OUT with the old, in with the new.

While the bastions of East Oxford curry houses have slowly been swept off the Cowley Road, they have been replaced by an international mix of Middle-Eastern restaurants, coffee shops, burger joints and everything in between, selling a bewildering variety of sushi, ramen, noodles, rotis, Thai, tapas, paninis, patissiers and jerk chicken.

Put it this way, Indian food has certainly dropped out of favour.

Yes, we all want a good curry house on our doorstep, but we will no longer travel long distances for the privilege.

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Cue The Coconut Tree, grabbing the limelight with it’s own take on spicing.

Run by five brothers and friends all hailing from Sri Lanka, they are already doing a booming trade at their sister restaurant in Cheltenham.

I was expecting the food to be light, fresh and tropical, more Goan than Punjabi, but instead it was a curious hybrid of tastes and cultures from Caribbean to Chinese.

The Coconut Tree has also opted for the street food path, so you are encouraged to try a bit of everything, no bad thing when trying a new cuisine.

The venue itself, however, is the star of the show, replacing Joe Perks’ cocktail bar and smokehouse in St Clements with a fun, colourful, enlivening, enticing one-stop-shop for fun, food and cocktails.

And the cocktails are amazing. Served on the pennied bar which glimmers as far as the eye can see, they come with fruit, chocolate or orange, served in china elephants or shot glasses and made competently by the funky staff behind the bar. And you can drink happily without eating.

We, however, were determined to try the cuisine. Nabbing a pew at the end of one of the long trestle tables we ordered a bit of everything, guided by the lovely manageress. From dirty balls (soya meatballs in gravy £3.50) to black pork (£7) and hot battered spicy cuttlefish (£7), Sri Lankan cuisine caters for everyone from vegans to carnivores and back.

What surprised me most was the enormous discrepancy between the dishes, meaning you really didn’t know what to expect.

And the cuisine was denser than I expected.

The cashew nuts and green peas soaked and cooked in coconut cream sounded light but were quite stodgy (see picture above), ditto the gova mallang (stir fried cabbage with fresh grated coconut (£3.50).

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The chickpeas in coconut oil with onions, mustard seeds and crushed chillies (£3.50) had more kick to them and the black pork was rich and roasted in delicious spices. The ‘devilled’ mushrooms arrived more like a sweet and sour dish than a curry.

To be honest though, at these kind of prices you can afford to be a bit hit and miss.

It was the hoppers that stole the show (as pictured above). The bowl shaped coconut milk pancake served with coconut sambal, seeni sambal (caramalised onions with a hint of cinnamon)- and luna miris – (Sri Lankan salsa) – were exceptional.

We chose the egg (£3.50) and then wrapped all the contents up in the soft scented pancake and ate it like a wrap. The oozing egg mingling with the sharp onions, spices and sambal was truly delicious.

Absolutely stuffed to the brim, we couldn’t manage the variety of desserts, even though they included an enticing banana and Nutella rotti. Next time.

What is noticeable is the regeneration of the area which is enjoying something of a renaissance since old school restaurants The Pink Giraffe and Thai Orchid shut up shop.

The Coconut Tree has a lot to do with this because it is fun, inclusive, vibrant, cheap and different and a vast improvement on the offerings of yesteryear.