Colombo is big on bakeries - we really love our short-eats and cakes. Almost every junction seems to have a Perera & Sons around the corner, and people are constantly looking for new places for affordable baked goodies for their parties and birthday gigs. Here's our round-up, from the institutions which have been around for a hundred years, to some of the newer contenders who've upped the game.
They've been around for a very long time - we fondly remember stopping here in the '90s for an apple cake or an eclair. However, they have become rather lazy over the years - the short-eats are not bad, and the cakes have that distinct Sumanadisi smell of hardened, kind-of-oily icing, so the others on our list have effortlessly pushed it to the bottom of our list. Regardless, it still remains on its feet, doling out breads and short-eats to a loyal customer base. They also do hoppers at night.
Royal Bakery has been around for literally a hundred years. Sumanadisi's much more popular counterpart, it's trying a little harder, its short-eats and cakes are definitely better. Nothing outstanding but I personally enjoy their cupcakes and think this is one of the best places to get a big chocolate chip cupcake off the counter. They've also got a good, cheap biscuit corner offering gnanakatha and the lot, and they whip up fried rice and what not on the top floor.
The Chariot is another bakery that seems to be popular for pastries over the counter, though we've heard since their management changed their fare hasn't been anything to run home and talk about. Still, they've got plenty of branches so they are easily accessible - in Bamba, Dehiwala and the WTC, so if you're around and just hungry, they do some okay short-eats and rice and curry for lunch.
Sen Saal is more upmarket than the P&S/Sumanadisi type bakeries. They've got a wider range of short-eats, plus other things like waffles and salads, and also rice and curry. You don't get as many pastries here as at the other bakeries, mostly buns, and they're not bad. The rice and curry and nasi goreng are not bad either. Some things like the waffles for Rs. 300 feel like a rip off, and the brightly coloured desserts are bound to disappoint. Sen Saal is not one of our favourites, but they're not bad, so their branches in the city are an option if you're in the mood for a quick bite.
Perera & Sons is probably Sri Lanka's biggest bakery franchise. It's got a warm place in most of our hearts for being a very reliable stopover for mostly short-eats. Though far from the likes of Tasty Caterers or Sponge, the fare here is still good, and consistently so, and now is easily accessible all over the city (and outstation too).
BreadTalk made quite a splash when they broke into the local bakery scene a few years back. They've got some great locations and some of the best looking interiors of any bakery in Colombo, but ultimately, never impressed us with what matters the most- the food. We've heard that they've been regrouping, and some of their suburban outlets (like the one in Nugegoda) seem to serve good snacks.
This is one of the oldies once again, and especially their Pagoda Tea Rooms on Chatham Street is a place to be revered for its age and resilience (yes I take my short-eats very seriously). They do a very good rice and curry, and while their lamprais at the Bambalapitiya branch didn't impress us, the one at Pagoda was wonderful and worth going for. They do some decent short-eats, but they're better known now for their lunch time buffet and hoppers.
Klassy is another one of Colombo's handful bakeries that have consistently reliable fare. The shorteats are not amazing, but they're always good, and we've heard great things about their home made garlic sauce, chocolate cake and bacon and egg pastry.
Little Star falls a bit short of its Lavinian counterpart (the next entry), but is still a good alternative. While they don't have many outlets, they do offer a good selection. One thing we particularly appreciate is the fact that they serve pork based products and the ones we tried were quite good. Their sweets weren't excellent, but LS is one of the few places that serve up local sweets like mung kavum and naarang kavum throughout the year.
This was described by Bhagya as arguably the best mainstream bakery in Mount Lavinia. The pastry pies here are particularly yummy, generous and authentic when it comes to the stuffings, while their white sauce rolls and kimbula bunis are excellent too.
Now we reach the superior spectrum of our list. The Fab has been around for a very long time, since the early '80s, and to date is still a reliable bet for people in Colombo in search of good short-eats and cakes. They also have expanded into doing bigger meals like burgers and pizzas, we haven't given them a shot though - they are better known for their generously iced cakes, well-filled pastries and Taste-Off winning Lamprais.
Sponge is definitely one of my personal favourites. Again, from the '80s, this bakery is top notch and also the only one on the list that I think you can relax at on comfortable cotton sofas or have a private meal upstairs. They do a good maalu paan, Chinese roll and chicken pie, they've got plenty of veg options too, they make custom cakes, and also a variety of bigger meals - we tried the chicken burger, and it's actually tender and creamy and quite good for a bakery burger.
Tasty Caterers (who also run Cafe On The 5th) is the reigning king of mainstream bakeries and I pray they will continue to keep it up. I've never been disappointed by a single pastry, bun or eclair here in my life. Yes, it's as dramatic as it sounds. They also do some very good hoppers, lasagna and a delicious rice and curry. This is an all-round good bakery and the most reliable for quick bites and tasty lunches, all still super affordable. The chicken pies and Chinese rolls are very creamy and generously filled, and the eclairs are the best in town.
These are the big leagues, restaurants really, set apart from the small local pastry shops, but we though they needed to be on the list because they do some very good bready bites. We're big fans of their party platters, which are the best show of their skills at baking up short-eats, profiteroles, et al. While Tasty still has my heart, I have to admit that Paan Paan is quite good at what it does. They do delivery, and if you don't want the short-eats, you can also get their signature sandwiches or subs in the Rs. 250 - 500 range, which generally feature airy soft bread, and toothsome cheesy generous fillings.
Dolce Italia was an unexpected surprise to crop up the corner of Havelock Road and Vajira Road. It is a rare find: an affordable, but authentic Italian place to have a snack at, or even a casual dinner. Your food is usually in the hands of the Italian chef, Manuella, so the stuff is bound to be good. Besides the very cheesy, carefully cooked up Italian pastas and lasagne, this is a great place for a cool drink and pastries. The Danish pastries are soft, warm and buttery, you can get little frollinis (little gnanakatha-like sugary biscuits), and very skillfully baked croissant-ish chocolate panzerottis, however these are going to be in the Rs. 200-300 range. They've also got a host of breads and croissants on the shelves available for purchasing.
The Bread Company is at the top spot on our list and remains the best place in town to grab bread-based meals or choose from a wide variety of high quality, speciality breads. They offer a variety of different baked goods from fresh baked bread (rye, nutty, multi-seed, etc.), burgers, some awesome sandwiches (chicken, egg, cold cut pork) and some really yummy cinnamon rolls for those looking for something sweet.
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