Café Nemo in Mumbai is a dynamic eatery that has been intelligently designed by the Mumbai-based Busride Design Studio using monochromatic sweeps of black and white.
Café Nemo exists in a 4,500 sq ft bungalow in Worli Village, Mumbai, and its origins make for a good story. First there was a comprehensive sweeping out of an older establishment that had been a hang-out place defined by claustrophobia, a trademark of a million student-y watering holes.
This aesthetic precedent is interesting to note because what followed stands on the other end of the design spectrum, and attests to the careful vision that helped realise the new café. The spaces that were once cavernous and full of ill-considered colours have now been opened up and the dullness replaced by a carefully calibrated scheme of lighting and hue. What earlier seemed to have been clusters of random props are now minimalist spaces with room to breathe and enough quirkiness to keep all interests up.
The design contradiction with the past also highlights the spirit of change that the eatery embraces. Purportedly inspired by the three owners’ fondness for the intrepid adventures of the literary hero, Captain Nemo, the café has been designed by Mumbai-based Busride Design Studio as a collection of vignettes rather than a whole, with pockets that will remain dynamic in terms of visuals and accents.
Café Nemo’s charm hinges on a language of monochromes. This almost-minimalist approach to black-and-white, is split in zones across the whole space, and is distinguished by the lighting, both natural and affected. The first room has been put together to be a vision in simplicity.
Poised to receive sweeps of natural day light through wide windows, it has the air of a quietly confident deli. The spot of whimsy is on one of the walls, which is adorned with a row of used paint brushes, with their spilt yellow paint cascade frozen in movement, like a reminder to what had been.
The second dining room continues the daylight-drenched tenor of the first room. The major departure is the flooring, which is an eye-popping stretch of black-and-white checks. The wall of whimsy here sports a phalanx of hooks from which will occasionally hang props as varied as fresh flowers and origami boats.
The sunny countenance of the dining rooms is flipped by the bar, which is a darker, more contemplative corner that breaks off from white almost completely. The counter and the wire mesh loft are all drenched in a sturdy coat of black that is spotlit by small lamps spewing moonlight. But in keeping with the spirit of embracing the adventurous, the wire-mesh here sports a cross-stitch installation, and the whole cove is solemnly overlooked on one side by a bright, textured yellow wall.
The final space has been created as an acoustically insulated haven for parties. While a section of it is restrained and upholstered, the other part’s walls are accented with a black-and-white installation that creates a sprawling effect of pixelation.
It is a smart move to think of different sets of party-goers – the sit-down and chat types, as well as the boisterous dancers – and incorporate two sub-sections that will make them both feel at home.
The owners, Anup Gandhi, Nevil Timbadia and Sahil Timbadia, also owners of Bonobo and Jamjar Diner, have imbued Café Nemo with their collective sense of life inspiration.
It is a space that is at the same time spare and adventurous, with a menu that is eclectic and happily biased towards desserts. “The idea for Café Nemo centred around creating a stylish, understated shell for the ‘agnostic’ cuisine,” attests the design team. Everyone who visits, whether to eat or to dance, will agree to that vision’s true realisation.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Architect