As delicious as Sri Lankan food is, every once in a while even the most hardened curryphile needs some respite. When such a need comes knocking, there are few better places to address it than at the Barefoot Garden Cafe in Colombo. A sanctuary of meditative calm nestled between the Indian Ocean and the commercial fervour of the Galle Road, the Barefoot Garden Cafe nourishes the soul as much as it does the body. With a Bawa-esque design aesthetic that infuses the natural with the man-made and the man-made with the natural, sitting in the BGC provides as good an introduction as any to the languid joys of tropical modernism. And if that wasn’t enough, it just so happens to serve up some wonderfully tasty Western nosh as well. I know what you’re thinking: bliss.
The BGC is housed within a large courtyard dotted with frangipanis and palm trees. It can be reached by walking through Barefoot, the textile-cum-handicraft store that is the darling of female residents of and visitors to Sri Lanka. It attracts some of the most interesting-looking and well-to-do people in Colombo: tousle-haired, cigarette-smoking Sri Lankan and expatriate families – those that seem to glow from a bohemian sense of wellbeing that stems from being completely at ease with themselves and their surroundings (most noted in their remarkably well-behaved children). A fistful of tourists and travellers complete the picture, hogging the lounge chairs with their bloated, burnt, garishly-attired (and visibly tattooed) bodies, and quaffing beer as only a Westerner abroad knows how. A melange of popular, prandial, imperfections.
We both opted for the pesto and roasted vegetable sandwich on cheese bread (LKR 500). It was as much a feast for the eyes as it was the palate, as the wonderfully crisp rocket, red pepper and cucumber salad radiated colour and freshness, and was generously doused with a punchy mustard vinaigrette. The pesto in the sandwich provided an smooth and aromatic pungency that brought the flavours of the roasted courgettes, bell peppers, aubergines, and carrots to life, whilst the crisp saltiness of the cheese bread provided texture and bite. It was small, simple, and bursting with zingy flavours. Very nice.
All in all, the Barefoot Garden Cafe neatly encapsulates the magic of Sri Lanka. Everything, from the architecture to the patrons to the flavours, is natural and unhurried. It’s the kind of place where, if you spend long enough in Colombo, you will find yourself returning to again, and again, and again.
Barefoot Garden Cafe
704 Galle Road, Colombo 3
+94 11 2589305
Open 10:00-19:00 Monday-Sunday; 11:00-17:00 Sunday & Poya Days
Nazreen Sansoni’s reviews