‘Everyone is welcome at the table’ is the mantra of Sri Lankan eatery the Coconut Tree. Sharing plates, a relaxed vibe, Cocotails – see what they did there? – and a troop of wonderful staff mean the mantra is evident everywhere. And then there’s the food – warm, spiced, punchy, fresh, social and damn delicious.
The interiors are simple. Dark wood, colourful prints, maps of the island and a bar that screams beach vibes. There are nine restaurants in the TCT stable and while we can’t speak for the other eight, we didn’t want to leave the Birmingham eatery. We can’t think of anything directly comparable in the city focusing on Sri Lankan food of this quality and inventiveness. It’s also reasonably priced – for instance, cocktails start at £6 – plus it’s fast enough to squeeze into your lunch hour.
Since one of us would eat meat at every meal of every day, we were both surprised by the universal appeal of an unassuming pumpkin curry called the Fat Sister. It was superb – the coconut sauce, gentle spice and soft sweet pumpkin blew us away. If you have one dish, make it this. Having said that, it’s not a one dish sort of place. Part of the joy is sampling lots of little plates. Like the black Pork – melt in the mouth pork belly slow cooked in a heady mix of spices for which we’ve got someone called ‘Granny Gertie’ to thank.
Chicken curry on the bone was a bit tricky to eat with my clumsy companion showering me in sauce. It’s probably the hottest dish of the bunch in a good way and absolutely worth the struggle. Then there was Cheesy Colombo – generous cubes of fried cheese in a sticky sweet and hot sauce. It’s fried cheese – what’s not to love? Kale and radish sambol added a zingy freshness with radish, grated coconut tomatoes and lime while beef brisket kotthu was rich and unctuous.
Two to three dishes per person is recommend – we went for three plus a parotta roti which was probably one dish too many, although eliminating one would have been like Sophie’s Choice. We didn’t book but we arrived early so managed to bag a table. The restaurant did fill up swiftly around us so perhaps best to book.