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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Mustafa's posh new look

The shopping plaza's annex now has a stylish rooftop garden restaurant and a bigger range of food
The Sunday Times - June 12, 2011
By: Melody Zaccheus
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Mustafa's posh new look

Singaporeans - and countless tourists - are familiar with the 24-hour Mustafa Centre in Little India as a bustling, crowded, frenetic and confusing jumble of bargains and good buys lurking among its overflowing shelves.

An oasis of calm and contemporary chic, it was not.

Until now.

The 26-year-old shopping plaza in Syed Alwi Road has been extended and renovated.

The result includes a posh roof garden restaurant on the seventh floor of a new nine-storey annex.

Boasting a glass dome roof and lush greenery, Mustafa's garden restaurant will serve North Indian, South Indian and Chinese cuisine. It seats 400 and will open in about two weeks.

A bakery on the second floor will open at the same time.

The glossy new wing, complete with a fancy steel facade, was completed in September last year and opened in January. It is connected to the older building by a second-floor walkway.

The extension, the cost of which Mustafa declined to reveal, is part of efforts to attract a younger crowd while retaining its regulars.

It is located on the site of an office- cum-residence next door that was purchased, then demolished in 2008.

The electronics department has also been extended, along with the pharmacy and household sections. A carpark takes up levels 4 and 5 and part of level 3.

Food-lovers will be thrilled by the expanded supermarket on the second floor of the new wing. It makes Little India the place to go, not just for curries, but also for food from all over the world ranging from lychee-flavoured honey to frozen french fries.

As you would expect in a centre in the Little India locale, it has increased its range of spices, but the supermarket's managers - Mr Andrew Sim, Mr Mohammed Salim and Mr Mohammed Ali - have also sourced fruit, vegetables and meat from all over to spice up its regular range of food products.

It now boasts food products from at least 20 countries, ranging from Thailand to Turkey and as far afield as Iceland. Previously, Mustafa's food section mostly stocked basic fruit, vegetables and dry goods.

But with the revamp, the range is much more extensive, including golden pumpkins from Malaysia ($1.90 a kg), rajapuri mangoes from India ($7.90 a kg), snakegourds from Malaysia ($2.90 a kg) and chayotes ($1.50 a kg), also known as vegetable pears, from Cameron Highlands.

Its butchery sections stock fresh and frozen meat. Offerings include ostrich meat ($26.90 a kg), duck ($12.90 a kg), fresh venison ($28.90 a kg) and airflown Australian lamb. And those who like Lebanese treats, which are hard to get in Singapore, will be happy. Products include canned food such as hummus tahini (sesame) dips and medammis (mashed broad beans). And there are 13 brands of honey.

'Times are changing and we need to come up with something new to attract the younger generation. Hopefully, these changes will appeal to them,' said Mr Shamim Ahmad, 49, the building's maintenance manager.

He added that Mustafa hoped to attract people from all walks of life and with all sorts of tastes, by giving them 'variety at affordable prices'.

Newly imported Sri Lankan crabs, for instance, are now bestsellers. The crustaceans are bigger than those sold elsewhere, with most at Mustafa weighing between 1 and 2kg each.

At $18.90 a kg, many customers buy 5kg crabs at one go.

As well as a wider range of food, the spiffy supermarket now has wider aisles. The new wing brings the total size of Mustafa Centre to 24,000 sq m.

All 10 customers LifeStyle spoke to liked the new look. Housewife Nidhi Pitkar, 34, who was visiting the supermarket for the first time in a year, was delighted by the well-stocked and organised aisles.

Another customer, Mrs Stephanie Brown, 42, from Britain, was pleased to find products which reminded her of home, such as frozen french fries from McCain Foods.

'It's also nice to look around at the new products and come up with fresh ideas for meals,' said the housewife.

Others such as real-estate agent K. Kumar, 49, plan to shop there more often.

He said: 'This is the place to be if you want a taste of the world. Even the drinks are different from what other supermarkets offer.'

There are at least 12 varieties of nonalcoholic sparkling juice, and beverages from Australia including Rochestor Ginger Drink and Popper Juice.

Mr Shamim believes that the centre has addressed customer gripes about overcrowding at its food section.

'While it is inevitable that we have to deal with crowds, especially on weekends, the new extension has proven to accommodate the masses better as aisles are now wider. The feedback we have received so far has been positive,' he said.

Mustafa Centre is not the only supermarket here which stocks exotic products from around the world, of course.

FairPrice's seven Finest outlets sell products including wagyu beef and extra-large American rose apples.

CEO Mr Seah Kian Peng said that the supermarket chain welcomes the competition.

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