International Cuisine in Zagreb: Curry Bowl

Total Croatia News

© Curry Bowl
Curry Bowl
Curry Bowl

August 3, 2020 – Continuing our series on Zagreb’s international food offer and the stories behind these cuisines and businesses. This time, the unique Sri Lankan cuisine offered by Curry Bowl

Spicy eats are best friends with beer, so it’s no surprise to find several of the city’s international food outlets on Zagreb’s popular promenade of pivo, Tkalčićeva. Greek, Turkish and two of the city’s Indian food outlets are located here, one of the latter being Curry Bowl. Owned by brothers Clement and Brian Senaratne, who also run the city centre’s The Whole Wide World hostel, their small outdoor terrace is the perfect (and only) place to familiarise yourself with the food of the brother’s native Sri Lanka. Situated over 1400 kilometres off the coast India, Sri Lankan cuisine is wholly different from anything you’d find on the mainland. Curry Bowl’s salads, soups and curries are the perfect introductions to the island’s distinct dishes, although for first-time visitors we strongly recommend trying the satisfying kotthu – a dish of chopped vegetables and egg, flavoured with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, curry leaves, spices and with a selection of meats and/or cheese as additional extras

CurryBowl-4395.jpegClement, Tamara and Brian Senaratne © Curry Bowl

Brian Senaratne: I came here in 2014 and my brother came to visit me in 2015. We did a trip around Europe together as he was due to marry the next year. We got to Amsterdam and my brother realised how much Zagreb had impressed him, so we came back. That’s when the idea of our business was born. We’d been planning a change in our careers, to lose the suit and tie. I spent 13 years working for Microsoft and Clement worked in sales, first in telecommunications, then in insurance.

Clement Senaratne: My visit to Europe was in August, I went back home to get married in October, we came back to Zagreb in November and we opened the business in December.

Brian Senaratne: What we have created here is curry dishes that are comfortable for Europeans. We haven’t played around with the flavours, it’s still very authentic, but not everything is super hot and spicy. We offer different levels of spice, so you can choose. Moreover, the way the meals are presented is very different. In most parts of Asia, the food is presented to everyone in the middle of the table. We all eat the same and we eat with our hands. Here in Europe, everyone orders what they want to eat individually. And, of course they use a knife and fork. Actually, quite often people ask us if we use chopsticks to eat Sri Lankan food, ha! We don’t.

The main difference between Sri Lankan food and food from the rest of India is that we use a lot of coconut. On the mainland, they use a lot of ghee, milk, curds and yoghurt. Dairy products. India is a big place, they have 62 different dialects and the food is just as varied. Our food is more like that from the south of Indian, similar spices, but we are an island. Therefore, the influence of other countries on our cuisine has been minimal. Sri Lankan cuisine has been preserved and is today much the same as it has been for hundreds of years.

© Curry Bowl

The spicing we use most frequently here is Sri Lankan curry powder. Every region has its own curry powder, its own unique blend of spices. The typical Sri Lankan curry powder has five to seven ingredients. We import two types of curry powder direct from organic producers in Sri Lanka, one for vegetarian dishes, the other for meat dishes. Almost every other ingredient we use here is produced in Croatia. We only import a few very specialised products, such as Sri Lankan Lion beer and King Coconut Water, which is Sri Lanka’s favourite refreshment drink. The most popular dish on our menu is Kotthu, which is Sri Lanka’s most famous street food. It’s a mixture of roti, curry sauce, egg, vegetables and whichever meat you choose.

Clement Senaratne: After the restaurant was up and running, in 2016 we opened Curry Bowl on Obonjan island. It’s open every summer except this summer. In 2017 we opened The Whole Wide World Hostel on Britanski trg in Zagreb. In 2018 we became distributors for Lion beer in Croatia. Our next step is to try and take the Curry Bowl brand outside of Croatia.

© Curry Bowl

Brian Senaratne: What is the main difference between social life in Sri Lanka compared to that in Zagreb? Clement, maybe your wife can give her perspective? She travels very regularly between Zagreb and Sri Lanka for modelling work as she is a former Miss Sri Lanka.

Tamara Senaratne: I love it here. The culture is just so different. I love the scenery too. For women in Sri Lanka, it doesn’t always feel safe to walk on the streets. Here I feel completely safe, I feel a lot more free. The upbringing is just so different. In Sri Lanka, boys and girls are separated in education from a really young age.

Brian Senaratne: The British system! That comes from you guys, ha!

Tamara Senaratne: Ha! The result is that when you leave school you’re not that familiar with the opposite sex, you don’t know how to act with one another. I think a lot of people there have difficulty with that. When I came here, I was amazed that I could walk around at 10pm or 11pm on my own and feel completely safe.

Brian Senaratne: The scenery here in Zagreb is particularly enjoyable, especially the centre. We don’t really have one central city that has developed in such a way in Sri Lanka, because each time we got new rulers – the British, the Dutch, the Portuguese – they changed where the capital was. The people we have met here, both in business and socially, have been very polite and welcoming. One of the most recent topics of discussion globally has been Black Lives Matter. I can honestly say we have not seen or experienced anything like that, any racism, while we’ve been here. We’re very happy here.

Curry Bowl is located at Tkalčićeva 44

Curry Bowl Zagreb at night.jpeg
© Curry Bowl

You can read the introduction to our series on Zagreb international cuisine and the first installment here

To follow our whole series on international cuisine and to follow the Croatian restaurant and gastro scene, keep an eye on our Gourmet pages here


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment