Crab buffet dinner @ Ellenborough Market Cafe, Swissotel Merchant Court

It’s time to go crab crazy! For just two weeks (25 June to 12 July 2009), Ellenborough Market Cafe is bringing back their highly successful crab buffet, first introduced last year.

Both media and food bloggers were invited for food tasting sessions prior to the launch. Besides being a preview, it was also a feedback session. Hence, some dishes may be fine-tuned; taste and presentation may differ slightly from what you see here.

Black pepper Sri Lanka crab

Black pepper Sri Lankan crab

As it was a private tasting session, dishes were presented ala carte. Let’s start with an all-time Singaporean favorite: black pepper crab!

Actually, crab done black pepper-style has never been a favorite of mine. Most versions I’ve tried tend to go overboard on the black pepper. But Ellenborough Market Cafe’s version has won me over! The zingy black pepper packs a pleasant punch that doesn’t overpower the sweetness of the crabmeat, and you can taste other flavors in the seasonings as well.

Sri Lanka chilli crab

Sri Lankan chilli crab

Another classic — chilli crab! Again, I was impressed with the chilli gravy. It’s not too spicy, but I like! Sweet, spicy, savoury — the different flavors harmonized to create a balanced and pleasing result. Very shiok!

Deep-fried mini mantou (Chinese bun)

Deep-fried mini mantou (Chinese bun)

Here’s the perfect sponge to mop up that thick, scrumptious chilli crab gravy! They used to serve full-sized mantou, but now, these mini ones are served instead because previous customers indicated their preference for smaller buns.

Nyonya curry crab

Nyonya curry crab

On to the Nyonya curry crab! For this dish, instead of Sri Lanka crabs, the sweet, delicate flower crab is used as it’s better suited to the spices of the curry gravy. Again, another winner!

Fragrant Thai sauce crabs

Fragrant Thai sauce crab

Of the four, my personal favorite is the Thai sauce crab. There’s a certain allure about this aromatic sauce that I just can’t quite describe. Sweet, tangy, spicy, and redolent of herbs and spices…mmm, there’s a complexity about it that’s simply intriguing.

Crab & apple salad

Salad of Hokkaido crabmeat with apple & walnut

Actually, we started our session with this refreshing salad. This was presented individually. We were told that the original plan is to serve this in a big bowl for diners to help themselves to at the buffet. But all the bloggers commented that perhaps a better alternative would be to portion the salad out into small portions, like in shooters or Chinese spoons.

Crab risotto

Crab risotto

There was also crab risotto, but after the spicy crabs, I couldn’t make out the flavors in it! So here’s a useful tip. At the buffet, try the risotto first before attacking the spicy crabs!

On top of the crab items, there’s a spread of both local and international fare normally available at the Ellenborough Market Cafe buffet. But do note, the crab buffet is available only for dinner.

Bubur chacha

Bubur chacha

We also got to help ourselves to the dessert spread at the buffet. There’s chocolate fountain, cakes and pastries. But Ellenborough Market Cafe is renowned for its Straits Chinese, or Peranakan cuisine. That’s because the Peranakan section is helmed by the famous Nyonya chef Shirley Tay.

Kueh dadar

Kueh dadar

Just like a traditional Peranakan matriarch who doesn’t believe in shortcuts to cooking, Chef Shirley Tay insists that the kueh dadar has to be freshly made at a live station. In fact, you can see her personally making the kueh dadar, unless it’s her day off. That’s true Nyonya dedication for you!

This has got to be the softest kueh dadar I’ve ever tried. What a BIG difference from store-bought ones!

Durian cheesecake

Durian cheesecake

This isn’t your usual New York cheesecake. It’s infused with durian! Don’t worry, the durian taste is actually very subtle. I didn’t expect cheese and durian to go together, but the light cheesecake with a faint durian scent turned out better than I expected.

Durian pengat

Durian pengat

Saving the best for last, here’s Market Cafe’s legendary durian pengat! It’s creamy and rich, but light as air so that you can go for seconds. It’s mindblowingly divine!

