Shakti Eats: My Top 5 Plant-Based Breakfast Spots in Colombo

 

So, I'm settling into Colombo life and starting to LOVE this city! It really has everything... you just need the time and the patience to hunt down what you're lusting after. And so, I thought I'd write up a little "insiders guide" for anyone who doesn't have the luxury of time (and patience) to track down that which you crave. For me, the first thing I NEEDED to lock down was a good, healthy breakfast spot and a solid plant-based coffee. Morning rituals are my jam. I like to enjoy my breakfast listening to good tunes, writing in my bullet journal and sipping a good coffee. Here's my top 5 spots in Colombo to do just that...

cafekumbuk-pancakes.jpg

1. Café Kumbuk

Not only can you get a delicious plant-based breakfast at Café Kumbuk, it's also positioned conveniently next door to my favourite yoga spot in Colombo – the beautiful Prana Lounge (more on this later). If that's not enough to tempt you... I have three words: 'Coconut Milk Latte'. Holy moly! When I first tasted this coffee, my eyes rolled back in my head and I looked to the heavens saying a silent little prayer. Hallelujah! Creamy, delicious plant-based coffee come at me! And there's more. There's coconut bread with mango and mint, seriously yummy granola topped with strawberries, banana and starfruit and superfood smoothies for days (peanut butter, cacao nibs and toasted coconut flakes – hells yeah!). Read more about it in this post, or just take my word for it, and get on down there...

take me there...

Cafe Kumbuk
60 Horton Place

black-cat-coffee-colombo.jpg

2. Black Cat Café

What can I say about my darling little Black Cat Café? It has great coffee, that unmistakeable vintage vibe about it and sweet, sweet air-conditioning that makes it one of my favourite places in Colombo to sit with my journal and chill. Also, in the words of Black Cat's creators, bookshops are fun. Vintage book markets are funner. And there's one hidden at the back of this brilliant café to further aid my morning procrastination (sorry, work!) sessions. As for plant-based breakfast options here, soy milk is available for your coffees and granola bowls (when there's not an island-wide shortage!), as well as pancakes, smashed avo on toast, and what I reckon is the BEST fruit platter around! And trust me, I've tried a LOT of fruit platters in this country!

Take me there...

Black Cat Café
11 Wijerama Mawatha

one-up-all-day.jpg

3. One Up All Day Breakfast

What could be better than waking up in an exotic paradise like Colombo, knowing you can easily pop down to One Up All Day Breakfast and get the kind of coffee you thought you could only have in freezing, gloomy, 'Miserable Melbourne'? Not much, my friends! I love this little breakfast spot dedicated to exactly that – breakfast, and Melbourne-style coffee. Two of my very favourite things! There's one stand-out dish on the menu for all you plant-lovers out there, and that's the bircher muesli bowl with chia, oats and apple... oh, and wait, then there's blueberry pancakes and avocado smash. I'll take one of each, please!

Take me there...

One Up All Day Breakfast
330 Galle Rd

lifefood-colombo.jpg

4. Life Food

Perhaps you caught the latest edition of 'Shakti Eats' where I discovered this pocket-sized healthy hotspot – Life Food. This fresh little café offers a really impressive breakfast menu featuring plenty of options for vegans, vegetarians and anyone of the lean, green persuasion. There's juices, smoothies, granola, avo smash, roasties (think freshly-baked wholewheat toasted sandwiches) and pancakes – all with a healthy twist. Yes, you can also get your GMO-free soy milk fix, and almond milk is on the way. All this, combined with a bright and cheery atmosphere makes Life Food one of my favourite places to enjoy my morning ritual, watch the leaves fluttering across the street, and chat away to Mr. Jungle Shakti.

take me there...

Life Food Café
33 Perahera Mawatha

5. Milk & Honey Café

Now, there were a lot of cafés I was considering to finish of this list, but I thought that if this is truly a list of the top PLANT-BASED breakfast spots in Colombo, then there's a café I've heard of through the vegan grapevine. I have yet to go there myself, but I've been told that Milk & Honey Café is the MOST vegan-friendly breakfast spot of all. I've heard tales of green pancakes, spinach wraps and homemade granola. If you get there before me, report back, otherwise... watch this space!

take me there...

Milk & Honey Café
44A Horton Place

 

Shakti Eats: Life Food

life-food-colombo-exterior.jpg
life-food-colombo-cafe.jpg
life-food-jungle-shakti.jpg

They say you should never judge a book by it's cover, but I'm a graphic designer, and if I'm completely honest, I've usually made up my mind about a place by the time I've seen it's logo. Does that make me a terrible design snob?! I guess so! But you have to follow your instincts and the latest discovery on my 'Shakti Food Safari' was no exception.

