Singapore’s Pay-What-You-Want Restaurant

Elegant wood-paneling, cool airconditioned and no menu. No bill either, if you’re a bit skint or just feeling stingy.

Singapore’s Annalakshmi is a haven in many ways. All-you-can-eat and pay-what-you-want. And it doesn’t look like a soup kitchen, far from it. Annalakshmi is a feast for the senses.

In Singapore, Annalakshmi has two outlets, one in Amoy Street (near Chinatown) and one near Clarke Quay. The Amoy Street restaurant is within walking distance of my office and my dear friend and colleague Ms A and I had been plotting for months to do an Annalakshmi lunch. But our schedules have not aligned.

We decided to do a Saturday lunch, but after organising buses, babies and darling men, we arrived to find the restaurant closed for the presidential election. We had a slap-up Middle Eastern lunch that day, but my Annalakshmi yearning continued.

Then I handed in my notice, and my Singapore days became numbered. All players were suddenly motivated. And so we made it to the famous Annalaksmi vegetarian lunch buffet on a sunny Saturday.

Miss M, Darling Man, Ms A, her dashingly handsome other half, Mr A, and I all converged on the restaurant. Being Indian, the As know what each dish is called, and they showed us how to load up our plates.

Luckily, Darling Man is a quick study.

And then there was Miss M. Sigh. She ate a bit of rice. She marched around with a poppadom under her arm. She stole another girl’s doll stroller, and she marched around some more, pushing a tiny pink pram. We couldn’t even tempt her with this stunning dessert, which should have been child heaven — sugary, colourful and eaten-with-fingers. But it got a sweet high-pitched “nyo”, Miss M’s standard response to food, and just about everything, really.

These Indian pancakes are loaded up with …

… red sugar and sweetened coconut milk. Decadent, heavenly, sinful (and free, if you’re so inclined)… but still we get a “nyo”. (I’m going to miss the nyos when she finally works out how to say no properly.)

There’s a discreet sign asking you to take small portions and return to the buffet if needed. The As knew exactly what everything was, so loaded up with their favourites. Our mob, being ignorant, took small portions and then returned to the buffet for seconds. And thirds. It was adults-only, though. Our baby just won’t eat.

And when thirds were done, and dessert, and our drinks, it was time to go. We decided to pay $10 each, so the As paid $20 and we paid $25. We could have paid nothing. At a hawker centre, we would have paid about $5 for a similar-sized serve. But we factored in the air-conditioning (hawker centres aren’t air-conditioned), the lovely ambiance and the fact that the volunteer staff let Miss M steal another child’s toy, crash it into every table and investigate all areas of the restaurant.

And the other diners were lovely, although some did look a bit down on their luck.

Another Indian colleague told me the following week that Singapore’s Annalakshmi is known as a place where you eat for free. But yet another Indian colleague told me that in India, it’s a high-end restaurant chain. The world is truly a funny place.

Annalakshmi Singapore
104 Amoy Street
Phone: 6223 0809
#01-04 Central Square
20 Havelock Road
Phone: 6339 9993

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12 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Red sugar and condensed milk? Beyond decadent!
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday – Nobel Square

  2. Grace says:

    I love Indian food. Dammit, why do you have to post this so early? It’s currently 10 am on a Sunday here and I want this for breakfast!!
    Grace recently posted..A no-nonsense guide to first time camping in the U.S.

  3. I wish I had known about this place when I was in Singapore a couple of years ago… πŸ™
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..An Inconvenient Death

  4. Christopher says:

    What an excellent post. I wish I’d known about this before we traveled in November. Singapore is exorbitantly expensive. Next time. Thank you. I’m making a note now.
    Christopher recently posted..Oktoberfest 2011 Wies’n Tips

  5. Sounds like home to me. We have Annalakshmi here in Kuala Lumpur as well but as a local, I usually eat at the original banana leaf restaurants here. Speaking of this, I will go and have some Indian food for tomorrow’s lunch πŸ™‚
    David @ MalaysiaAsia recently posted..Louis Vuitton Island Maison in Singapore

  6. jenjenk says:

    very good tip for when i finally make it to singapore!! thanks for sharing!!!
    jenjenk recently posted..Photo Friday: Oklahoma State Fair

  7. Dalene says:

    This is awesome. We did something very similar in Ireland, although it wasn’t really buffet style. I think we overpaid, but people may tend to do that…
    Dalene recently posted..A Week In The Life – Day 2 – Exploring Brussels

  8. What a great restaurant concept.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Best Restaurants in Columbus: Basi Italia

  9. i want to go!! that food looks DELICIOUS.
    wandering educators recently posted..Book Offers Glimpse into life of Ghana’s street children

  10. Andrea says:

    I’ve seen pay what you want restaurants in a few cities now and was wondering how they can stay afloat – surely there are plenty of people who take advantage? I realize that’s a pretty pessimistic thing to say. The food looks really good!
    Andrea recently posted..Iskender is Good: The Kebap of Bursa

    • The Dropout says:

      I get the impression this restaurant is associated with a temple. It’s staffed by volunteers. I guess there would be people who took advantage, but we paid more than the going rate, partly because we could afford to.

  11. Jade says:

    Oh dear god- the food looks amazing. I’m not sure what those tortilla shell like things are but- yum!
    Jade recently posted..Get Inspired: A 10,000 mile Journey to Patagonia

  12. Very cool! And noted for when we go to Singapore. Yummmmmm

  13. Indian buffets are my favorite thing ever. We found one in a tiny college town in Oregon once while driving through and ate so much we made ourselves sick. But damn it was delicious.
    Technosyncratic recently posted..Unexpected Perils of the Roman Baths

  14. Great tip. My husband works on Amoy Street. We will have to try it.
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  15. Maria says:

    Looks like you ended up with a wonderful lunch. wow!
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  16. Mark says:

    Just the place I want to go. An all you can eat buffet with all my favorite delicacies. It is great that they provide big plates. Your friend did a good job teaching you how to make everything fit. I think the price is reasonable enough considering the satisfaction you got.
    Mark recently posted..Pick Up Lines For Guys

  17. Sophie says:

    What an interesting idea – and very social and fair. I’ll definitely try that next time I’m in Singapore. Thanks for sharing this.
    Sophie recently posted..Where in the World?

  18. Jill says:

    Wow, we have an Annalakshmi here in Perth. I never knew there was more than one.

    We will be in Singapore soon, and will make an effort to try this one.


  19. Lauren Blake says:

    Sounds like home to me. Thanks! It’s staffed by volunteers. Oh dear god- the food looks amazing.
    Lauren Blake recently posted..Cancer Tattoos Tumblr

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