<%-- Page Title--%> Endeavour <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 143 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

February 27, 2004

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Encapsulated ‘Heritage’
Mustafa Zaman

When Tommy Miah and Rizwan B Farouq met, it was a convergence that soon resulted in a culinary concept. The former famed for his delicious dishes, which made him a household name in the UK and the latter an entrepreneur who was toying with the idea of a theme restaurant soon discovered that their shared interest has a possibility in the food market. They began to nurture their idea. The two reached a verdict on April 14, 2003. They signed a contract that resulted in Heritage, the restaurant that is centered on the themes of the heritage sites scattered all over Bangladesh.

"Heritage is the name that I came up with. We were first thinking of calling it Tommy's Kitchen, Tommy's Heritage or something. But suddenly it occurred to me that Heritage would be the perfect classification for this," says Rizwan who cannot mask his enthusiasm after the successful unveiling of this home of fusion food that explores mostly the indigenous cuisine. "The restaurant itself is an artwork, it is an on going artwork," adds Rizwan referring to the work that is still in progress in his two-storied restaurant.

It took eight months to put everything together. The old shamble of an edifice on the road 109, Gulshan was transmuted into the present structure that houses eight different seating arrangements, each named after one heritage site. It even treasures one large mural-like canvas by artist Jamal Ahmed in the Buriganga section, and a real painted mural in the Sundarbans area. The gates, doors, the reception table, are antique bought from the local market. "Shindhuks were turned into door panels," informs Rizwan, who along with two of his buddies and the one and only Tommy Miah, the Curry King, are proud owner of this newly opened restaurant. They are delighted that Michael Palin of BBC fame stopped over during inauguration. He even left them a note of appreciation in writing.

The opening of this "signature restaurant of Tommy Miah" saw a lot of dignitaries and stars, turning up to savour not only the food but also the spectacle that the restaurant itself is. "It is a trove of our art and craft, we have created each section designed after a heritage site," says Rizwan. Even the patio, where one can enjoy dining under the open sky is named Panam Nagar, one of the capital cities of bygone Bengal, which thrived considerably during the rule of Isha Khan, and which now lies in utter neglect.

"We want to raise awareness about our own heritage, about how most of them are lying unattended," affirms Rizwan. His idea is to promote preservation and raise the issue of putting these places in the list of the UN heritage sites. He seems to believe that naming each section and bedecking most in conformity with the heritage sites may have an impact on the connoisseurs flocking to his eatery.

Whether it does or does not is an inference that should be stayed for future. As for now, one can clearly detect how the people who envisaged the restaurant are heavily into 'heritage look'. Starting from the beginning, it is a tour de force all throughout. The entrance is a huge replica of a 'mehrab' of a mosque in Gaur, the capital of the Sena dynasty that had seen the Sultani era adding diversity to its architectural milieu.

"I saw it on the cover of Star Weekend Magazine. I thought it was a gate of sorts, then I found out that it was a huge mehrab of a mosque. I also found out that the photographer was Zakir Hossain. But I owe it to the issue of the magazine that ran a cover on Gaur, it was from the cover photo that Nogen Pal had fashioned the terracotta designs after," informs Rizwan.

Nogen Pal hails from Dhamrai. A pal (potter) by descent he was entrusted with this huge undertaking after Rizwan and his architects were fully satisfied with the sample piece he produced.

"It was on Sepember 1 that I received the work order," says Nogen, who has completed a four year course from Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts on top of what has been handed down to him by his father. Nogen Pal took three months to fill in the huge structure with his delicately produced terracotta slabs. "The surface area of the gate measures at around 1800 square feet. This is the largest commission that I have ever done," reveals Amor.

The sizable structure that the architect Tania reluctantly built when Rizwan insisted on having it, is a strong echo of the civilisation that once thrived in Gaur. "My architects did not agree to such a big gate, as they thought it would look ugly," devulges Rizwan.

As for the adornment with chuni chukri, another form of craft that used to see its application in mosques and mahals (courts), Nogen Pal is still at work three days after the inauguration on a structure on the second floor. He along with his helping hands are busy setting the tile chips on a rooftop structure at Heritage. The open space the finishing touches are been given too is a place to sit. It is bracketed by the large section called Buriganga at one side and the stairs at the other. The 28 feet painting by Jamal Ahmed gives the Buriganga section its deserved look. There are few more paintings of the river Buriganga overlooking the old Dhaka on sale.

In the culinary department too, Heritage has a new concept to offer. The buzzword here is 'fusion'. "Fusion is recreating dishes. It has been developed over the years. You present something that would obviously look good, taste good, and is presented in a fusion manner," explains the master chef. "This is the first restaurant of this kind, hopefully there will be others. We are planing to open up branches in KolKata, Delhi," he adds. "There is a saying that you can't run before you walk," philosophises the master chef, who was given this epithet by his partner -- Rizwan.

Tommy recalls how things started off, he says, "Both of us wanted the same thing. We shared the same sentiment, we always felt proud of our country and wanted to do something about it."

"Back in the eighties there were no Bangladeshi restaurants in Dhaka. I used get blamed for calling my London dig an Indian restaurant. I always wanted set up a Bangali restaurant in the home turf," Tommy goes on. The restaurant is a "dream that we dreamed together, and which came true," Tommy declared on the inaugural day.

It is the winning dishes that would be served in Heritage. The outcome of Tommy Miah's international competition will surely keep the customers coming back for more. A lot of curries are coming in from the UK. In fact whatever fusion took place in the UK, has been brought in to enrich the menu. "Tommy is the first chef who is aligning with Bangladeshi food," opines Rizwan.

With arches lifted from the Paharpur Bihara, the interior dresses tradition in a new look. On the third day after the launching, in the middle of the Sunderbans section a family dines as the speakers emit a jaari, a variant of indigenous songs, in a subdued sound. This certainly is a change. The Heritage restaurant has grafted everything onto its modernist edifice -- from music to bits and pieces of crafts, historical documents encapsulated in photographs, furniture, and even artworks. The concept extends further as one spots two deer roaming in a makeshift zoo beside the front porch. Heritage certainly is a site that fuses not only different kinds of food but also our cultural and geological splendours.



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