As I approached the cute little shopfront of Life Food, nestled peacefully on the lakefront of chaotic Colombo, I'd already fallen in love with the concept. There, on the bright green awning, the branches of the 'Tree of Life' greeted me in the café's cleverly designed logo. I had an inkling I was going to like this place... and my instincts were correct. Design IS everything!

The interior of the café is decorated just as beautifully, carrying on the fresh and lively theme with a colour palette of bright greens, mint blues and whites. There are flowers and plants on each table and nice little organic touches everywhere, hinting at the connection between life, food and nature. I was delighted to discover that the whole menu concept revolved around healthy ingredients that nourish body, mind and soul.

There's even an awesome Kangen water filter in the kitchen, providing every customer with alkaline, antioxidant restructured water. In other words, ionized water! Don't even get me started about how good ionized water is for you...

life-food-colombo-1.jpg
life-food-colombo-2.jph
life-food-cafe-design.jpg
life-food-cafe-colombo.jpg

Let's just get to the menu, shall we? First of all... I have two words for you: cauliflower rice. Yes that's what I said! All you paleo and ketogenic fans rejoice. Life Food might just be the ONLY place in Sri Lanka serving a low-carb rice alternative. Colour me excited! It's cheekily called 'Fried Lies' on the menu, so we just had to try it out. After some seriously carb-intense travels around Sri Lanka, these were some 'lies' we were happy to swallow! There's even kale on the menu. Yes, kale!

There was the 'Life Cup' filled with home-made granola, strawberry, banana and mango and the 'Smash Me' to further perpetuate my love affair with avocado – think chunky guac on toast! And, there's a bunch of amazing smoothies (green, fruity and with wholesome oats), pancakes, juices, scrumptious salads and more.

Oh, and the coffee easily rivalled some of our favourites on the island but then... wait for it, because you are going to LOVE this... Life Food offers GMO free soy milk and almond milk very soon. Yup! It's super vegan friendly. 

Take me there...

Life Food Café
33 Perahera Mawatha,
Colombo 00200, Sri Lanka

Deliciously Raw Mint Choc Slice

raw-vegan-mint-spirulina-slice.jpg

I am a big, big fan of algae – yup I said it! And no, as much as I wish I was, I am not a mermaid! Algae, best known as spirulina, is one of those 'superfoods' that has been around forever and is loaded with nutrients that can have powerful effects on your body and brain. I find it gives me an energy boost like nothing else (okay, maybe coffee!) – especially the blue-green freshwater kind! It's called AFA (Aphanizomenon flos-aquae) and it has the most beautiful colour. The absolute best way to eat it, in my opinion, is with chocolate and mint, as the flavours work beautifully together. Here's my favourite recipe...

Ingredients

For the base
1 cup Medjool dates (soak in boiling water for 10 minutes if dates aren’t soft)
1 1/2 cups walnuts and pecans
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons raw buckwheat groats
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons raw cacao powder

For the filling
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 8 hours
1/4 cup melted raw cacao butter
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1/3 cup Medjool dates
2 tablespoons raw coconut nectar
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3/4 teaspoon peppermint oil
3/4 teaspoon AFA or spirulina powder
a pinch of sea salt

Garnishes: melted dark chocolate, pistachios, fresh mint leaves, and raw raw cacao nibs.

Method

Line a 8×8 baking pan with grease proof paper. 

For the base, blend all the ingredients in a high-speed food processor until you have a slightly sticky dough. Press onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Place in the freezer while you make the filling.

For the filling, place the cashews in a food processor and blend until they start to mix together and are broken down. Add the remaining ingredients, starting with 1/4 teaspoon for the spirulina and peppermint extract and taste as you go. Both of these ingredients have strong flavours, so add slowly. Blend until you have a thick, creamy mixture. Pour the filling on top of the crust and freeze for 3-4 hours to set.

Once ready to serve, drizzle with melted dark chocolate (I really went over the top here and made a whole chocolate layer!), raw cacao nibs, pistachios and fresh mint leaves. Slice into bars or squares. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. 

Shakti Stays: Theva Residency

theva-residency-pool.jpg
theva-residency-hightea.jpg

How I came to discover Theva Residency, a heavenly haven, nestled high up in the hills above Kandy, is really the perfect example of how serendipity has been at work in my life ever since I decided to move to Sri Lanka (and perhaps even before I knew it myself!). And it really is the perfect example of how the universe answers your prayers at the very moment you need them answered the most.

