addition to these two dishes, there is the chia pudding, mushroom toast, virgin mojitos, vegan sausages, and much more.

Yellow and bright: A cheerful vibe

The bright yellow wall with messages from around the world

Cafe Secret Alley

In a hidden alley lies the aptly named Cafe Secret Alley (pictured on our Magazine cover) at 10/1/1/1 Kotugodalla Street, Kandy.  Up a flight of stairs you enter the restaurant that is a haven of healthy food. Run by Dilshan ‘Arty’Ranaweera,  in partnership with Niranjula ‘Lanka’ Gunasekara , the café prioritizes fresh and healthy food.

Dilshan: Adding art to his cafe

“It was really hard to get people here at the beginning, it’s really inside and nobody knew the place. So I started drawing things because most of the days I was alone, I would go down and draw things so that it would draw attention to the cafe,” Dilshan explains how the art factor became part of the cafe. The cafe wasn’t systematically planned out but grew organically. Much of the artwork seen in the cafe comes from foreign visitors – a mosaic of a flower has a message in the centre that reads, “We return to each other in waves, that is how water loves”. Each table has a pineapple on it, and the bowls are made of coconut shells, adding to the healthy aesthetic.

With one of their specialties being their smoothie bowls, this is a must order if you pop in. The Sunshine Bliss, for instance, combines mango, coconut milk, dates, bananas and apples together into an ultimate healthy combo.  The Bliss bowl is the healthy lunch meal, with three veggies, tofu, grains, greens, with tomato salsa and rice. This is a vegetarian meal served in a single bowl consisting of small portions of several foods served cold. Depending on the availability of greens the contents change but the bountiful amount of greens stays consistent –along with pumpkin, cabbage, red cabbage, tomato salsa, tofu, carrots, chickpeas and soy sauce.

The Secret Iced Latte made with coffee, cinnamon and coconut milk is one of their specialties. The vegan drink starts off with the coconut milk hitting your taste buds and then, the coconut and later the cinnamon.

The produce is fresh, and everything is healthy making the cafe a favourite with tourists, and health fanatics.

A bowlful of bliss

The Secret Iced Latte: one of their specialties


The Garage Café

The Garage Cafe is a popular hangout spot in Kandy, with its colour cone lighting, graffiti walls, chalkboard menus, barrel tables and chairs, and affordable prices. Lively and bustling, it serves different kinds of food from waffles and burgers to submarines. Dulangi Wickramasinghe, the owner, who moved the cafe over to No. 195 Peradeniya Rd, Kandy nine months ago, says she gets a lot of support from her family. Her brother Heshan helps out with the cafe during his free time.

Dulangi and brother Heshan

The whole family is involved in the cafe, and it is with their dedicated support that Dulangi is able to manage it with her regular job as an Assistant HR Manager at a garment factory.

“When I was schooling in Kandy I used to be in a hostel so we had less money and we used to go to nearby cafes and be like ‘oh we can’t go in because it’s so expensive’. This inspired us to do something  less pricey,” she says. Thus the priority became to make the cafe as affordable as possible.

“My dad owns a tyre shop in Nuwara Eliya and that was also an inspiration for the café,” Heshan adds. You can really feel the atmosphere at the garage cafe –it is full of locals, coming and spending their free time there.

Heshan speaks of people who come thinking it is a garage – for indeed the cafe pulls off the vibe of being a garage with the graffiti, tyres and tin barrels used as tables blending so perfectly that people may just get confused. Upstairs a mural of Marvel and DC superheroes, conjures up a completely different aesthetic.

So affordable and so good was the food! One of the best dishes is the spicy Kottu with cream cheese which is priced at just Rs 300. The creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, we found was far superior to most hot chocolate drinks in Colombo. The chicken burger and oreo shake also makes a fantastic combo and their Belgian waffle with real strawberries and chocolate was also superb.

Simply the best: Spicy Kottu with cream cheese

A mural of Marvel and DC superheroes

A tyre shop vibe




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