Yaalu Yaalu, a Sri Lankan Restaurant with Food that belies it's modest exterior.
A couple of years ago a modest but bright shopfront appeared near us with the promise of some interesting sounding Sri Lankan fare. Curry Lovers as we are, and fans of all sorts from the traditional 3 pot curry houses to the exalted Michelin star-worthy palaces in Central London, we were intrigued to see what Yaalu Yaalu might be capable of.
After an initial aborted attempt to book when we wandered in to ask, and found a photographer and the chef and staff preparing dishes for the website, we came back a few weeks later and booked in properly. The food they had produced for the photographer looked stunning so we had high hopes on our return.
We were not disappointed! Sri Lankan cuisine like Vietnamese has influences from historical and cultural colonial periods. As such it has many subtle varieties, influenced by Indian, Indonesian and Dutch cuisines. Sri Lanakan food also has quite an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan dishes. That is a good thing in today's food scene as more people are turning to vegetarian options. Personally, I am still a resolute carnivore but good or excellent vegetarian or vegan food will get my attention as much as any other dish.
Yaalu Yaalu has just two venues; one in North London and one in South London. In fact their positions are almost an exact mirror of locations! Both have a cafe-style interior, with simple, bright, clean decor. Pleasing but not pretentious. Staffing is friendly and low key, but attentive and helpful.
The food.... what can I say, if you have any interest in Asian food then you are in for a treat! We returned recently as Yaalu Yaalu had updated and rejigged it's menu slightly. That's a process that all restaurants need to do to stay on top of what people enjoy and how they are able to provision, cook and deliver it to the customer. The menu changes were fairly small, but wit a few new additions and a separation out from all-in-one meals to more individual dishes that allow you to pick and choose a little more.
This particular day we chose a few starters and a few mains as follows. Namaste is a Chilli Paneer dish served with stir fired peppers in and incredible flavour laden sauce. Paneer is a fairly bland base to which you can add flavour, and the sauce here adds amazing layers of it.
Alongside that we also had the Battered and Buttered, the Deep fried Calamari and also The Boss, marinated stir fried beef strips. The Calamari came in a crispy and flavoursome batter, with a rich butter sauce drizzled over spring onions. The Beef was crispy and with a decent hint of heat. Chilli heat is not a huge factor I should point out, this will not sear your lips and tongue and leave you gasping for milk, as it's much subtler with an accent on flavour. You can however request more chilli should you choose to. Main courses we chose Walk in the Meadow, a lamb dish. Spot the Goat, a goat dish, and Wildings, a Wild Boar dish! Side dishes were String Hoppers, Egg fried rice, and Herby yellow rice and Coconut Roti.
All three meat dishes were wonderful, served in rich sauces, subtly spiced and packed with flavour, the vegetables served with the Lamb were not overcooked, and the two rice dishes were perfectly done. The egg fried rice is similar to the familiar Chinese version, and the herby yellow rice similar to saffron rice, but both were steamed to the perfect fluffiness. The star of the meal for me was the Wild boar dish. Cooked long and slow, the Boar was melt-in-the-mouth. Cliched phrase that might be, but it was correctly applied here.
We have over the times we've dined had a number of the other dishes, and none has disappointed in any way. Yaalu Yaalu seems to have nailed it with the chef's choice of dishes and cooking abilities. Prices are reasonable, wine choice is small but decent. Beer choice is somewhat limited and perhaps the only thing I could level any criticism at, however, there is a micropub just a few doors down with a great selection should your need for excellent beer need sating.
It's great to see restaurants like Yaalu Yaalu appearing in the suburbs and doing such a great job. if you're within reach of either Harringay or South Croydon then book yourself a visit!
Yaalu Yaalu is at:
Green Lanes branch
429 Green Lanes N4 1HA
020 8352 0447
164 Addington Road CR2 8LB
020 8651 4528