The Ceylon Inn on Bulimba's bustling Oxford St is part of a chain with locations at Kenmore, Graceville and Toowong. We arrived at 6.15pm on a Saturday night and the place was packed.
From the outside, everything about this restaurant seemed incredibly warm and inviting - that might be because we were freezing our butts off waiting for a table! We had booked a table for 6pm and they gave it away - admittedly we were 15 minutes late and they did graciously find us another table after 5 or 10 minutes waiting in the cold.
The luscious atmosphere and ambience of the interior is created by long, colourful saris flowing from the ceiling, warm orange lanterns scattered throughout and beautiful wooden tables with glasstops which give you a glimpse of the ornately carved inlay underneath. High back, mega padded chairs ensured our comfort, and a simple sari suspended between our table and the next successfully supplied a semblance of privacy.
The service was sensational, the staff friendly and attentive. The menu was exciting with an extensive range of vegetarian meals on offer. We were so hungry by that stage that we bypassed entrees and went straight to the mains. Our food arrived in a reasonable amount of time (about 15 minutes) and was received with mixed results.
The pappadums ($3.90) were fresh and crisp but they were all peppered, and I mean heavily peppered, which was not to everyone's taste. The Garlic Naan ($4.50) and the Spinach and Cheese Naan ($5.50) were nice enough, a little tough.
For my main I had considered ordering a Vegetarian Assortment (3 curries and rice for $17.90) but was disappointed when the waitress informed me that I wasn't permitted to select the 3 curries from the menu, but rather they were set. And when she read them off, none of the 3 appealed to me. So I ordered a Paneer Butter Masala ($14.90), my friend, the classic Palak Paneer ($14.90) and another, the Hatu - a coconut creamy mushroom, peas and potato dish ($14.90). Everything looked great but we all agreed that taste wise, the food was very average, a little bland and lacking flavour.
If you're thinking the Paneer Butter Masala and the Palak Paneer look very similar, you're absolutely right; they were practically identical, the Palak Paneer an usually heavily tomato influenced style - I certainly didn't see or taste much spinach (palak) in there.
The meat eaters ordered the signature Ceylon Lamb ($16.90) and Chicken Tikka Masala ($16.90). The lamb was reported as average but the chicken was the clear winner of the evening, my friend absolutely loved it.
Top marks for ambience, service and presentation but unfortunately for the most part, the dishes did not live up to either their enticing descriptions, or our expectations. Considering the prices, we were certainly expecting something a little better than the average fare that we were served. We eat Indian regularly but this won't become one of our regular haunts. Would I go there again? Not purely for the food, but perhaps if a social occasion called for it.