The Coconut Tree is a popular Sri Lankan restaurant in Cheltenham which is rated 5 stars by Trip Advisor. It’s known for its freshly made, authentic cuisine and friendly staff. But what is exactly is the story behind the restaurant? How did it come to be?
In December 2016, five young Sri Lankans opened The Coconut Tree.
The friends met at school aged 11, near their home in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Parveen Thangiah, the chef, was the first to move to the UK in 2004 with the rest of his family to live in Croydon, because he wanted to be closer to their family that already lived in the area.
Rashinthe Rodrigo, the General Manager of the Coconut Tree, chose to join the chef in 2006 after being given the choice to continue studies in Australia or the UK.
In 2008, Danushka Fernando and Tiranjan Fernando moved to the UK and the four began to share a house in Croydon whilst they completed their studies.
Mithra Fernando joined the crew in 2015, and living in Cheltenham, he offered Rashinthe a job in accountancy which led the boys to all move to Cheltenham together.
In 2016, the crew had to move out from their flat together and came across the flat above St. Pauls Tavern, combined with the rental of the pub. With the cheap rent and motivation to get out of the 9-5 box, they began planning for The Coconut Tree.
Their original idea was a small Sri Lankan inspired tapas bar, so students could have a trendy place to eat and drink. They moved in to the building in May 2016, and spent six months renovating the bar and flat by themselves, as an evening project after work.
The team worked together from day one as they designed the interior by themselves, taking on their own tasks such as Tiranjan doing the tiling, and Rashinthe painting the walls. Parveen, a born feeder, kept supplying the team with food as they worked, which lead to the inspiration behind the menu.
After six months of opening, the team became no.1 on Trip Advisor in the local area. Due to their success, they have plans to expand to Bristol, to continue their journey of introducing people to the Sri Lankan culture.
They want to take the same concept to give people more opportunities, and supply their unique food and cocktails to new people.
Rashinthe Rodrigo said: “One thing you can expect from us is good hospitality, culture and a smile. We want to bring our culture to Cheltenham.”