What’s it like to eat at The Coconut Tree, Cheltenham | Restaurant review of hidden Sri Lanka | Updated
Updated: 9 Feb 2023
We went back, after our first review in 2017, and how things have changed since then. Cheltenham will always be the OG, but now they have eight more locations, a new menu, plenty of awards and a win on Come Dine with Me: The Professionals. Has success changed them for better or worse?
It’s still in the middle of nowhere, and by that I mean a residential area of Cheltenham Town – a place like this is out of place.
What do I mean by a place like this? Its shabby chic urban, trying to be cool – why? It’s a Sri Lankan street food tapas bar, so it has to try to look the part, you know, among English terraced housing – it’s pretty unusual to be honest, outside of London anyway.
It’s in an old, neighbourhood, street corner boozer, its painted grey and doesn’t scream colourful South Asian Island in the Indian Ocean, until you get inside where it transforms and you are transported.
It’s not a traditional Indian style restaurant, no sit down white clothed tables with regional music in the background and those little tea light heaters.
The thing you notice the most is how busy it is, packed with cool, good looking people listening to bassey chilled out music. You need to book ahead for this one and I mean it – especially at the weekend.
The dude that decorated this place has a gift. The lighting is sweet and low – tables are hung from chains in the wall, high stool long tables or low with cushioned beer barrels to sit on and the bar is made of old crates and coins.
You’re greeted quickly and ever so smoothly by any number of baseball cap wearing and smiling front of house staff – who care whether you’ve been before or not – they have a story to tell you, and what a journey these guys have been on, with no end in sight.
The story – 5 guys wanting somewhere to live chose an old pub and with the permission of the owner, ‘shoved’ in an authentic and vibrant Asian Tapas Restaurant.
They didn’t win Masterchef and tell the same back story ‘one day I want to have my own place’ but they did go on to win Come Dine with Me Professionals with 38/40 – the numbers don’t lie.
Ultimately, they just did it and now…after all quitting their full time day jobs they now have nine locations:
- Cheltenham – The OG
- Clifton Triangle, Bristol
- Bristol Glos Rd
Like any decent tapas bar they’ll tell you to order about three dishes per person and it comes when it comes – just chill.
The Coconut Tree’s new menu has what seems like a surprising volume of vegetarian options – but this in actual fact is quite normal in Indian and Sri Lankan cooking.
We ordered a broad selection – to see if anything can top the Cheesy Colombo, more on that in a mo.
I have mentioned that it is busy, quite simply, along with all I’ve said, the food is superb, and I mean exceptional without any airs or graces, sometimes not even plates, just the serving dishes and cutlery.
The stand out three on the new menu were:
- Chicken Curry on the Bone – this bangs, and I mean BANGS. If you like spice, this is all you – you’re tasting this again the next day you lucky thing.
- Black Pork, which is slow cooked in spices and a semi dry sauce
- Stir Fried Chickpeas – this is a very lovely little dish that will go nicely with so much of the menu, good for sharing too.
- Cheesy Colombo (the capital city). Think sweet and sour paneer. Yes, this is four and an original dish, I don’t care, Cheesy Colombo is going on any list.
The new menu is very good, lots on there for everyone and still pretty good on the price, bearing in mind the economic challenges.
From this point on, just look at pictures and you can see how to book below.
You need to go here, remember to book in advance – way more than the week they suggested – it’s popular.
As always – I paid the bill to keep it real.
Thank you Sri Lanka
Atmosphere Food Drink Staff Value Overall