Ask Google how many restaurants there are in Greater London and you will get a number of answers of variying degrees of usefulness. I say this because the total number of establishment serving food in London (in excess of 30,000!) includes things like fast food outlets, kebab shops, coffee shops and private clubs – most of which would not be classed as “restaurants” within the everyday usage of the word. A more accurate number is probably somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000. But suffice it to say you could eat out in a different restaurant in London every night for most of your life (over 50 years!). You could also try a mind-boggling array of different authentic cuisines (including Nigerian, Vietnamese, Colombian, Congolese, Malaysian, Brazilian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Peruvian, Afghan, Burmese, Mauritian, South African, Eritrean and Persian). Many of these restaurants can be somewhat off the beaten track, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out that you can now enjoy authentic Sri Lankan cuisine in the rather incongruous glass skyscraper surrounds of Canary Wharf. Wander out of Canary Wharf station, along the North Colonnade past Cabot Square and then turn towards the water, turning right before you cross the pedestrian bridge. You will find Karapincha inside The Limehouse pub where sisters Vasanthini and Dharshini Perumal have had a permanent residency since early 2019 and oversee a kitchen that turns out excellent, authentically spicy Sri Lankan food. Originally from Colombo in Sri Lanka, the sisters have restaurants in their blood – their family runs one of Colombo’s most famous vegetarian restaurants. They have brought their family’s recipes with them to London and feel that partnering with The Limehouse allows them to introduce a new audience to the foods they love and grew up eating. The pub’s craft beer and extensive gin menu make for an exciting drinks pairing too, complementing dishes from the relatively well-known crispy hoppers to less familiar dishes (to non-Sri Lankans!) like the mackerel cutlets and string hoppers.
On the night we visited, both sisters were on hand to explain to us that the name Karapincha is the Sri Lankan word for the curry leaf – a spice that grows in Sri Lanka and is used in Ayurvedic medicine, but is justifiably most famous for its use in Sri Lankan cuisine. According to Vasanthini: “no karapincha, no Sri Lankan cuisine”! The regular menu is divided into finger food (which includes some of Sri Lanka’s favourite street foods) and more substantial mains such as rotis, hoppers and curries. We started with a sharing platter which combined a few of the finger foods. The fish “cutlets” (£6.50) turned out to be crispy croquettes, filled with well-spiced mackerel; and the lamb rolls (£6.50) – loved these! – consisted of a delicious lamb curry rolled into a flatbread and served in bite-sized slices. Both were served with a a sweet chilli sauce and a cooling spicy mayonnaise and parsley sauce. Coconut sambal roti (£5.50) was fresh, pillowy and sweet, served with pineapple pickle; and the lamb-stuffed roti (£7.00) was hot and spicy – too hot for my taste, but others at the table loved it. For me, the highlight was the buffalo cauliflower (£5.50) – deep-fried crispy cauliflower florets in a spicy batter (a twist on traditional Sri Lankan cauliflower curry). Addictive!
For our main course we were also presented with a selection from the menu. Chicken kothu roti (£11.00), described to us as “Sri Lankan chicken salad” turned out to be a hot bowl of finely chopped flatbread, chicken curry, egg and greens – unexpected but very tasty and oddly satisfying, and definitely something I would order again. It’s no surprise that chicken or lamb kothu roti is one of Sri Lanka’s favourite street foods. We also had excellent fresh, flaky Ceylon paratha flatbread to be dipped in either a fragrant vegetable or lamb curry (£12.50); and string hoppers (Sri Lankan thin rice-flour noodles) served with pol sambol spicy coconut relish (£9.00) – the pol sambol being my favourite discovery of the night: fresh, fragrant and complex. Of course, no Sri Lankan meal would be complete without hoppers (a baked batter “bowl” made from a yeasty fermented rice and coconut batter). We had both plain ones and egg hoppers, enjoyed with chicken, vegetable and lamb curry, plus more of the pol sambol.
For dessert, we shared a platter of bite-sized caramel slices, chocolate brownies and more traditional watalappan. a deliciously rich baked coconut and condensed milk custard flavoured with jaggery, cashews, cardamom and pandan juice.
Whether you are a Canary Wharf local who wants somewhere a little different for lunch, or a weekend shopper who wants to dip their toe into Sri Lankan cuisine, I would definitely recommend Karapincha for an authentic taste of Sri Lanka. The flavours are fresh and vibrant and not dumbed down for English plates, and the dishes pair well with the pub’s selection of craft beers and gin.
Cost per head: approx £25 for 3 courses
Nearest Tube station: Canary Wharf
29-30 Fishermans Walk
10 Cabot Square
Tel: +44 (0)20 7513 0255
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this meal as a guest of Karapincha but received no further remuneration to write this post. I was not expected to write a positive review – all views are my own and I retain full editorial control.
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