Lankan Filling Station
O Tama Carey's iconic Sri Lankan hopper eatery.
August 17, 2018
After building a cult following for her show-stopping hoppers at Carriageworks Farmers Market, O Tama Carey flung open the doors to her first permanent restaurant, Lankan Filling Station, in 2018.
A shrine to Sri Lankan cuisine, the East Sydney venue is headed up by the renowned chef and curry queen (who previously worked at Berta, Bistro Moncur and Billy Kwong), featuring a hands-on menu of hoppers, sambols and curries.
Designed by David Mitchell Architects, the long, slender dining room has a sleek, industrial fit-out of polished concrete walls and brushed copper lighting. Every inch of the floor plan has been used, creating an obstacle course of bentwood chairs, bistro tables and happy, curry-stained patrons.
The build-your-own menu employs a check box menu and it takes all the restraint in the world not to go on a mad ticking spree. Start by ordering a few hoppers, which are bowl-shaped crepes, known for their soft, spongey centre and crisp lacy trim — and an optional fried egg in the centre.
Next up, choose your sambol and pickles. This is the dip to your chip. Those who love a good tongue torturing will appreciate the kata sambol, made from a deadly medley of onion, chilli and vinegar. Those with a more delicate palette will prefer the green pol sambol, a fragrant mix of shaved coconut and coriander or the seeni sambol, a sweet and sour mix of caramelised onions and tamarind. If in doubt, get the mixed sambol plate and play Russian roulette.
Turn it into a proper banquet with a few of Carey's curries. A delicate white fish curry is richer and less creamy than its subcontinental cousin, with gentle warmth emanating from the dry roasted spices. If you're after screaming heat, go the red hot chicken curry, you can always recalibrate with a side of dhal and a fresh herb and onion salad.
There are a bunch of vegetarian options too, including potatoes simmered in a white tumeric, green chilli and mustard curry, or the silky eggplant and tomato dish. Now all that's left to do is tear into your hopper, and start dipping and dunking your way through the different spiced bowls.
As tempting as it is to wipe every bowl, dish, and table stain clean at Lankan Filling Station, be sure to leave room for dessert. The Kalu Dodol is unmissable. This dark and sticky treat is a coconut and rice flour jaggery combined with some crunchy cashews. Pair it with the Lankan Filling Station take on a Bounty or the ginger and turmeric gelato, a creamy, subtle-spiced ice cream, which brings the evening to a faultless finish.
While hoppers go exceptionally well with hops, there's more to the drinks menu than just beer. If you're looking to quench the heat, try one of custom-blended Sri Lankan tea. Otherwise, there's natural, minimal intervention wines available (including sangiovese rosé on tap) as well as sparkling cider, coconut and coffee slushies, and house-made milk wine and plenty of cocktails.
A combination of Lankan Filling Station's amazing food, tiny dining room and no bookings policy means you have to chance your hand at nabbing a table, but there are plenty of good drinking spots around William Street to enjoy a wine while you wait for one to open up.
Lankan Filling Station has been named in Concrete Playground's Best Restaurants in Sydney. Check out the full list for 15 Sydney spots that should be at the top of your must-try list.
Top image: Nikki To
Updated Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
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