The Sekara (Belgravia, London, UK)

Every trip to London is a chance to find a place selling just about every cuisine from the Eastern hemisphere (Western cuisine not as much; real Mexican is only barely starting to make inroads in London, and South American is still damn near nonexistent), so I like to try new places. This time, my brother and sister-in-law wanted to show me one of their favorites, a small Sri Lankan place near Victoria Station called The Sekara.

For some reason, The Sekara is one of those ethnic restaurants that ends up catering to more than one ethnicity; their menu has sections for both Sri Lankan and Indian food. I’m not sure why, since London has rather more Indian places than it needs, and enough of them are actually quite good that it’s hard to compete as an Indian place. But there aren’t a lot of Sri Lankan places, so that’s where they should focus their effort… and where we focused our ordering. I’m no stranger to Sri Lankan food (long ago, back in the distant dark ages of the 1990s, Minneapolis had a wonderful Sri Lankan place called the Sri Lankan Curry House, now long closed), so I’m familiar with two of the common dishes/ingredients: hopper (a flatbread made from a batter of fermented rice flour and coconut milk) and roti (a chapati-like flatbread similar to the Indian roti), both of which are usually shredded to make noodles (string-hopper for the former, koththu roti for the latter). I was really craving something savory, so I deiced to do a chicken koththu roti and some appetizers.

In any case, the meal started off strong: as a table we shared two starters: some vegetable rolls and some Sri Lankin lentil cakes (Vadai). The vegetable rolls weren’t particularly notable, but were nicely executed with a rich vegetable filling and a crisp wrapper. The Vadai were really nice and crispy packet of lentils with a nice crunchy exterior and a warm, soft interior, much like a good falafel. In any case, both were nicely elevated by the spicy chili pepper sauce, which was both flavorful and very spicy.

My main, the Chicken Koththu Roti, is basically a stir-fry, with thin trips of chopped flat roti fried up with chicken, eggs, carrots, cabbage, and some other vegetables. Really, this resembles a Chinese chow mein, but with a softer texture (the noodles are fried just to the point of crispness), and the sauce is more of a coconut sweet than a soy salty. Done well, it’s almost like an Asian comfort food. Sekara’s rendition was rather good, although I do generally like mine a bit more spicy. Still, this was a pleasant dish for a rainy day, and we enjoyed it. Carol similarly enjoyed her main, which was the mutton version of the same dish.

Overall, The Sekara is a pleasant enough place. It’s not overrun with lost or misguided tourists, like half the places within five blocks of Victoria Station tend to be. The staff was reasonably friendly and attentive, the food is flavorful (indeed, the pepper sauce was very piquant!), and the overall dishes pleasant. It’s not at the top of my “must return” list (which for London, is quite lengthy), but I wouldn’t object to another dinner there, either.

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