“Food isn’t enough nowadays; you need more”

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Oscar Chowdhury on social dining

Walking into the rooftop restaurant Savva at high noon on Friday, I can feel the change in the air the minute I cross the threshold. The air is instantly lighter, the minimalistic interiors brighter and the temperature at least three degrees cooler. I wonder if my mind is playing tricks on me; Oscar Chowdhury assures me that it isn’t. The managing director of Savva Hospitality explains the design flourishes that create these effects. “With a view to reducing plastic pollution, we sourced plastic packing materials from landfills, and used them as construction materials when designing Savva. That way the landfills empty out without the plastic reaching the waterways, and you have walls and floors that absorb heat. We also had titanium oxide mixed in with the concrete, which filters the air coming in, to reduce the particulate matter. In addition, he points to the rooftop patio area, which features a large wall with a vertical installation of 1,600 plants selected specifically for air purification. The glass ceiling and windows, which are double glazed to further reduce energy costs, work in tandem with the white walls to use natural light to its optimum potential during the day.

Of best laid plans

As fascinating as all these discoveries were, it was quite a bit of a mind bend to discover that this exercise in sustainability might not have taken place had it not been for a terrible accident. An avid thrill-seeker, Oscar suffered a skydiving accident that left him in a wheelchair for a whole year. While he recuperated, he came to Bangladesh, and decided to diverting his thrill-seeking energy into the excitement of creating a sustainable hospitality venture. “The initial plan was to work my way from the ground up, by establishing an agro-tech outfit, creating my own supply chain, before working my way to a restaurant. I ended up doing the reverse, and starting the restaurant first.” 

Fresh take, fresh taste

Currently, Savva does havean aquaponics outfit for some of its ingredients. They’re working on a completely closed-loop, zero waste source of organic vegetables.  In addition, they grow some of their greens on site, so that it literally goes from the garden on the roof to the table. “It doesn’t get fresher than that.” Fresh ingredients aren’t the only USP a meal at Savva has to offer. The executive chef Simon is one of the few Michelin-starred chefs currently working in the country, and has worked in the UK for the prestigious restaurant collective D&D, and for several restaurants in Thailand, and brings all that expertise to the eclectic menu. Oscar is quick to explain that the restaurant doesn’t lean towards any particular kind of cuisine, offering everything from the “Bangla Brekkie” (a traditional Bangladeshi street breakfast fare sans the hygiene concerns) to French pastries. The menu changes four or five times a year, and the weekend specials are always changing, so that repeat diners always have something new to look forward to. “We’re offering a mid-price menu, aimed at young professionals looking for anything from a quick cup of coffee to a fancy dinner date.”

Modern social dining

Ultimately, the appeal of Savva is best appreciated as a holistic experience. The wide open space, with its minimalist décor and flexible design can lend itself to any mood. The restaurant is divided up into sections that can be sealed off to create an intimate atmosphere for date night, or kept open for a big social gathering. The mood can switch from breezy brunch to peppy party with the setting of the sun. It’s the perfect venue to host a multitude of events, as Dhaka Tribune discovered when partnering with them for Avenue T’s Spring Into Love event earlier this month. “Our motto is ‘You dream it, we host it’ and we aim to provide the best experience” Oscar says, adding “Food isn’t enough nowadays; you need more.” He aims to provide Bangladesh with its first sustainable international luxury hospitality brand, which is not only a mouthful but a tall order, I am quick to point out.

 “If you have to dream, dream big” he answers. And judging by what he has already achieved, one can expect interesting things ahead for the brand.