On the chilly Thursday night of June 26th The Plus Ones took to the official opening of restaurant Araliya St. Kilda. As the new kid on the block of Fitzroy Street in St. Kilda, this Sri Lankan diner is making a serious bid for the hearts and taste buds of the local hipster urbanites.
The official opening certainly did not fail to impress: proper loungy beatisms, great food and drinks and a fair-looking welcome committee performing traditional Sri Lankan dance. I decided to stick my nose and pen in the attendees’ mood and asked them to rate the place from 1 to 5.
But first, a bit of history: It all started when Sam Wedanda and his wife Dee moved from Sri Lanka to Australia, 33 years ago. Five years later they started their own restaurant in Hawthorn named Araliya. In the years that followed the place built a solid reputation for quality food. Business was good, and the couple decided they were ready for the next step. Said Sam: “I could retire but I don’t want to. I’m in it for the love of cooking. We have the experience and I’m confident we can make it here in St. Kilda.”
Araliya will serve medium range dishes of a mixed western/Sri Lankan food. According to loyal customers who have known the Wedandes for years, it is quite the niche, as chef cook Sam likes to experiment with different spices like coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. And when yours truly tried a few different bites, they were of freakin’ exquisite taste indeed. A random sample of respondents rated the food 4.6 out of 5.
Adding to the dining experience is a bold move to serve spiced cocktails, prepared by the internationally renowned bartender — excusez-moi, mixologist — Anton Turco Bertolotti. It is obvious even to the untrained eye that much effort has gone into getting the details right. The interior of the restaurant is simple and spacious but sophisticated. It breathes an atmosphere of relaxation; not too glammy but still chique. The attendees loved the dim lighting, rating the ambiance 4,3 out of 5.
The big question is how well Araliya will do with the younger demographic frequenting the bars and restaurants around Fitzroy Street. Previous businesses in the same building space have gone through three turnarounds, and there is no guarantee that things will be different this time. Much depends on the consistency of menu quality, good service and passion behind the bar. If the Wedandes find a way to capture and look after the locals, Araliya will be just fine. Said the ever-knowing crowd: 74% chance (3.7 out of 5) that she will be around for the years to come.
Araliya St Kilda (Sri Lankan Restaurant)
157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Disclosure: The Plus Ones attended the launch courtesy of Greta Donaldson Publicity.
Johannes Visser is a Dutch freelance writer. He likes to travel. He likes to write. He loves Melbourne.