On a busy road in suburban Mumbai, a tiny Bengali restaurant is drawing customers in not just for its cuisine, but also for its eclectic decor that reminisces about life in 1960s Calcutta.
“Bengali-household-meets-Parisian Cafe” is how interior designer Kumpal Vaid describes the interiors of Bong Bong, a Bengali restaurant in Mumbai. Kumpal is the principal designer at the Mumbai-based interiors firm Purple Backyard – the company responsible for Bong Bong’s Design.
Bong Bong formerly a kathi-roll takeaway joint, occupies a tiny corner of busy Bandra in Mumbai. Turning it into a 30-seater restaurant with a kitchen and seating space wasn’t short of a challenge. The owners wanted to share their love for Bengali food and desired a “relaxed, unperturbed laid back experience for their customers,” says Kumpal. A Bengali theme, but with a contemporary twist is what they had envisioned.
The little verandah space of the property inspired Kumpal to work with the idea of a Parisian cafe with outdoor seating and plants. The restaurant is “right on the street, and the design had to be eye-catching to draw customers inside,” says Kumpal.
So you find yourself walking through an open iron gate into a colourful, welcoming outdoor seating area. “This is also reminiscent of a home throwing open its doors to you,” explains Kumpal. The walls are white with colourful accents and gently distressed. The predominant accent colours are the colours of Calcutta – red and green. A trellis covers one wall, where a lush creeper grows against a bright pink background. Potted plants hang from the roof. And everywhere, the sights and sounds of the 1960s in ‘Calcutta’, recreated with the help of vibrant colours and accessories greet you.
On the walls, hand-painted murals remind you of the old city, with its hand-pulled rickshaws, beautiful Bengali women in traditional wear and of course, the fish, a Bengali staple. “I have researched the Bengal of the 1960s for this project,” says Kumpal. Detailed referencing for each mural was etched out before artists were commissioned to complete the paintings.
Also on the walls is present authentic vintage bric-a-brac carefully sourced from flea markets. Glass lanterns and kerosene lamps in different designs were repurposed to suit modern lighting. Old condiment tins, a typewriter and a vintage wall cabinet catch your eye. The seating is unexpected – traditional metal folding chairs in bright green and long benches to accommodate more people when necessary.
After the burst of colour in the outdoor area, the indoor seating space comes as a wave of calm and serenity. The seating continues with the metal chairs and benches but the walls are subdued. The star of the room is a vintage Murphy radio that Kumpal sourced from one of Mumbai’s flea markets.
Other accents include framed advertisements from the 1960s; these fit in perfectly with the well-established nostalgia. A chalkboard on one wall intrigues you with the menu for the day.
One wall inside has the exposed brick look. Look up and you’ll see a service duct, painted in green with a beautiful rendering of the Howrah bridge in yellow. This is such a clever trick to convert a utilitarian item into a work of art. This wall has been largely left bare in order to balance the decor. “There’s no dearth of knick-knacks, but one needs to know when to stop,” laughs Kumpal.
“We wanted to recreate the look of a Bengali household. So you will see the traditional colours, the furniture and even the doors and windows which are typically Bengali, but still contemporary,” she says.
The design team also spent a lot of time on lighting. “The lighting in a space like this is of utmost importance. Your exterior lighting will contribute a great deal towards the first impression that your customers will have of your restaurant, and can also help to attract potential customers passing by. The restaurant lighting enhances the mood of the establishment and is dictated by the type of food you serve, as well as your restaurant’s design,” explains Kumpal.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Architects