Burma Burma in Mumbai is not just a restaurant, it is an elegant homage paid to the colours and richness of Burmese culture.
This restaurant carries its heart on its sleeve. From its name to its colour tone and of course its culinary inspirations, this place is one hundred percent Burma.
To realise it, Mumbai-based Minnie Bhatt Design worked on a brief that was succinct in its demands – it asked for a slice of Burmese culture with a contemporary aesthetic. It also had to be warm, welcoming and exude cosiness from every corner.
The tenor of the eatery is all subtle swathes of wood, with highlights of warm lighting on the walls and the ceiling. The logo of Burma Burma is a cherubic doll that brings to mind the exotic innocence of Russian Matryoshka dolls. “The round bottom Burmese doll symbolises the resilience of a woman, as she bounces back up against all odds. I had two 3D dolls made in wood, and mounted one on either side of the entrance door,” says Bhatt.
The interiors have obvious references to the signposts of Burmese culture. So naturally Buddhism is high on the list of design inspiration. To the left from the entrance is a beautiful moulded wall that spans the seating area. The wall, inspired by the Buddhist pagodas, would have been a remarkable touch in itself, but it is made even more special by a long series of traditional Buddhist prayer wheels embedded in them.
To distinguish them from the original pious wheels, the ones here have been covered in earthy colours of turmeric yellow and neem green which sport Buddhist symbols like the lotus form, the Bodhisattva and others. The long beige sofa here is offset by silk bolsters sporting fine patterns. The floor meanwhile has been done in grey IPS.
Keeping them company are some lovely cloth parasols that hang from the vintage ceiling. To emphasise the age-old goodness of the Burmese way of life, and the preferred materials that dot the landscape there, the old ceiling of the place was retained.
The fabric of the parasols is truly lovely – it has a beautiful intricate design and is in a colour that is a tempo up from that of the prayer wheels, though still elegantly steering clear of being garish. The parasols look like designer clouds floating above the tables.
Adding to the unmistakable Burmese nostalgia are etchings of the Burmese script on the wall behind the seating. The booth seating has been carved from cane and wood, the former being another nod to a long-standing Burmese industry. Even the bathrooms continue the theme – find pictures of modern-day Myanmar on the walls here.
To the right of the entrance is the Khow Suey take-out counter. The tea bar display here is amazingly elegant; red lacquer cabinets, fashioned after the Burmese original, fit in snugly in an otherwise teak-wood shelving. The collective effect of the warm lighting, the multiple shelves with the colourful pots and pans, and the tea paraphernalia; all come together beautifully to become a picture of a lovingly busy kitchen.
Cane baskets, toys, and lacquer-ware were brought in from Burma to populate the bar. It will be impossible not to sip tea, elbows resting on the natural log that forms the bar counter top, and look up admiringly at all the little spots of colour on the bar shelves.
All around Burma is the distinct whiff of the traditional Buddhist cloth painting legacy called Thangka. The paintings are swirling melting pots of colours and details so fine that every piece is a masterpiece of creative fervour and the possibilities of human labour. At Burma Burma, this legacy is paid a subtle homage, especially through the colour scheme.
Burma Burma, already reaping brownie points for its culinary expertise, is in fact a complete sensory experience. In the chock-a-block food landscape of Mumbai, it is tough work to stand out, and Burma Burma does it with ease because of its single-minded devotion to the experience of one rich culture. Few restaurants can claim to espouse such true commitment to inspiration, and express it beyond just food.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Designer