I'll be honest. I was frustrated. Pacing up and down in a little bungalow we had rented in Kandy, lamenting the lack of hot water, electricity and the right ingredients and motivation to make myself a decent green smoothie. What is your problem, girl? I kept asking myself. You've got jungle on every side of you! It's a balmy 30 degrees and there's fruit everywhere. In the end, I decided it was the lack of windows. There was just no view, man!

If there's one thing I crave more than anything it is wide open spaces. I love to watch the sun rise and set over oceans and valleys. I like to go for long drives on winding roads (in fact, it is how my mum used to calm me down whenever I was distressed as a little girl). I like to swim or go for a run where there's nothing but me and the horizon.

I think there's something magical about seeing yourself "in context". That is, absolutely miniature in comparison to the earth, the sky, the universe and beyond! When I can really see everything out there, my tiny problems disappear and I'm comforted by the vastness of it all. I can just slip back into eternity for a while. Call it mindfulness meditation. Call it 'perspective'. Call it what you will... but I need open spaces. Otherwise I start behaving like a trapped animal.

theva-cuisine-sri-lankan-curry.jpg
theva-cuisine-vegan-curry.jpg
theva-cuisine-icecream.jpg

That's when the universe brought me a new friend in Kandy – Dheeshana Ameresekere, who just happens to be the visionary behind Theva Residency and Theva Cuisine. "Come on up and stay in the hills", she said. And there you have it – my prayers were answered! And so, a few days later, with bloodshot eyes and greasy hair, I emerged worn and weary from a tuk-tuk and stepped into the foyer of Theva Residency. And hallelujah friends! I felt instantly soothed.

The first thing that struck me was the quiet and the cool breeze as it drifted over the hills of Hantana, high above the heat and (delightfully fun!) chaos of Kandy town. Then there was the view. It feels like you could reach out and touch the clouds as you're looking down the valley from heavenly heights. At last, I was in my element.

We enjoyed an incredible lunch at the hotel's restaurant, Theva Cuisine, sampling 17 Sri Lankan dishes and an Award-winning Arrack cocktail which you simply must try. The best part? 15 of those dishes were vegan – yes! This is why I love Sri Lankan curries! Now, it's rare to find a kitchen that does authentic Sri Lankan food and international cuisine so beautifully, but the chefs at Theva really deserve a special mention for their skills! Everything is made from scratch and presented in truly artistic fashion from the chocolates to the ice cream to the breakfast preserves (think Strawberry Watermelon, Pineapple Raisin and the best Orange Marmalade I think I've ever tasted – sorry Dad!).

theva-residency-fruit-platter.jpg
theva-residency-high-tea-chocolate.jpg
theva-residency-breakfast.jpg

I could go on forever describing the food, but there were also some other little touches that made me so incredible happy. Luscious Spa Ceylon products, for example – especially nice when you haven't had a hot shower in over a week! Another pleasant surprise was the unique tea selection. Theva Residency was the only place I've stayed so far that provided complimentary herbal teas in the room. In a country famous for it's rich black tea, it is rare to come across my favourite infusions like chamomile or peppermint without a hefty dose of Ceylon tea to kick you in the butt. In addition to those, the hotel also offers a selection of Wellness Teas from Sri Lanka's tea-growing heart. Pretty happy about that! So it was with great pleasure that my darling and I enjoyed a stormy sunset over herbal teas and handmade chocolates. 

theva-residency-chaise.jpg
theva-residency-kandy.jpg
theva-residency-bedroom.jpg

I was revived! But, it wasn't only the little luxuries that lifted my spirits at Theva Residency. It was also the serendipitous meeting with it's intriguing and charismatic owner and the chance to chat, albeit briefly, with her about the things we both find enchanting – books, hatha yoga, spiritual counselling, parallel universes, wolves, religion, mythology and the meaning of life! You know... the usual. 

There's nothing like a rambling conversation in the clouds with a kindred spirit to get the mind and soul out of a rut. And a blissful night's sleep, of course!

Take me there...

Theva Residency & Theva Cuisine
Off Upper Tank Road, off Circular Road 2
Hantana, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Shakti Stays: Owl and the Pussycat

otp-hotel-bar.jpg
otp-hotel-galle-bar.jpg

So it is fast becoming apparent that there's much more to Sri Lanka than just the incredibly diverse food. There are some truly amazing design hotels and boutique stays hidden away on this island, and I've had a lot of people ask about the places we've been staying. I thought I'd begin this new series of 'Shakti Stays' posts with one of the standout experiences we have had on our travels so far – the incomparable Owl and the Pussycat Hotel.