Unlimited crab and durian pengat, this must be a Singaporean foodie’s fantasy come true! Just these two are enough to entice me to try out the buffet.

Many thanks to Sok Hoon and Yvonne for their invitation and gracious hospitality!

Ultimate Crab Buffet Dinner
25 June to 12 July 2009
Adult S$46++, Child S$23++
Enquiries: 6239 1848

Ellenborough Market Cafe
Swissotel Merchant Court
20 Merchant Road
Singapore 058281



  1. Betty says

    So far how many crabs dishes were there? Not sure of durian desserts since being ABC. Really like the picture of crab salad. Price is not bad at all.

  2. says

    crab buffet, wow! i went there last month for their yummy crayfish and durian pengat.

    crabs crabs crabs! im so broke now, sadness! if not i sure go!

  3. Lou says

    Just went there on Saturday. The crayfish & durian pengat are good but the crabs are terrible – Powdery, every single dish of them. I ended up taking a lot of mantou with the gravy …

  4. Charles says

    Went there on 1 July. Honestly speaking.. the crabs are quite a disappointment for me and my guest. The “meat” is not there at all. I understood is from Sri Lankan but honestly the meat can’t even compare to the local one.

    A very bad experience.

  5. X-Wings says

    Hi Julia,

    I went there on 3 July 2009 and its the best buffet meal I had so far this year.

    The crabs were fresh and the gravy and sauces were just solid !! Not too spicy, not too sweet, not too thick, not too watery….. Crabs are not really my favourite seafood but that night, I did eat quite abit…..

    Being a non-durian eater, I am amazed by the durian pengat !! There is no durian smell but the taste is like eating/drinking XO….. I may be tempted to try out real durians now…..

    They have a good spread of desserts but I only have space left for my favourite, Bubur chacha…. The only comments I have for really good local dessert is “…they taste homemake….” and that is the comment I am going to use for the Bubur chacha I tried there that night….

    I paid like around $160++ for 4 person using a HSBC credit card….so its really more than Value for Money.

    Frankly I wouldn’t have mind paying $46++ per person for the experience I had that night…..thinking of going back that soon but need to do some gym work first…..

    : )

  6. says

    Dear Lou and Charles

    I would like to thank both of you for visiting the Ellenborough Market Cafe for our Crab Promotion.

    I am very sorry to hear that you did not enjoy the crabs as much I would have liked you to. For that, please accept my most sincere apologies. However, please allow me to clarify on certain issues with no intent of offering them as excuses.

    I wish to emphasize that the hotel conducts stringent checks regularly on the freshness and quality of all perishables items to ensure highest standards are met in all our Food & Beverage outlets. Our crabs are delivered daily alive and kicking; we do not use crabs that are not fresh. I would like to take this chance to reassure you that food served within the hotel are safe for consumption and we insist on daily deliveries of all perishables food items. We have also since re-enforced with our supplier’s on the quality of crabs that are being delivered.

    On another note, I like to highlight that the meat of flower crabs and mud crabs are not as firm as the Sri Lankan ones. I have taken up this issue with my Executive Chef to ensure that this issue does not recur.

    I sincerely hope that this incident has not affected the “happy patron”. I am looking forward to your continued support as well as the pleasure of welcoming you back to the hotel in the near future.

    As we are not able to get in touch with you via the email addresses provided, we would appreciate if you could get in touch with us instead at should you like to dine with us again. Please attention the correspondence to David Yang, F&B Manager, Swissotel Merchant Court.

  7. drk says

    I went there on 8 July 2009 to celebrate my wife birthday. we are very disappointed with the crabs, the crab size are very small, the “meat” is not neat at all, especially the Nyonya curry crab meat are so powdery, really horrible. But there are some nice food too like chai tow kway, crayfish and durian pengat. Overall with a disappointment since crab are the main cuisine.

  8. Rachel says

    Oh really? The carbs were not good? Me n my hubby are carb lover/killer… hahaha Am planning to go tmr for my hubby birthday with my 2 kids. But is there any dish suitable for kids? Hmm… now thinking whether to go anot? not worth for lousy carb