This Brunswick West cafe proves there’s much more to Sri Lankan food than just rice and curry.
With a rich history of Portuguese, English and Dutch settlement on the island nation of Sri Lanka, it's only natural that the country's national cuisine is incredibly diverse. There's much more to Sri Lankan food than just rice and curries, and this is just what the pair behind Lankan Tucker are out to prove.
It's fair to say that neither Nerissa Jayasingha or Hiran Kroon expected to find themselves in hospitality. For Nerissa, memories of her uncle's takeaway shop — the Curry Bowl, which was, coincidentally, one of the first Sri Lankan takeaway shops in Melbourne — is her only connection to the commercial kitchen. While for Hiran, cooking was always the domain of his parents, who both did so professionally. But they decided to open Lankan Tucker to change common perceptions of Sri Lankan food, to make it more accessible, and to also make it more relevant to young Sri Lankan Aussies such as themselves.
Initially set up as a catering service, the pair sold lunch packs to friends and coworkers before expanding to farmers markets and events such as the QVM Night Market, the Cricket World Cup and WOMADelaide. But bricks and mortar was always their aim, and their Brunswick West cafe, which opened earlier this year, has allowed them to expand and further develop their offering.
Lankan Tucker isn't a fusion but rather a harmony between traditional Sri Lankan food and what would be considered a typically Melbourne brunch spot. There's Sensory Lab coffee, but there's also tea, which is brewed exclusively on a family-owned tea estate. There's no Bircher, but there's breakfast roti ($17), which comes served with a spicy coconut sambol, your choice of protein, a poached egg, caramelised onion and apricot chutney.
The cafe offers a similar range of handheld foods to the pop-ups (their pan rolls — or, as they call them, Sri Lankan Chiko Rolls — are a must try), but expands on that again with its all-day breakfast menu and more intricate offerings. Other family recipes adapted to the Lankan Tucker kitchen include their date loaf and Sri Lankan milk toffees, which work wonders to extinguish any lingering mouth heat. Part of the cafe even offers a small retail range of sweets, chutneys and traditional Sri Lankan products that tend to get lost amongst even the best of local supermarkets.
Lankan Tucker is not just traditional Sri Lankan food, but gourmet food served accessibly. If Melbourne can warm to the idea of brunching on pho and ramen, then it can sure get used to roti and sambol.
Images: Shevan J Photography.