A humble BYOB venue providing Tooting with an invigorating blast of Sri Lankan chilli heat.
As if in recognition of the trek from the nearest tube station, Apollo Banana Leaf greets diners with a vision of paradise: soaring mountains and a sparkling waterfall, printed in vivid technicolour over the walls. If that assault on the senses isn’t enough, the high-backed dining chairs are upholstered in crushed red velvet, while disco lights twinkle around the door. But devotees don’t come here for design tips, they come for the food – an authentic rendering of South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine – and for great value. Though prices have increased, they remain fantastically keen: especially when you factor-in the BYO policy. Spice levels are at authentic Jaffna (north Sri Lankan) levels: a single chilli icon on the menu is to be taken seriously, two plus is for the brave. ‘Short eats’ (street-food snacks) included our soft sambar vadai (a savoury doughnut made with chickpea flour, here steeped in a thin lentil gravy) and a croquette-like mutton roll (with its rich, clove-spiked meat middle). There are also starters, such as crunchy morsels of golden chicken pakoda (not unlike ‘popcorn chicken’). The rich, warmly spiced crab masala – claws and all – is worth getting messy for; chewy, buttery chapati makes the perfect foil.