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Sinful indulgence

44Ayesha Kabir ::

You plunge your spoon into the dark mass of cake and hot molten chocolate lava spurts out to ooze all over. Add a dollop of the vanilla ice cream and drizzle with the silky chocolate sauce… sheer decadence, sinful indulgence is the only way to describe the experience of eating Butler’s hot chocolate lava cake.

Butler’s Chocolate Café is now the hotspot of Dhaka city, the watering hole for the city’s ‘bold and beautiful’. From morning till way past midnight, it’s abuzz with customers who come in all ages, shapes and sizes. Located in a prime spot of the upscale Gulshan 2 area, it caters mostly to the urban elite, though its doors are open to one and all.

Butler’s opened its doors in Dhaka on 5 December last year (2015) and there’s been no looking back. “We had a pleasantly overwhelming response,” says Mehreen Gheewala, the managing director of Bulter’s Café in Bangladesh. “There were long queues from the very first day, on weekends as well as weekdays.”

Did they expect such a phenomenal success in such a short span of time? “No way,” laughs Mehreen, “since all our products are imported from Ireland, we had stocked our ingredients for three months. But our hot chocolate and the hot chocolate lava cake have been so popular, we finished the three-month stock in three weeks! We had to have an immediate air shipment of chocolate buttons and other ingredients.”

The Irish franchise certainly has caught the fancy of the Dhaka crowd. It’s become more than a café or a hangout in the pedestrian sense of the word. Perhaps Mohammad A Momen, professor, entrepreneur and a regular at Butler’s, describes it the best. “Butler’s is more of a social club,” he says, elaborating, “People are addicted to it, you go there and meet tons of people who are all there for the same reason. We go there to unwind so that we can rewind the next day at work!”
The food, of course, is the main crowd puller. Bangladeshis, in fact South Asians in general, aren’t known to be great lovers of chocolate, so what’s so different at Butler’s? Mehreen says, “Actually the people of Bangladesh are very exposed. They appreciate the fine things in life, be it culture, music, fashion and even food. Dark chocolate was not popular here in Bangladesh, but we sold out and had to replenish our stock in record time!”

However, they did take the South Asian penchant for the savoury into cognizance. Along with their delectable selection of desserts, coffees and shakes, they also offer an array of savouries. The grilled chicken sandwiches made with Italian herb bread focaccia and the thin crust pizzas are hot favourites.

They sure do take care of their chocolate at Butler’s, with two specially equipped cold rooms and temperature controlled chocolate counters. From the chairs shipped in from the UK, lights from Germany, tables from Scotland, every piece of Butler’s décor is tasteful, functional and imported from Europe.

From when it opens at 8am in the morning and closes at 2am, the café sees a continuous flow of customers. There’s a complex demographic of all ages, from yuppies armed with their laptops and smartphones to the more blasé night owls, from the hardcore business and professional crowd to the after-shaadi spillover, they are all there at Butler’s.

What next? With such encouraging response, they are now looking for locations in Uttara and Dhanmandi, and eventually Chittagong, too. Luck of the Irish? Mehreen puts down the success to their emphasis on quality more than anything else. The customers agree. But, as another regular customer, Parveen, adds, “The very warm and personal touch extended by Mehreen and her father Habib, have a lot to do with it.” To borrow from the popular sit-com Cheers, who wouldn’t want to go ‘where everyone knows your name’?