The atmosphere at the Polo Lounge is serene and reeks of old money, a lot like its owner, some would say. After all, the fine-dining restaurant at Saidpur village is Hina Rabbani Khar’s ‘baby’. On the menu are steaks, prawns and lobsters – quite fittingly “foreign” for an eatery owned by Pakistan’s foreign minister.
An outdoor restaurant with spectacular views of the Margalla Hills in Islamabad’s upmarket Saidpur Village, the Lounge attracts the who’s who of the capital city. It’s the second in a chain of restaurants started by Khar, who has a degree in hospitality management from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The first Polo Lounge came up at a polo club in Lahore 11 years ago. Khar’s businessman husband Feroze Gulzar is a polo aficionado.
The restaurant bears the aristocratic stamp of Khar, who comes from a wealthy, land-owning family. These days, though, the business is more or less run by her partner Asma Ramday, daughter-in-law of a retired Supreme Court judge. Khar says that running the restaurant is a full time job and portrays no miserly instincts when it comes to Khar praising her partner for running the eatery.
That’s modest, considering the Islamabad branch owes its existence to Khar. Polo Lounge was one of the many businesses which responded to an advertisement put out by Islamabad’s civic body, Capital Development Authority, in May 2008, inviting investors to set up businesses at the remodelled Saidpur Village. Those interested were required to apply by June 9, 2008.
However, CDA official, on condition of anonymity told that “Polo Lounge’s application, pinned with the official visiting card of Hina Rabbani Khar, landed in the office of CDA’s chairman on August 13, 2008. A month later, CDA’s offer letter was on its way to the management of Polo Lounge in Lahore, he said. At that time, Khar was minister for economic affairs”.