On entering, a visitor might think he has stepped into a dreamy realm – the lights not so bright as to dazzle the eyes, the motifs and designs on the wall recall a time long past, while the tables and chairs are a welcome sight.
This is a restaurant a young woman recently launched in Barishal city. Named Urban Café, its good-quality foods, hospitability, decoration, and some newly introduced features have already become an attraction for the local food enthusiasts.
The entrepreneur, Shusmita Khan, who has been in the online business of female cloth and ornaments for a pretty long time, has used different types of antiques collected from local sources and reused wooden waste for making furniture and decoration. She has also used different handicrafts and decorative lamp holders in the restaurant.
One of the most popular features of Urban Café is that a musical programme is organised every Friday evening where local singers participate and guests can enjoy the melody with food. There are some musical instruments, for example, guitars, which guests can use and sing.
The restaurant has a dedicated spot for photo shoots which is another attraction for guests.
"I had a dream of setting up a restaurant. At first, I planned to start a restaurant in Dhaka but the rent is very high there. So, I started the restaurant here [in Barishal] investing almost Tk10,00,000," said Shusmita.
The restaurant opens at noon and closes at night. Among Thai, Chinese, and Japanese foods served in the restaurant, momo, chicken wings, garlic mushrooms, etc are very popular. The restaurant started its journey on 18 October this year in the Natun Bazar area. The restaurant can accommodate 50 people at a time.
Shariful Islam, a regular customer of the restaurant, said, "I come here quite often with my family members and friends. We like the food of the restaurant as it is tasty. Besides, the overall environment is very good for spending time with family members and friends."
Another customer, Sinthia Akhter, a student of Barishal University, said that she and her friends come to the restaurant to have some refreshments.
"Besides the food, we enjoy listening to the songs performed by local singers here every weekend. Altogether, it is fun spending time here," she added.
The restaurant has tried to bring some changes to the menu too. Instead of using traditional menus, there are menu boards which are brought to customers after they take a table.
Shusmita, the owner, said that initially, it was very difficult for her to start the restaurant and manage it beside her master's. Not only that, but she also had to face some problems only for being a woman.
"It was very difficult for me to find a place for the restaurant as none was interested to rent a place to a female entrepreneur. They feared that I might not be able to run the business and pay the rent regularly," she added.
"I work very hard to run the restaurant. I have to go to the kitchen market early in the morning every day as I always buy fresh ingredients for my restaurant. I remain busy till late at night," she added.
She hoped that more females in Barishal would be motivated to be entrepreneurs in the future and become self-sufficient.