It’s almost lunch time on a humid Saturday and I’m seated at 5senses, the contemporary Mediterranean restaurant on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. It’s been less than a year since the enterprise began, but the buzz is hard to ignore. So is the aroma around me.
An eclectic clientele feasts on piping-hot platters of Falafels, Pizzas and Italian Sodas in an ambiance that makes me wonder if I’m inside a subtle and intelligent Hollywood flick (Titanic, Gone with the Wind, Godfather... I’m still trying to figure it out). The answer arrives as Sapna Handa, Director of this quaint culinary space. “Hollywood on the walls, Mediterranean on the trays...that’s why we call ourselves contemporary,” she says.
Before we really engage in conversation, she calls and introduces the Manager, Selvam, as if a proud Godmother and orders “a portion of Watermelon Shooters.”
“Now tell me,” she says. I’ve got a bagful of questions, but before I can dish them out, she’s already telling me her tale.
“I always wanted to do something on my own. I wanted to pursue my talents. But for several years, it just didn’t happen. One fine day, a friend proposed the idea of a food venture and we (my husband and I) discussed it. My husband coaxed me into a deal – he invests, I shoulder the responsibility,” Ms. Handa says. And adds, “Today, I feel I’ve sealed the best deal of my life.”
The Watermelon Shooters arrive alongside a deliciously diverse platter of starters that Padmanabhan M., a steward, deftly serves us, in a very specific order. In one breath, he gives me a rationale behind each dish and its order of appearance. “The watermelon shooters are my favourite,” says Sapna.
While welcome, this interval came in a bit early and I’m obviously curious for more. So I ask her to simply go on because I discover my questions aren’t half as interesting as her narration. “Let me tell you...,” she says, in-between sips of her Fresh Lime Soda, “Being a woman entrepreneur is a task. I didn’t know how to handle situations. I simply didn’t know business. I almost thought I must give up at one point. Then I said to myself, “hey, come on, you have to make this work.” So I would sit with my husband and he would take me through it.”
Pasta arrives – tomato-based, spicy and garnished with an overdose of black olives, alongside the Pizza – a thin-crusted, veggie delight of sorts. I’m digging into the Pasta, while Sapna calls for Padmanabhan and tells him it’s “slightly under-cooked” and needs to be re-worked.
Perfection and passion, she explains, are what drive her on. “You must get the little details right,” she says. I must say her passion translates into the ambiance, it overwhelms you. Reading my mind, she says, “5senses is all about experience. It’s a blend of warm hospitality, eye-appealing presentation and of course, enticing food.”
Padmanabhan overhears us and fetches us the orange-flavoured water that is distinctive of the restaurant. Jiten Singh, Head Chef, makes polite inquiries and takes me through a short culinary trip. “Our Ravioli is special,” he says. “Here at 5senses we try to really interpret food from across the world in our own style. That’s why I say, nothing is authentic. There’s scope for innovation everywhere.”
Meanwhile, Sapna is lost in reverie. As if waking up from a trance, she says: “You know, it hasn’t been an easy journey and I’m glad it hasn’t. You value things more when you strive hard to achieve them and then, when suddenly all the forces of the universe come together and make things happen for you...it’s an overwhelming experience.”
Well, what with the starters and watermelon shooters and pasta and pizza, the question part of the interview sort of slipped my mind. But somehow, all the answers are now in the open.