Jackie McMillan
3rd Feb 2024

Making the jump from Sri Lankan cafe to restaurant, Kurumba takes up where The Fold in Dulwich Hill left off. The narrow, two-storey Surry Hills terrace squeezes in a pale green bar downstairs, and a dusky pink dining room above. Like the predecessor, Kurumba is family run, with chef Augustus De Hoedt heading up the kitchen, and wife, Dilki, leading the floor. We kick off with Lucky Fish seaside toddies ($15), funky, fermented coconut beers that taste like kombucha under crusty salt rims. The sourness levels out with food, like quick to arrive smoked brisket pan rolls ($14/2): golden crumbed rolled crepe parcels dragged through pineapple ketchup. Albany rock oysters ($6/each) felt a bit dry but perked up sufficiently when dressed with coconut water, coriander root and calamansi lime. With jackfruit cutlets unavailable, our vegetarian companion contented himself with seeni sambol puffs ($7/each) sandwiching tamarind and onion jam and cashews in puff pastry under clouds of Vanella buffalo curd. They were tasty but on a shared table when everyone else was eating, they took way too long to arrive. 

Portion sizes are all over the shop, with floor explanations lacking and high prices being no indication of size. The short rib curry ($42) draped six small discs of too-crisp rib meat under flash-fried saltbush leaves on a dark heavy reduced curry that throws cumin, coriander and dried lime. Seven grilled heirloom carrots on buffalo curd ($21) felt like an over-inflated side. Crisp green snow peas dusted in burnt coconut and cashews in the turmeric-tinged kadju curry ($23) felt more substantial than the Lankan devilled fish ($40). This somewhat disappointing piece of Chinese fusion saw hunks of chewy, deep-fried tuna stir-fried in chilli and soy. Hot buttered soft shell crab ($28) was better at giving briny bursts of the sea against fresh lime and unnecessary black garlic aioli but some crispness wouldn’t have gone astray. The 2022 Giant Steps Chardonnay ($85/bottle) stands up to the spicing without dominating the sweetness of the crustacean. The long gaps between courses saw us go through two bottles and we’d have taken a third if one had been available to buy.

This length of time taken by the kitchen meant we gobbled down hand-stretched roti ($7/each) as well as a bowl of raisin, cashew and fried onion studded savoury rice ($9). Desserts remain a strong suit, with son, co-owner, and pastry chef, Travin De Hoedt coming up roses with pretty pink faluda soft serve ($19) and an even better cardamom-spiced coconut custard pudding called watalappam ($18).