Words: Kirsten Durward Photos: Monica Tindall
We’ve heard it whispered that resident guests at the Clingendael don’t often try the traditional Sri Lankan breakfast. Well that is a mistake. Throughout our travels we’ve learned that local chefs excel at local delicacies. I hope that these enticing pictures and mentions of memorable tastes will persuade you to give the traditional breakfast a try.
We love the shady spot beneath the tree at the end of the garden, gazing out at the gentle blues of the distant hills in the early morning light. The sweet echoes of birdsong soothe our ears with welcome natural ambience. But today our attention is focused on one of our favourite stimuli, namely the plates of food that threaten to overfill our little table.
Monica and I have quickly developed a taste for Pol Roti; a traditional Sri Lankan coconut flat bread. For breakfast roti is served together with savoury steamed coconut rice, and tomato onion sambal which is slightly reminiscent of a South American salsa – similar latitude, similar ingredients perhaps. I love the fresh zing of the sambal on the firm softness of the coconut roti: simple and delightful.
Latticed loops of Spring Hoppers are intensively produced using a ground rice flower. This is the breakfast of choice for many families all over Sri Lanka. Placing them gently on our plates to form the base of the breakfast, we then spoon on our choice of curries. The firm flesh of seer fish forms the base of the strong tasting curry with lime and pepper notes. A soft creamy potato curry nicely complements the spice of the fish curry, while we are both delighted to see our favourite cashew nut and vegetable curry with its liberal sprinkling of peas. Topping it off with a heaped spoonful of the scrumptious coconut sambal, we are in traditional culinary heaven.
Breakfast is only enhanced by sipping from a fresh young coconut. Slightly different from the Thai coconuts we are used to, these are bright orange in colour and I wonder if they were the inspiration for the butlers’ robes. The light coconut water is uniquely refreshing, and is also a good isotonic, recommended if you are ever feeling a little dehydrated in the tropics.
Once again The Clingendael signature butler service has been perfect. After delivering plate after plate of local delicacy and explaining each with impeccable patience, our gentle servers withdraw to leave us in seclusion, but are easily summoned again with the tinkle of a bell.
Reasons to visit: Traditional Sri Lankan breakfast; garden setting; impeccable butler service.