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‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’

Affordable and eclectic Sri Lankan food served with a twist

A favourite aphorism of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent is “there’s nothing like my mother’s cooking” as they delve into a KFC Bargain Bucket or a (Tuesdays only) half-price vegetarian deli at McDonald’s.  Much as the indigenous population are given to complaining about the eternally inclement weather and exaggerate the achievements of it’s supposedly ‘No 1’ Cricket team, South Asians have made an art out of getting all nostalgic about ‘Momma’s’ or ‘Ammi’s (Sri Lankan for ‘mother’) – cooking.

And now a new Asian restaurant in London is preparing to draw on that nostalgia with a mixture of authentic South Asian dishes prepared swiftly at a cost that would put the Saver Menu at McD’s to shame; both in terms of flavourful variety and price.  ‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’ on Kilburn High Street launched 21st January and will serve up a myriad array of curries, mains and ‘Short Eats’ as they are called in Sri Lanka; from such stables as mutton rolls and fish cutlets to ‘Ammis Chicken Curry’ – prepared according to an age old recipe concocted by Ammi dearest and handed down the generations – and Kottu Roti; the ultimate in Sri Lankan street food.

The concept is the brainchild of Niroch Fernando, a graduate of Corden Bleu and a chef formerly attached to no less a corporate culinary behemoth as Caprice Holdings who, not content with forging a career with the company behind such gastronomic institutions as Daphne’s, Jay Sheekey, Scott’s and Le Caprice, decided to up sticks and return to his roots.  Niroch says, “I grew up partly in Sri Lanka and my taste in food has always been coloured by the eclectic dishes of Sri Lanka and the amazing food cooked at home by my mother and father.  The most amazing thing about Sri Lankan food however is the fact that every single person has their own, unique interpretation about how to prepare and serve any of the numerous dishes that make up Sri Lankan cuisine.  My intention is to put my own twist on these amazing dishes”.  

The individuality in the dishes is immediately apparent as the guests tuck into the tasting menu prepared by a furiously focussed Niroch and his team.  Alongside the usual suspects such as the beautifully meaty mutton rolls and fish cutlets, there are delightful little miniature ‘Pol Roti’ – flat breads made of flour and coconut shavings – bathed in ‘Lunu Miris; Sri Lanka’s famed onion and chilli based concoction.  Mains included the usual suspects – from chicken and mutton curry to cashew salads and fried aubergines – all prepared not only with a modern twist but with an eye on healthy living as well, with minimal use of oil and coconut milk; two ingredients considered essential in the preparation of Sri Lankan food but whose effects on the waistline are far more profound in the relatively sedentary lifestyle of foodies in London.  

And in a move that will no doubt be welcomed by Sri Lankans as well as all Londoners, the menu at ‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’ also features some surprising delights long associated with mothers in Sri Lanka including Iced Coffee and Chocolate Biscuit Pudding, here made with dark chocolate as opposed milk chocolate and to exquisite effect as well.  And to boot, the menu will indeed not burn a hole in your wallet, especially in these straitened times.  

Sri Lankan restaurants in London are among the most disappointing in the capital, weighed down by a lack of competition and a resultant dearth of innovation or excitement about food preparation and service.  It is a great shame, particularly given the fact that Sri Lanka boasts such great culinary traditions.  

At first glance and in a seemingly single sweep, ‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’ is set to change the entire landscape.  

–    Vijitha Alles



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