Sri Lankan food is having ‘a moment’ in Cardiff right now. A sudden proliferation of pop ups and permanents means there are more chances than ever to enjoy flavours which are close cousins of Southern India but still proudly their own. Here on Splott’s Broadway, Ceylon Spicy Pot is the latest to take up the challenge.
It’s a familiar menu, stuffed with crowd pleasers. Mutton rolls, hoppers, curries, sambols, biryanis: there is no shortage of choice if you don’t eat meat, either. There are whole prawns in a brittle batter, dark with red chilli, and chicken bites, both topped with what I can only assume was a good deal on a couple of hundredweight of raw white onion.
The meat rolls are handmade here, and filled with chunks of boiled potato and mutton. If they fall some way short of the best locally- Tukka Tuk, by some distance- they are a bargain at just £2.50 for two. With the bulk of mains topping out at around six or seven pounds, you’ll struggle to spend more than about £20 a head here.
The eggs filling the hoppers are just a touch overdone to make them much use for tearing and dipping that crisp filigree. (They do string hoppers too, those long glutinous strands, but only by pre order: ditto, sadly, the lamprais. Traditionally cooked and served wrapped, it’s a glorious thing when done well, a banana leaf enclosed package of meat and rice and sambal, a Greatest Hits compilation of good things.) Those hoppers are a steal at £1.50, though. Whatever criticisms I have about this place- and they are on their way- the pricing isn’t one.
From a small drinks menu, the pick is a mango lassi, thick and rich enough for a Cabinet post. We order two of the chicken kottu, a generous tumble of chicken and vegetables which is lighter on the shredded roti and egg than others you’ll find; but it does make for excellent comfort food, the sort of thing we are glad we double-ordered. The same goes for the seafood version, with its tomato sauce, hot and smoky-sour with paprika and that telltale tamarind sourness. There’s more of that raw onion too, if you’re inclined to be gastrically delicate.
Mutton curry suffers from the meat being a touch overdone, though the sauce is exactly what we are after: heavy with clove and garlic, it’s easy to keep dipping back into it.
The offer of crab curry is too good to pass up, though prospect trumps reality. The body comes cleaved into rustic hunks, in a brick-red, uncompromisingly robust sauce which hasn’t been unduly toned down for domestic tastes.
Now, every man should have mastered certain essential life skills if he’s going to call himself a proper grown up. Knowing how to cut and smoke a good cigar, for example. Or how to give the perfect foot rub. Picking a crab clean is on that list, though here it’s a challenge. There are no tools provided, just standard cutlery, so you’ll have to chivvy and winkle the flesh out from every crustacean crevice, a messy business as the crab debris builds. It’s a lot of effort for a disappointingly meagre reward. Feel free to insert your own punchline here.
There’s a moment’s confusion when the mutton stew turns up. We were expecting it to be rather soupier, rather than this dry stir fry of onions, peppers and meat, though there is a little jug with yet more of the sauce we’ve already met with the crab, (no bad thing in itself) served separately.
That’ll be because they have brought us mutton fry by mistake, then.
Sadly this is far from the only issue with service. There are significant problems on both occasions. We have to go searching for another copy of the menu, rather than pass one between three, and a couple of items aren’t what we have asked for, or in the right quantities. The second time I ask our server to write down our order to avoid any confusion. The delay for drinks rivals the wait for tangible Brexit Benefits. It’s jarring and disappointing when this home-style food is so inexpensive and fully-flavoured.
A friend who was with me both times, and who knows what he’s talking about, has ordered at home. He tells me the food arrived promptly and correctly, and was one of the best deliveries he’s had recently. Clearly, there are issues here with the basics and they are going to need resolving if they are to show what they do in the best light. That said, if you can ready yourself for those delays, there’s enough here to make Ceylon Spicy Pot an interesting place for a well-priced meal.
10 Broadway, Cardiff CF24 1NF
5-10pm, every day
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