Featured Restaurant: Virundhu Street Kitchen

14th September 2018

104 Victoria Road • Ruislip Manor • HA4 0AL • 01895 348683

Reviewed by Lisa Botwright

A genuine Sri Lankan street kitchen, like the famous ones in capital city Colombo, must be an incredible experience: a multi-sensory assault of sound, smell and colour, and an overwhelming choice of tastes and textures. The concept is all about quick, simple, cheap and filling fare, often eaten on the go…

…so I love the fact that when I arrive at VSK in Ruislip Manor on a Friday night, I have to queue before I can even get through the front door – and once inside it’s as busy, buzzing and full of tantalising smells as its name suggests. It’s a relatively small space, stylishly fitted out with contemporary lighting and lime green splashes of colour. The menu is an A3 card, complete with tasteful pictures for at-a-glance choice-making, and the prices so reasonable that I wonder if the dishes are in fact ‘small plates’, to be eaten tapas-style, rather than main dishes. (I’m wrong – the dishes are perfectly generous, as we’ll see later.)

Starters here are called ‘Short Eats’ and the husband and I opt for Fish Cutlets and Mutton Rolls that we plan to share. The cutlets look just like scotch eggs: golden spheres of breadcrumbs, but stuffed with flaked mackerel, potato and spices; while the sausage-shaped mutton rolls, also covered with breadcrumbs, are full of tender slow-cooked mutton rolled in filo pastry. Both are served with a tomato dipping sauce and salad of grated carrot, beetroot and cucumber. Visually it all looks a little ‘nursery food’, but then I tuck in and the heat and the complexity of the spices promptly make me change my mind. This is unapologetically hearty, hot and delicious grub, as befitting its street food status.

The main dishes are grouped together on the menu under titles that blend the matter-of-fact with the unusual. We choose two dishes from ‘Curries’ (Blackened Pork plus Aubergine and Chick Pea) – and one from the far more intriguing-sounding ‘Devil Dishes’ (Mutton); as well as some Parotha flat bread to mop it all up.

Despite its ‘diabolic’ name, the mutton is heavenly: lean strips of sweet, sticky lamb piled high with green chillies, peppers, spring onions, fresh lime and ‘vanilla-ish’ pandan leaves. The (free-range) pork dish is far more mellow: generous cubes of white (the meat is seared, but not blackened) meat in a smooth and delicious gravy. There’s possibly some cumin and cardamon in there; most probably some garlic. It’s all good.

The vegetable dish is a revelation. It’s a very meaty-looking ‘pulled’ aubergine – cooked down until it’s so meltingly tender and tasty that it rivals any porcine equivalent. (If you’re a veggie for ethical reasons, but you miss the taste of meat, this is the dish for you… and for my husband and me, seeing as it went in moments.)

We round the evening off with coffee and a slice of traditional Wattalapam – a homemade cardamom-spiced custard pudding that’s reminiscent of a coconut-y English bread pudding, save for the very Sri Lankan banana leaf plate.

I’ve really enjoyed my introduction to this cuisine: the unusual flavour combinations make a very refreshing change. And do tell the staff your plans for the evening. I liked the way we were asked early on if we were in a hurry – they’re happy to pace the service as quickly or as slowly as you like.
We’re certainly in no rush. There’s a great atmosphere and the food is delicious. The fast-turnover street-kitchen-ethos, for us, has morphed agreeably into a very pleasant and leisurely dining experience.

STARTERS: £3-£8.50 • MAINS: £6-£8.50
DESSERTS: £3.50-£5 • HOUSE WINE: £19

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