The inception of Ministry of Crab is attributed to an episode of Chef Dharshan Munidasa’s TV show “Culinary Journeys with Dharshan”, which featured the Sri Lankan Lagoon Crab, showcasing how it was sourced in Sri Lanka and exported to Singapore to be made into the famous Singapore Chilli Crab. It was during the course of this shoot that the initial idea of creating a crab restaurant was born, as a culinary homecoming for this majestic crustacean, which had long been more renowned overseas than in Sri Lanka.
When brainstorming names for a Crab restaurant in its country of origin, Dharshan felt it was necessary to have a powerful institution-like name; and so, the title, “Ministry of Crab” was established.
The next step was to find a location fit to house the restaurant and the search began for a “Ministerial” space. It was serendipity that the historic Dutch Hospital building became available as a result of a new refurbishment project of colonial buildings by the Urban Development Authority, as part of the post-war development.
Cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara who were close friends with Dharshan, stepped in to partner with him, when he put forth the idea for a restaurant dedicated to seafood, giving flight to their own gastronomic ideals. Their dedication towards bringing the restaurant to life by using it as a platform to pay homage to local produce earned all of them the monikers, “Ministers of Crab”.
Everything came together in December 2011 as Ministry of Crab opened its doors for the first time!
The Old Dutch Hospital is thought to be one of the oldest buildings in Colombo and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Built by the Dutch in 1677 as (you guessed it!) a hospital, the site has been variously used since – housing the Colombo Apothecaries, and serving as the Colombo Fort Police Station, among other things. Sadly neglected for the past few years due to the civil war, the rejuvenation of this site is symbolic of Sri Lanka’s progress. For us at Ministry of Crab getting involved in this project was therefore something we were passionate about. Not only does the beauty of the building continue to inspire us, but to be a part of the Old Dutch Hospital is to be a part of Sri Lanka’s history – and we are honoured to be a part of that.