The family-run gem bringing a taste of Sri Lanka to Stockport

MANCHESTER: For all the ongoing efforts to revitalise Stockport, the A6 remains a bit of a sorry looking strip.
Shabby shop fronts, boarded up buildings and views of the tired old Merseyway do little to persuade a visitor passing through that it’d be worth their while to stop – although admittedly there are some beautiful landmarks too.

A shame, since behind this gateway to the town there are exciting things taking wing – a fledgling food and drink scene in and around the Old Town, for one.

Both Where the Light Gets In, serving a daily-changing tasting menu full of locally-foraged ingredients, and The Allotment, offering a refined vegan dining experience, have been earning plenty of praise since opening near the market place in 2016.

But beyond the brilliant but fleeting Foodie Friday, the town is still short on the more casual, everyday options so easy to come by in the suburbs surrounding it.

You don’t have to venture too far out of town along the A6 to find one such newcomer though, and trust me – it’s well worth stopping for.

Little Lanka was opened a few months ago by Sri Lankan chef Dharma Prathapasingha and his wife Mallika Weththasingha, who both man the kitchen while their daughter, Diluni, and son, Thilina, operate front of house.

Originally from Matara, on the island’s southern tip, Dharma and his wife, from the capital Colombo, moved to the UK eleven years ago with their children, where he worked in hotels including the former Hilton Moorside Grange in Disley and Marriott Manchester before opening a catering company from the backyard of their home in New Mills.

A stall at Oldham’s Tommyfield Market came next but was quickly outgrown, leading Dharma on a search for bigger premises, to realise his long-held dream of opening his own restaurant.

Oldham’s loss is Stockport’s gain. Now occupying the former Curry Culture site on Wellington Road South, Little Lanka is a modest little spot with the kind of soulful cooking you’ll want to come back for time and again.

Promising a traditional taste of Sri Lanka, the menu is as vast and varied as the cuisine’s many influences, from lampris – a Dutch-Burgher parcel of rice, curry, cutlets and relishes wrapped in banana leaf – to Indonesian nasi goreng.

Lamb patties (£4.25) are richly spiced and fragrant with cinnamon, encased in a golden, buttery pastry, with pots of sticky-sour tamarind chutney and a fierce green chilli relish to plunge them into.

Ceylon king prawns (£7.65) aren’t much to look at, buried beneath a mound of red onions, but appearances are deceiving. Lent a smokiness by the tandoor and lifted by a spritz of lemon, it’s a pleasing plateful.

Main courses are even better, although we inadvertently order more or less the same dish twice: seer fish curry (£10.95) and fish idiyappam (£14.95).

The idiyappam – also known as string hoppers – are Sri Lankan steamed rice noodles, served here in two wispy clouds alongside an earthenware pot of the same seer fish curry.

A larger relative of mackerel, the meaty steaks of fish stand up well to the boldly-spiced coconut sauce. Fronds of crispy noodle and a coconut sambal to scatter over it top it all off with aplomb.

A couple of bottles of Sri Lankan’s malty Lion lager douse the heat nicely, along with a dessert we’re far too full for but dutifully order (it’s a tough gig) – Sri Lankan pancakes (£4.20) filled with caramelised coconut.

Our Tanzanian waiter is only a week into the job but he’s a real credit to the place, enthusing about his favourite dishes and ferrying any questions he can’t yet answer to and from the kitchen with genuine interest.

I’m shaking off a nasty cough when we visit and he brings me half his packet of cough sweets when he hears me spluttering through the starters. Later, after a lone diner leaves, there’s a bit of a commotion from a neighbouring flat and he rushes out to check she’s okay. He tells us she works as a carer nearby and he was concerned.(Manchester Evening News)

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