Lounges their ins and outs
I Smacked my lips to savour the lingering tanginess of the shrimp cocktail. The lunch had been lip-smacking-ly delicious indeed. I had relished every morsel and now I felt I could not even budge an inch from the seat. The plush sofa and ambient lighting were not of much help either and all I wanted now was to sip slowly on my cool glass of water and chat the next hour away with my friend who had shared the lunch with me.
We had so much to catch up on; tête-à-têtes we rarely got to share during our hectic weekday schedules. If only…if only the annoying waiter would stop hovering around us every few minutes asking over and over again if we needed anything else. It seemed as if he simply refused to take no for an answer, and when we politely but firmly disconfirmed his query for the fourth time, he disappeared for a while and came back and shoved the bill almost right at our face, even though we had not even asked for it yet! Clearly customers were totally unwelcome at this place after they had finished their meal. So much for naming it a lounge!
It seems like almost every other food joint that opens up these days has 'lounge' attached to its nametag. A simple 'fried chicken' or 'fast food joint' simply does not pull crowds any more. The place has to have that extra edge, a jazzy 'lounge' feeling that will entice the young crowds who are not only looking for good quality food but also a place where they can do what they are best at: hang out! Numerous lounges that have mushroomed in and around the posh neighbourhoods of Dhaka city have so far catered to these needs quite well, but since too much of a good thing can never be good, problems were bound to come up.
“The authentic concept of lounge seems to have been misconstrued to some extent here. The so-called lounges no doubt are furnished with cosy sofas and ambient lighting, but the main idea of lounging as such has been completely overlooked in many of these,” says Nahian Haque, an undergrad student. “Most of these lounges have concentrated on providing an elaborate menu consisting of palatable cuisines, but lounges are not supposed to be fine dining restaurants! They should be places where people can go and hang out with their friends and catch up on the latest buzz while sipping coffee and savour some delightful brownies.” True, the relaxing factor can definitely be said to have been ignored in some of the lounges here, what with waiters shooing you off with bills as soon as you are finished taking your last bite.
Prices seem to be another inhibiting factor. A wholesome lunch for two can easily cost anything between Tk 400-1000 in most places. “The hip and trendy outlook of the lounges is apparently meant to pull in the young, but it seems the confines of our wallet have been miscalculated in most of these places,” opines a young intern at a local bank. “There are times when we crave for a cosy place to unwind and pass the evening with casual conversation and good music, and the comfy insides of the lounges immediately come to mind. But the prices are prohibitive, given that most of us are not willing to part with Tk 100 for a single cup of regular coffee.”
If there's so much to complain about, then why are we still flocking to these places by the hordes? “Music” was one word that echoed in all mouths. The concept of 'lounging' with music that was started with Kozmo (A)Live, has quickly been emulated by scores of places around town, but we never seem to get enough of it. Acoustic shows are regularly staged at these lounges, and amazingly, most of them play to a full house.
Experiencing live music rendered by seasoned and new artistes seems to be unparalleled when it comes to enjoying a snug evening out with friends and family. And for the aspiring new musicians around town, they're just the perfect opportunities to have their strums and beats be heard and appreciated! Kozmo (A)Live has also attracted the intellectual bunch with café readings and recitations that are not only food for thought, but food for the soul as well.
Food is also a generally liked aspect of lounges. “Whenever I have enough pocket money to spare, I make sure I get some of the seafood noodles at X Lounge,” says Shama, a student of BBA at a private university, while her friend reminisces on the delectable buffet meal at B151 Leisure Lounge in Dhanmondi. Juicy steaks also seem to be a staple on the menu lists of most lounges around Dhaka city and they are a hot favourite!
With all the given plus and minus points, lounges still have a long way to go before they reach the point of being clichéd. Live acoustic concerts are still the hottest events around town, and steaks are yet to saturate the taste buds of Dhakaiites, which means we are yet to see the last of the lounges opening up. However, the emphasis is on “too much of a good thing can never be good” so it might not be long before Dhakaiites move on from the 'lounge' phase and start looking for the next big thing!
By Wasia Mehnaz Minna
Photo: Zahedul I Khan