PESHAWAR: It is not a new concept, but in a place like Peshawar when a woman becomes first to open up ‘dhaba’ style open-air café called ‘Naan Sense’, it is talk of the town.
The small café called ‘Naan Sense’ located amid shopping malls and cafes run by male owners in the University Town stands out not only because of colourful truck art painted on the exterior, but also because of the fact that it is the only café in the locality with open-air seating where families and youth enjoy the snacks and chit-chat till it remains open in the night.
“I brought my family, especially women and girls, to the opening first,” said Laila, a young woman hailing from Punjpir village of Swabi district who has opened the dhaba-style café.
The colorful exterior, the chairs and tables painted with funny sentences or verses from unknown folks usually seen on trucks amuse one as one waits for the strong tea (Karak Chai) and naan (bread) which come in different sweet, salty and savory fillings. Ataullah Esakhelvi’s song ‘Qamees Teri Kaali’ and Pashto tunes often keep the clients calm as they wait for their hot cup of tea and naan.
“My brother said it won’t run, but I have proved him wrong so far. Girls and families are coming,” said Laila who herself manages the kitchen, the staff and clients.
“Cooking is my passion and I thought why not open up a café and let people enjoy my recipes especially the ones whom village-folk and young would love alike,” said Laila who feels ‘Naan Sense’ food and beverages is a fusion of western and eastern cuisine.
She makes the marinades or stuffing of the naan herself and improvises her recipes from time to time. Not only the naan taste great but the catchy names like Racket (paneer and coriander), Dumper (nutella), and many such flavors cater to young and old alike.
“The best thing about this place is the disposable colorful cups and plates. One doesn’t need to bother much about if it is clean or not,” said a regular client Sana who is a hygiene freak when it comes to eating out in a restaurant with family and friends.
Laila said that some people complain about the prices, but providing food in disposable utensils ensures they get clean, unadulterated food.
“My top priority is to keep the kitchen clean and follow all the SOPs of keeping cleanliness,” she said.
Laila, being a single parent, feels it is important for women to follow their passion like her and become independent financially. She feels pride in opening up a small food and tea outlet to provide youth to come out and have a cup of tea and chit-chat with friends.
Students from the University of Peshawar were regular visitors due to the friendly youthful atmosphere of the café. It has been only a few months, but Laila feels it her success that women despite it being a male-dominated society are coming in great numbers to the café. She is planning to introduce other traditional food and beverages in summer that is part of village life and not available in restaurants of the city.
Originally published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2016