Colombo can be a tricky city to get to grips with, but there’s potential aplenty beneath its chaotic surface.
Planning a night out in the city? From rooftop bars and coastal cocktail spots to street food restaurants and buzzing pizza places, any one of these joints should make your evening one to remember.
So, whether you’re after a sunset bite or a scrumptious supper with friends, here are some of our top spots for eating and drinking in Colombo.
Savour Southeast Asian street food specialties at marvellous Monsoon.
In pride of place at the end of buzzing Park Street Mews, this airy, leaf-filled eatery is brimming with ambience, ideal for an evening à deux – or with a group of friends. The decor is absolutely on point, the cocktails boozy and the dishes delicious: feast on spicy sea bass baked in banana leaves, black pepper tofu, prawns wrapped in fried vermicelli noodles, fresh spring rolls and mouth-watering Tom Yam Goong. Offering street food favourites from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, this is a superb place to fill the table and sample the best of south-east Asian cuisine. And, with the bars of the Mews only steps away, the evening’s just getting started.
50/2 Park Street Mews, Colombo 2 | monsooncolombo.com | Open daily
King of the Mambo
Kick off a night on the town with sunset cocktails by the Indian Ocean.
With the crashing waves just metres away, happening Mambo’s gorgeous sofas are the perfect place to perch with a mojito, while the funky barstools are brilliant for those keen to keep the drinks coming. Plates of Cuban-themed nibbles are ideal for sharing and there’s a guaranteed glow as the day gives way to evening. The Galle Face Hotel is a Colombo icon — reputedly the oldest hotel east of the Suez — and Mambo provides the perfect excuse to pop in. There’s superb street food on adjoining Galle Face, too, so you can amble across for prawn vadai once you’ve had your fill of cocktails – or do it in reverse: KOTM is also a popular late-night spot, with local partygoers rocking up for live Latin music at weekends, before heading to nearby clubs (swanky Ask For Fern is the closest).
At the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo 3 | kingofthemambo.com | Open daily
Feast on tasty flatbreads with Colombo’s brightest partygoers on weekend evenings.
The Galle Face Hotel’s latest addition to the Colombo evening scene has proven to be a huge hit with the city’s party crowd. Arrive before sunset to see streaks of pink and orange lighting up the sky, and recline on gauzy daybeds or pull up a cane chair as you sip sweet strawberry daiquiris. As darkness descends, well-heeled Colombo-ites emerge in full force for spicy flatbreads, garlicky prawns and moreish mezze platters. Expect DJs and dancing on weekends, or more tranquil seaside afternoons during the week. Book well in advance if you’re planning a Saturday night out.
At the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo 3 | @firebeachcolombo | Open daily
Tuck in to some of Colombo’s best pizza in a little courtyard just off Thimbirigasyaya Road.
Crispy dough, fresh flavours and the ideal cheese-to-ingredient ratio attest to years spent in Italy: this really is great pizza – and the famously laid-back vibe has us coming back again and again. With fairy lights strung up above a brick-walled enclave and a vintage Ford in the drive, Giovanni’s has date nights down, while the wooden benches are a top spot for noisy catch-ups. Pile in and munch away. The friendly team are an absolute highlight and the food is ace – there’s a reason Giovanni’s has such a loyal fanbase.
Note: don’t forget to BYOB; the nearby liquor shop is open until 9pm, but it’s tricky to pick up a bottle in the area anytime after that.
145 Thimbirigasyaya Road, Colombo 5 | facebook.com/giovannispresto | Open daily
Toast this cricket crazy country with a sip of something special at Kava, a rooftop bar overlooking the historic Colombo Cricket Club.
Recently renovated with the Pacific Islands in mind, this open-air bar now boasts a stylish restaurant area, brightly patterned decor and plenty of cosy cushioned seating for drinks with friends. Sharing plates make for excellent sunset nibbles, whilst the kitchen also serves up great dinner dishes to accompany heady Tiki-themed cocktails. Chill out with live music at the regular Sunday BBQ or bop to the DJ’s beats on Friday and Saturday evenings. With partner club Tribe just downstairs, you can boogie until the early hours.
41 Maitland Cresent, Colombo 7 | facebook.com/kavaislandbarsl | Open Tuesday to Sunday
Swap the chaos of the city streets for a sundowner on the sand at Sugar Beach in Mt Lavinia.
Cross the quintessential coastal railway tracks and you’ll find yourself in a sandy hideaway, nibbling under swaying palm trees as commuter trains rattle by. The Sugar Beach menu offers everything from tasty prawn curries to pizzas to fresh fish dishes — you are, after all, just metres from the water – as well as yummy fruit smoothies and a good selection of wine. And don’t miss the special crab kotthu. Big umbrellas give shade in the restaurant and outdoor lounge area during the day, whilst candles make for cosy evening dining. Nab a good spot to catch the sunset and make sure to venture out onto the beach after dark: there’s a striking view of the Colombo skyline to the north and the white-painted Mount Lavinia Hotel, slightly to the south, is lit by hundreds of lights.
Mount Lavinia Beach, Mount Lavinia | facebook.com/sugarbeachsl | Open daily
Revel in rooftop tunes and tasty treats in a tropical bistro setting.
Give your usual G&T a local twist with a measure of Colombo gin and pick a perch with a view on Botanik’s open rooftop terrace. Nip up for an early evening drink alfresco as the light seeps from the sky – sampling all manner of quirky cocktails – or sit back and settle in to the leafy tropical vibe while feasting on bistro-style dishes. There’s a huge, funky-tiled open-air bar up here, a big screen for sports matches and plenty of stools set under the fairy lights for long island nights. With a live DJ, regular special events and even space to dance, you’re all set to get groovy before heading down and out to the town.
7 Hospital Street, Colombo 1 | botanik.lk | Open Tuesday to Sunday
Paradise Road Gallery Café
Chic monochrome and understated style mark this spot out from the crowd.
Housed in what was once the office of legendary Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, this art space and eatery feels like a little oasis in the heart of the city. Step past flowering frangipani trees to admire walls adorned with the work of local artists, before venturing through to the bar and restaurant. Sink into an armchair with a coffee and a slice of cake, or perch at small wrought-iron tables in the second courtyard for a candlelit dinner. With romance in spades, this place will have you spilling your secrets over another bottle of red.
2 Alfred House Road, off Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 3 | paradiseroad.lk | Open daily