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Colombo Social: The Sydney restaurant with a social conscience

Sri Lankan food is growing in popularity in Sydney with a number of new restaurants opening in recent years. But Colombo Social is about much more than just the food – it’s also a social enterprise helping those in need. Their philosophy is: “enabling communities, transforming lives. Serving social change one meal at a time”.

Plate it Forward

Colombo Social works with refugee-support agency Settlement Services International, the Asylum Seeker Centre in Newtown and the SkillMe program, to recruit recently-arrived asylum seekers and refugees to work in their kitchen or front of house.

Credit: Colombo Social

Their mission is to help refugees and asylum seekers to transition smoothly into life in Australia. They are helping them to acquire skills they can use to find other employment later on. The restaurant also ensures its partner agencies are able to provide ongoing mental health support to the workers, both before they’re hired and while they’re working.

The founders of Colombo Social believe that food is designed to bring people together, that it’s a way to check in on one another and to celebrate being the social creatures we are. In 2020, Covid-19 has disrupted a key part of human interaction and has forever changed the way we connect with each other.

The team at Colombo Social noticed the COVID-19 pandemic has also made things even tougher for the most vulnerable members of society and set out to help. Whilst other restaurants were focussed on how they were going to survive the first stage of lockdown which meant food outlets had to close, Colombo Social was focussed on how they could provide assistance to those most in need.

Credit: Colombo Social

Through their Plate it Forward campaign, they work with their charity partners to identify those most in need and provide them with free, nutritious and tasty meals. This project kickstarted in early 2020 and so far they have managed to donate over 37,000 meals the elderly Aboriginal community in Redfern, those in social housing in Camperdown, asylum seekers across Sydney and many others.

Modern Sri Lankan cuisine

Head chef Chamara Pathiranage has designed a menu which celebrates the sharing experience of Sri Lankan cuisine, blending home cooking techniques and contemporary Aussie favourites. To start, the Beetroot Bahjis are a vegan fan favourite, the caramelised onion and spicy beetroot fritters are served with a cooling coconut yoghurt raita and a tangy date and lime pickle. The Soft Shell Crab Taco is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes and is a roti taco stuffed with spiced crab, papaya salsa, spicy mayo and pol sambol.

For the main event, order a selection of dishes that the table can share. We recommend the Vegetarian Kottu with kale, snake beans and seasonal vegetables mixed with roti, egg and Amma’s mild curry gravy and the Beetroot Curry which packs a punch with its earthy flavours.

Credit: Colombo Social

You wouldn’t be having the real Sri Lankan experience if you didn’t get a side of sambols and roti. The Pol Sambol is a Sri Lankan classic made with fresh grated coconut tossed in chilli and lime juice and the Seeni Sambol is a caramelised onion relish, spiced with cinnamon and curry leaves.

The drinks list has also been inspired by Sri Lanka, there are spicy, fruity cocktails made with South Asian staple ingredients like ginger, coconut, mango, cardamom and turmeric. The Curry Margarita is our favourite – made with chilli infused tequila, lime, agave and curry bitters.

Where?

Website: https://colombosocial.com.au/ 

Address: 159 Enmore Road, Enmore, 2042

When?

Monday – Tuesday | Closed

Wednesday | 5 – 10pm

Thursday – Saturday | 5 – 11pm

Sunday | 12 – 3pm and 5 – 10pm

Jennifer Gaskin
Jen is obsessed with both food and travel. She believes that the way we explore the world, and our own backyards, can have a profoundly positive effect on the planet and its people. Her favourite things to do are explore far-flung corners of the globe, eat as many different types of food as possible and work up a sweat in the boxing ring!