This incredibly unique boutique hotel on the south west coast of Sri Lanka caught my attention long before I ever set foot on this island with it's oh-so-stylish milieu popping up on all my favourite Pinterest boards and the Instagram feeds of chic travel bloggers. Cue the #wanderlust!

With it's clever concept (everything from the room numbers to the throw pillows pay homage to the Edward Lear poem of the same name) and it's thoughtful attention to every detail, Owl and The Pussycat continued to surprise and delight us from the moment we arrived.

otp-hotel-galle-postcards.jpg
otp-hotel-drawingroom.jpg
otp-hotel-cushions.jpg
otp-hotel-pool.jpg

And when I say thoughtful little details, I'm talking about complimentary ayurvedic insect repellant, a little basket of snacks and a cheeky half bottle of wine to enjoy in private, and a set of gorgeous postcards to write to your friends and gush over your incredible holiday.

There's an elegant drawing room and separate study area, as well as a well-equipped, air-conditioned gym. There's pops of colour everywhere and at any one moment you could think you're lounging by a Mexican beach, wandering through an Indian bazaar, or taking tea with a Parisian antiques collector. We even had the option of early morning yoga by the sea. You can watch the waves crashing from the pool and bar, and if you're lucky will catch Sri Lanka's famous stilt fisherman bringing in their catch at sunset.

otp-hotel-breakfast-fruit.jpg
otp-hotel-cocktails.jpg
otp-hotel-galle-thambili.jpg
otp-hotel-bedroom.jpg

But, for me, you know it's all about the food! Before any of my other little travel must-haves; a comfy bed, a beautiful swimming pool, a gorgeous bathroom with nice lighting and space for my ghd, the sound of waves gently crashing outside my door and a heavenly sunset (all of which OTP ticked!), there is one ultimate test - the food!! And boy, did this hotel impress!

I wish we'd taken more photos of the food, as the presentation was beautiful, but we couldn't resist taking a bite and, well, it disappeared rather quickly after that! You'll just have to go check it out for yourselves.

We were spoilt with fresh king coconut, tropical fruit platters with guava, starfruit and mango, woodapple juice, delicious salads, sun-dried tomato pesto and more!

Even better, we were lucky enough to be there on Valentine's Day, so were treated to a candlelit dinner by the sea, cocktails and a trio of desserts. We almost felt like the storybook Owl and Pussycat ourselves, swept up in a little tropical romance. All that was missing was the pea green boat. Or perhaps that was just the passionfruit daquiri talking...

Take me there...

Owl and Pussycat Hotel and Restaurant
N.788, Matara Road, Talpe, Sri Lanka

Shakti Eats: Ceylon Sliders

ceylon-sliders-weligama-cafe.jpg

Another fantastic discovery on the island of Sri Lanka that all my jungle-loving friends need to visit is the uber chill surfie / yogi hangout, Ceylon Sliders. A small but stylish café space with a thoughtfully curated menu featuring seasonal local fruits and vegies.

The brainchild of Swedish couple and fellow travel bloggers, Linn & Petter, Ceylon Sliders exudes a sense of effortless chill in it's palm-fringed tropical courtyard that catches the sea breeze. Directly opposite one of Weligama's most popular beaches, and with rooftop yoga sessions, it really appealed to my Aussie/Swedish heritage and, like much of Sri Lanka, brought back fond memories of life in Queensland, wandering barefoot on the surf beaches of the Gold Coast or the squeaky white coral sands of the Whitsundays. Something about the sea breeze and the scent of pineapple and coconut coming from the kitchen, I guess!

Speaking of the kitchen, it was another special treat to sit down with Ceylon Sliders' chef-in-residence, Diana Basto Ferriera. Originally from Portugal, but trained in Paris, Diana's love of food that nourishes body, mind and soul has taken her on a culinary journey from classic French Pastry to Holistic Nutrition, Raw Cuisine and the art of Fermentation. We chatted about the advantages and challenges of working with fresh island ingredients, the almost magical properties Sri Lanka's Ayurvedic plants and how her menu has evolved to work with what is in season. I really hope to try her Gotu Kola smoothie next time I visit!

ceylon-sliders-weligama-nancy.jpg
ceylon-sliders-tropical-granola.jpg

So, you're dying to know what we ate, right? Aside from what my coffee-addicted partner-in-crime described as 'the best coffee in Sri Lanka' (it's all about the coffee machine by 'Rocket Espresso', I'm told!), we treated ourselves to a salty peanut butter and banana smoothie (with real treacle!), a tropical granola bowl and my favourite thing in the world – smashed avocado on fluffy house-made sourdough! The granola bowl deserves a special mention, however, with it's perfect blend of fresh baby bananas, sweet mango, juicy papaya and tangy pineapple. All topped off pomegranate seeds, chia and... a bit more cheeky treacle, just for fun!

