When you think of Asian Cuisine, Sri Lankan probably isn’t the first to spring to mind for most Melbournians.
With Sri Lankan restaurants less abundant than their other Asian counterparts, the market seemed to be calling for someone to take charge.
Upali’s Melbourne has stepped up to the plate.
Nestled cosily into Melbourne’s South East Suburbs, Upali’s brings the taste of the tropical island down under.
Husband and wife team Cathy and David Cruse co-founded the restaurant with their good friend Upali Dharmadasa, after whom the restaurant was named. Following the success of the first Upali’s restaurant in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, Cathy says opening a sister restaurant in Melbourne was a natural progression.
“Upali’s Colombo has been so successful with not only the locals and tourists but all the ex-pats who return to Sri Lanka at Christmas.
“They all asked when we were going to open one in Melbourne or Sydney or London. When I returned home… it seemed logical that we get something happening [here].”
When stepping into the eight-week-old Glen Waverley restaurant, there is an undeniable sense of culture. Cricket memorabilia adorns the walls, the name “Sangakkara” emblazoned on the back of a framed blue and yellow jersey hung with pride (for those unfamiliar, the man is Sri Lankan cricketing royalty).
Standing in amongst this cheery, warm setting, it is easy to see why such a wide demographic has flocked to trial the spicy Sri Lankan menu.
“The restaurant has been very positively received. On a Friday or Saturday you have to book to get a table and each week we are on an upward trend”, Cruse says proudly.
“At the moment the majority of our customers are of Sri Lankan decent. They know us from the Colombo Restaurant or from word of mouth from their friends.
“The Australian market have slowly been finding us and whilst there was some initial trial and error with the level of spiciness that they could cope with, we have started to build up a regular clientele.”
String hoppers, Kottu and a range of fragrant curries in magnificent clay pots are just the start of the delectable and extensive menu.
There are no frills and there is no fuss. The menu is exactly what it claims to be, ‘Simply Sri Lankan’.
“So many subcontinental restaurants start with a style of food but tinker with it so much that in the end it’s really just a mash of Asian dishes,” explains Cruse.
“There is no twist, no fusion, we haven’t thrown in a couple of Indian dishes, or a bit of Thai or just a few Malaysian bits. It’s purely Sri Lankan.”
248 Blackburn Road,
Glen Waverley, VIC 3150
(03) 9887 6700