Type of Institution: Vegetarian
Address: #01-04, Central Square, 20 Havelock Road, Singapore 059765 (near Clarke Quay MRT Exit B or Chinatown MRT Exit E)
Tel: +65 6339 9993
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 11am – 3pm, 6pm – 9.30pm
The ornate brown doors of Annalakshmi open to a spacious interior decorated in a simple yet refined manner with traditional Indian furnishings. Annalakshmi can be distinguished from many restaurants in Singapore as it has a deep philosophical underpinning – to “serve, love, give”. It is part of a larger organization, Temple of Fine Arts, which promotes the arts, culture and service to the community.
One of the most unique aspects of Annalakshmi is that there is no fixed price for the food, be it for the buffet or the ala carte menu. A sign on the table sweetly urges you to “Eat As You Wish, Pay As You Feel. We Believe in You. We Trust You.” I like how this philosophy immediately creates a positive relationship between the restaurant and the customer. God knows we all need a break from cynicism every once in a while. Their “Eat what you Want and Give as you Feel” concept also gives more autonomy to the customer, especially for the buffet – it makes infinitely more sense for the customer to pay the sum he or she thinks is deserving for the quantity and the quality of the food he or she consumed.
As for service, the staff were generally attentive and helpful. Upon my inquiry as to which items in the buffet were vegan-friendly, one of the servers took me through the dishes one by one to explain which dishes contained dairy and which were safe for my consumption. However, another server seemed rather unsure as to the ingredients in the dishes.
I arrived during lunchtime, and opted for the buffet with 2 orders of chapathi. Both the buffet and ala carte menu offered a small selection of traditional Indian cuisine. The dishes in the buffet change daily. Generally the food was not too oily, particularly for Indian food standards.
At the top, we have two dals, one soup, and a gravy. While the delicious soup was rich with spices, one of the dals and the gravy were so salty I didn’t finish it. The okra in one of the dals was overcooked as well.
Fortunately, the side dishes at the bottom fared better. The bajji (deep-fried fritters) on the bottom left were quite addictive, with its crispy outer layer, soft potato filling and a slice of plantain in the middle. However, the accompanying coconut chutney was quite watery and did not contribute much flavour. To the right, we have some tasty and well-cooked cabbage and a curried mix of sweet potato and potato.
I would also recommend the warm, thin and chewy chapathi. Avoid the overcooked and mushy white rice.
(pay as you wish; if you’re curious I paid $12)
Conclusion: The vegan options at Annalakshmi’s lunch buffet were hit and miss. However, I foresee myself coming back – perhaps to try the ala carte menu – simply because I enjoyed the ambience and I love their dining concept.