The smell of spices fills the air as you walk in the door of Yarl. It’s one of the newest restaurants in Wellington and proving very popular with locals.

The large space is fitted out with beautiful wooden tables that can host large groups and Lazy Susans that make it easy to share dishes with your friends.

Beyond these details, it’s the owner that sets this restaurant apart. Pratheepan Neruraja is a former refugee who is originally from Sri Lanka and arrived in New Zealand earlier this year.

He opened Yarl in August and it was the end of a long road to make his dream come true.

After Pratheepan fled his home he spent a number of years living in Malaysia as a refugee. It was here that he began a restaurant and learned how to cook Malaysian cuisine.   

The menu at Yarl is a reflection of Pratheepan’s life, drawing on recipes from Sri Lanka and Malaysia. From aromatic curries and dosas to popular rice dishes such as nasi goreng, the restaurant takes guests on a culinary journey around the Asia Pacific region.

Plus there’s something for everyone, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.

It’s clear that Pratheepan is proud of his work and he’s always in and out of the kitchen, helping to prepare the food and meeting his customers. New Zealand Red Cross has been supporting Pratheepan and giving him guidance in setting up his restaurant here, but the majority of its success is down to his hard work, skills, and determination.

Check out Pratheepan’s restaurant if you’re in Wellington, it’s open from 7am to 11pm every day and can be found at 160 Willis Street.

How to help

You can assist former refugees settling in New Zealand by becoming a Refugee Support Volunteer or working with our Pathways to Employment team to find skilled former refugees who can become key parts of your business