The rustic interiors of the restaurant The Hungry Monkey in New Delhi is dedicated to the spirit of discovery and adventure.
The Hungry Monkey, a restaurant in Safdarjung Enclave in New Delhi is a temple of eclecticism. It happily eschews the need to stick to one rigid theme, and has filled up its three floors with thoughtful knick-knacks and souvenirs gathered from different sources.
The three owners of the eatery and bar, along with the design team from the Delhi based, Project 810 studio and illustrators, had the empty shell of an erstwhile “happy-hour” sort of place at hand to turn into an “extremely engaging” restaurant. The name of the place was born out of the owners’ other business concern called Three Monkeys.
The outlet was to serve Californian cuisine earlier, which has now been revised to be primarily European. But standing in complementary glory had to be the interiors of the restaurant. Says Vritima Wadhwa of Project 810, “The clients wanted a place that signified curiosity, adventure and discovery. ‘Hungry’ is for curiosity, and ‘Monkey’ signifies adventure.”
For an idea, this was delightfully disparate and the team set out to think ‘out-of-the-box’ from the word go. Almost everything here is either hand-made or concocted using found materials. To keep up a natural palette, the floor is concrete, with some vintage keys and coins lodged in it for effect. The ceiling is exposed, with slabs bush hammered onto it. The lower floor is the eatery, and the second floor houses the bar. Above it is the terrace.
The walls, bare bricked, sport a light coat of white, painted by the owners themselves. The gleaming teak furniture adds to the rustic charm of the space.
But once the eye is past these obvious details, it settles on the ‘second layer’ of detailing; classic quotations egg you on to an adventurous life. These are there both on the walls and the tables.
A long concrete table has American poet, Muriel Rukeyser’s famous words, “The universe is made up of stories not atoms”, etched on it. A specific process called ‘micro-topping’ was used to achieve this effect. Apart from the quotes, more inspiration can be found in the collection of memorable items every enthusiastic souvenir collector will identify with.
There are old encyclopedia, globes, binoculars, telescopes, and more. “The owners wanted guests to engage with the interiors. They may even pick up these items and play with them.” states Wadhwa.
3ft. wide and 8ft. tall, screen prints of illustrations, showing animals and vegetables and laboratory instruments, clad the walls. The wall behind the DJ console showcases a lovely illustration of a constellation. The artists involved in the design were Kriti Monga and Dipanita Dutt.
The kitchen has been divided into two segments; the wet section is closed off, but a kind of a ‘show kitchen’ sits in the front, open on both sides.The shelving in front of the visible show kitchen is stacked with more interesting items.
The staircase that goes up to the bar hides an alcove which holds supplies, and has been closed-off with a mesh covering. One will notice arcs made out of the same mesh around the eatery, and also along the stair sidebar.
Even the toilets have personalised nuggets of whimsy about them. Screen prints of a werewolf, and flamenco dancers grace the walls and the signage has been carved on metal discs.
The bar on the second floor continues the old-world rusticity of The Hungry Monkey’s interiors. The furniture is made of scrap wood, and there are beautiful lamps made out of scrap metal pipes.
In the spirit of discoveries, the bar’s main shelf references the hexagonal molecular forms of chemical compounds.
One very interesting element of the interiors is the collection of incandescent Edison Bulbs that hang in clusters here; their effect enhanced by their angular and slender metal shades.
Above the bar is the terrace where the mostly raw tenor is maintained with stone and reclaimed teak furniture. The generators and other electrical paraphernalia here are hidden behind metal screens.
The Hungry Monkey is beautiful evidence in support of the success of unconventional, personal and whimsical restaurant interiors. The tone here remains natural and restrained, in spite of being full of souvenirs.
It is a smart juxtaposition of grown-up elegance, with a fearless, child-like fascination for discovering the unknown. For guests, there is much to soak in here and it is not just limited to the delicious aromas wafting out of the kitchen.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs The Hungry Monkey