Do be sure to check this place out, and oh, you can even stay the night! More on this later...

Take me there...

Ceylon Sliders
No 9 New Galle Rd, Rest House Junction,
Weligama, Weligama 81700, Sri Lanka

Spicy Pineapple Salsa

raw-spicy-pineapple-salsa.jpg

Salsa is one of my all-time favourite raw vegan side-dishes – in fact, if you make enough, it can be a meal in itself. Think BIG salad style! Aside from the classic tomato version, you can make incredible salsas from a multitude of raw fruits and vegetables, like cucumber, avocado, mango, pineapple, strawberries, tamarillo and papaya... and I'm sure there's plenty more. Check out the first raw vegan recipe I've made since arriving in Sri Lanka. Direct from the jungle in rural Kandy, and served in a King Coconut shell...

Ingredients

2 large fresh pineapples
2 large capsicum (try red and green), diced
3-4 firm red or cherry tomatoes, diced
1-2 red or green chillies, sliced finely
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, shredded
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp liquid coconut oil
salt and pepper, to taste

method

Remove the skin and eyes of the pineapples and dice the flesh as finely or as roughly as you wish – depends on how chunky you like your salsa! Alternatively, you can scoop out the flesh and use the pineapple halves as bowls in which to serve the salsa. I like my salsa really chunky so it feels like a big salad.

Next, in a large bowl mix the diced pineapple, capsicum, tomato, chilli and lime juice. The coconut oil is optional, but I find it gives it a gorgeous boost. Note, it will only stay liquid in tropical weather, so if you're adding it to refrigerated fruit in colder climates, it might solidify. Finally, season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Shakti Eats: Poonie's Kitchen

poonies-kitchen-curry-thali.jpg
poonieskitchengalle.jpg

The next stop on our Sri Lankan 'Food Safari' was the eclectic and quirky courtyard cafe that I'd been lusting over via Instagram for months – Poonie's Kitchen in Galle Fort. Immediately upon walking through the doors, we were greeted by cafe owner, Jo Eden, in what I came to suspect was her signature blend of friendly exuberance and boundless generosity. We were lucky enough to steal a few moments of her time to chat about expat life in Sri Lanka and the evolution of the Poonie's Kitchen concept.

A converted Dutch-colonial home inside the fort walls, you'll pass through Jo's own Mimimango boutique (think gorgeous resort wear, accessories and art) and into the 'secret garden' style café courtyard inside. Cue the tropical colour palette and quirky decor, the Araliya branches and dangling charms swaying in the breeze, and the gentle splashes coming from the fish pond, and you know you've struck gold. Fondly named after the home's former owner, Poonie's Kitchen is the quintessential healthy destination for foodies of Sri Lanka.

First up, we were treated to the yummiest café latté we'd had since landing on the island. Oh, how I've missed good coffee – it's my only vice! Quickly followed by a decadently thick and creamy mango smoothie (according to the sign by the bar, it's mango season in Sri Lanka! Yippee!). 

salad-thali-poonies-kitchen.jpg

It was a pleasant surprise to discover from Jo that the Poonie's Kitchen menu is also organic, with ingredients sourced either from a farm nearby or from Sri Lanka's lush hill country, known for it's exceptional fresh produce. And you can really taste the difference. I had spotted the incredible Salad Thali on Instagram long before I arrived in Sri Lanka, and it had been on my plant-foodie wish list ever since. With avocado smash, pomegranate arils, okra, shredded cabbage and carrot, mung bean sprouts and more, it was everything I'd hoped for; a rainbow-coloured plant-a-palooza fit for any jungle goddess.

Although it seems that Sri Lankan foodie culture demands a second stomach purely for dessert, alas, I have not yet achieved this skill. Seriously though, dessert comes out after every meal here; breakfast, lunch and dinner! Oh well, I guess that's just an excuse to return to Poonie's Kitchen on our way back up the coast, right? Plus, there's a bunch more smoothies to try and, so I've heard, a magnificent selection of teas.

Take me there...

Poonie's Kitchen
63, Pedlar St, Galle, Sri Lanka