Sri Lanka's star batsmen Mahela Jaywardene, Dharshan Munidasa and Kumar Sangakkara the owners of Ministry of Crab restaurant located in a 16th century Old Dutch Hospital building in Colombo. Picture: Ministry of Crab Image Credit: Courtesy Ministry of Crab

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s star batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are renowned for dishing out great knocks in cricket.

Now the pair are also being celebrated for serving up some really tasty culinary dishes. The two icons of Sri Lankan cricket have joined forces to start a restaurant called Ministry of Crab in Colombo.

A T20 World Cup volunteer guided me to the restaurant, declaring while giving me directions to it: “If you are a seafood lover, do not miss Jayawardene and Sangakkara’s restaurant.”

The restaurant was created at an old Dutch hospital, which was built in 1677.

And anyone I asked about directions to the restaurant proudly informed me that it is owned by Sangakkara and Jayawardene. When I arrived there, I was greeted by Dharshan Munidasa, who is the co-owner and partner of the restaurant. Munidasa gave me his card that had an imposing picture of a crab stating: “A Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, and Dharshan Munidasa Restaurant.”

Why is it called Ministry of Crab, I wondered? Munidasa, who is one of the finest chefs in the country and also owns Nihonbashi, a Japanese restaurant, said: “The name had to be powerful. Jayawardene and Sangakkara are great lovers of seafood and I have known them for a long time. Sri Lanka is one of the leading exporters of crab and we thought that a restaurant based on crab would be ideal.”

Today Ministry of Crab is a popular haunt for all cricketers around the world. India’s star batsman Virender Sehwag, who loves the sweet and succulent crabs from the restaurant, told Munidasa on his recent visit: “Many Indian cricketers have started restaurants and almost all of them have closed down. They focused on the owners and partners instead of the food. It is the food that plays a vital role in getting customers to come back again and not the name and fame of the owners.”

Indeed, Munidasa strongly believes in quality. The restaurant has been designed by architect Dr Carlo Andrenelli, who was also present at the restaurant when I visited. He said: “This is a 16th-century building, and so I made minimum changes. With a beautiful courtyard I made sure that, even without air conditioning, one can enjoy the food through natural cross-ventilation.”

Though chicken dishes are also available at the restaurant, seafood lovers flock there for the restaurant’s popular chilli crab and baked crab. Jayawardene and Sangakkara make sure they visit the restaurant whenever they are in the city. In fact, Jayawardene addresses Munidasa as his new coach, and tells everyone: “Try out this restaurant and you will be bowled over.”

On the restaurant’s website, www.ministryofcrab.com, Sangakkara says: “It is realisation of my dream to be part of a culinary experience that I hope will enthrall your taste buds and leave you happy and wanting more.”