The Fat Crab on Haig Road, the sea food restaurant under Don Stanley Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. originally headed by the late Athula Senanayake, has been a Colombo staple since its inception six years ago.
Following Senanayake’s passing, the management has since been passed down to his son Kanishka Senanayake, now Managing Director of Don Stanley. We spoke to Kanishka about The Fat Crab, the reason for its iconic reputation amongst those living in Colombo, and how they as a primarily dine-in business have fared amidst the pandemic.
Kanishka shared that as many are aware, Don Stanley has provided catering and restaurant services to their customers since 1991, and with his 35 years of experience, his father launched The Fat Crab, which has since become one of the pioneers in bringing many of the crab dishes we love, along with seafood and other dishes, to Colombo restaurants.
He said The Fat Crab is an accompaniment to the symphony of other food outlets under Don Stanley, including Don Stanley’s catering and also Don’s Deli where they do pastries, sandwiches, and even rice and curry lamprais, and there’s the more recent Joe’s Diner for hotdogs and hamburgers.
He stated that The Fat Crab’s inception was motivated by the thought of initiating something that Colombo didn’t have at the time.
When asked about what truly sets The Fat Crab apart, Kanisha stated that first and foremost, they were one of the first to come into the industry with a crab-themed restaurant, and secondly, compared to their competitors, they happen to be quite reasonably priced. He also added that another thing that truly sets them apart is their incredible flavour.
“Our signature dishes – the Jaffna curry crab and the Singapore chilli crab – make us stand out,” he said. “People often opt to have only our curry sometimes with the roast paan or kade paan, because of its flavour.”
Kanishka also shared with us why he believes that The Fat Crab has almost become synonymous with crab, growing in popularity over the years; he said Sri Lanka has some of the best crab in the world, especially lagoon crab. “The type of crab we have here, the flavour, and the amount of meat you get in it, you would not get anywhere else in the world.”
He also said that crab as a delicacy has really grown in popularity in the recent past considering the evolution of the nature of how you experience the meal. “I think before, it was always something that was cooked at home or you might order it at a Chinese restaurant. However, we have since brought it into the restaurant, where you can come and enjoy crab outside,” he said.
“I think people in Sri Lanka enjoy crab; the whole process of using their hands and breaking into it is enjoyable.”
The Fat Crab, as a dine-in option, has a very informal setting, allowing people to tuck in and enjoy their crab whichever way they want.
The venue, of course, is gorgeous. With an almost 180-degree view of the sea off Marine Drive, the restaurant is slightly elevated, allowing you the beautiful view. You also get the fresh sea breeze wafting all throughout the open air-style restaurant space.
Kanishka shared that there is really no better place to eat crab than right by the sea, and that a lot of their customers prefer to dine in. However, he said they do also deliver a lot of crab.
He said that The Fat Crab sees a varied clientele, especially considering the price point they offer. He shared that they have customers who come in on a daily basis, those who drop in for happy hour to enjoy drinks at the bar, and even those who only order take away as they are also available on Uber Eats and PickMe Food. He said that they can also cater to most meal preferences.
About their experience during Covid-19, Kanishka shared that while they are happy to stay open, there are strictly adhering to all the necessary guideless as required by the authorities and will follow whichever directives are issued in the coming days, adding also that while the pandemic has made it so that their dine-in business has slowed, their delivery business has grown.
He said that while all of Colombo has been affected, they have made efforts to carry out their businesses in any way they can, and work to ensure their customers receive a safe and high-quality service even during this time.