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Interview with O Tama Carey, Owner and Chef of Lankan Filling Station from Sydney

In 2018, O Tama Carey has established Lankan Filling Station in East Sydney. I talked with O Tama Carey about her career and her Sri Lankan restaurant.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

O Tama Carey

O Tama Carey


by Meryem Aksoy

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Lankan Filling Station is a Sri Lankan restaurant that located in East Sydney. After working on different kitchens and gaining experience about gastronomical diversity of French, Japanese, Chinese, and Italian cuisines, she started as her first head chef role at Berta where she won Time Out Chef of the Year award in 2014. Lankan Filling Station is her first solo venture. In order to learn about her career and Lankan Filling Station, I talked with O Tama Carey.

O Tama, before talking about Lankan Filling Station, could you tell us about yourself? Who is O Tama Carey?

I began my cooking career quite by accident after finding myself in a kitchen in London. Since then I have worked my way through kitchens learning to cook food of diverse cultures including French training at Bistro Moncur, a brief Japanese moment at Uchi lounge, Chinese at Billy Kwong and Italian, of sorts, at Berta. This was my first head chef role and where I could truly focus on working with small suppliers and seasonal produce. Berta won a Best New Restaurant award on opening and it was while here that I received my Time Out Chef of the Year award in 2014.

In amongst my work in restaurants I have always dabbled in various side projects, I have: been involved in keeping bees to use their honey; been part of growing, killing and curing pigs for salumi making; taken pleasure in teaching classes; been a writer for a monthly seasonal ingredient column for SBS food online; tried my hand at food styling; contributed to Australian Gourmet Traveller and worked as a consultant on other restaurants. Currently, I am busy running Lankan Filling Station, my first solo venture, a Sri Lankan restaurant located in East Sydney.

What inspired you to carry traditional Sri Lankan flavours to Sydney? Please tell us about the story of Lankan Filling Station.

My mum is Sri Lankan, I love the food and I feel it is an underrepresented cuisine than needed exposure.

Lankan Filling Station

Lankan Filling Station - Interior

Could you tell us about Lankan Filling Station and the overall concept?

Lankan Filling Station opened in late July of 2018 to great acclaim and queues out the door. It was awarded a Good Food Award Hat and made it onto The Weekend Australian Magazines Hot 50 Restaurants within the first few months of opening. This is where you will find me, pounding spices in the kitchen or carrying food on the floor in this small yet stylish and aromatic venue.

Lankan Filling Station

Lankan Filling Station - Sambols and White Chillies

What can your guests find at Lankan Filling Station? Could you tell us about your menu?

The star of our menu is the hopper.

Torn, folded or dipped, they are made to be eaten with an array of curries and sambols.

Start with some short eats, Sri Lanka's answer to snacks, and then make your hopper selection, choose a curry or two, some vegetables and a few sambols as well.

Lankan Filling Station

Lankan Filling Station - Potato Curry

What are the most popular and traditional dishes or drinks in Sri Lanka cuisine?

A meal of rice and curry is the most traditional but within that, there is a myriad of variations. Arrack is a very traditional boozy liquor.

If a customer asks you to make all the choices instead of him or her, which drinks and meals do you advise?

I suggest they have the banquet.

Sydney has lots of restaurants. How does Lankan Filling Station differentiate itself from other restaurants in Sydney?

One of the few, perhaps only, restaurants serving Sri Lankan food in a modern setting.

If you have only one weekend in Sydney as a first-time visitor, in this limited time, what are the best things to do?

Sydney is very beautiful, see the Harbour, go to the Botanic Gardens, eat lots of food, come to Lankan Filling Station, go to bars.

How can our readers find Lankan Filling Station when they visit Sydney?

We are in Ground Floor 58 Riley St East Sydney, NSW

Lankan Filling Station

Lankan Filling Station

How can our readers follow Lankan Filling Station?

Instagram - @lankanfillingstation

Facebook - Lankan Filling Station

Twitter - Hopper shop @lankanstation

Thank you O Tama for this delicious interview.

For more information, please visit the website of Lankan Filling Station