Taking its name from the dismissive term used by meat eaters to describe vegetarian food, a vegetarian eatery in Korum Mall, Thane, designed by Minnie Bhatt has a predominantly white interior. Visually busy, an assortment of elements come together to create a quirky, eclectic vibe.
Restaurants, like people, have personalities. The personality of a restaurant should be defined and programmed, visualised before the first sketch of the restaurant design is even considered. A restaurant engages all of the senses – certainly sight, smell, taste, touch and sound.
And of course, every restaurant wants to distinguish itself from the rest. They don’t merely want to be considered the best of the pack – they usually prefer to be considered the only ones who do what they do. And décor plays a huge role, going by what the customer experiences.
After all, it’s the architect’s decision on things like decor, lighting effects, and where to place the kitchen that can mean the difference between an enjoyable dining experience or not. “But in vegetarian restaurants, the décor is usually given very little importance,” says Minnie Bhatt.
The brief specified that the space should look like the home of a well-travelled person. Another requirement was that it should not look Indian, since the restaurant serves vegetarian food from all over the world. “A fictitious foodie became the starting point of our design. Books, souvenirs, even a bicycle are part of the design,” she adds.
A clock, candle stands and a cat created in fibre add to the ambience. The vibe is one of casual dining. Visually busy, the look stops short of clutter with the colour white uniting most of the design. A faux coat and hat stand, a large candelabra, a faux chandelier, a staircase, a desk with a reading lamp and a library add to the quirky feel of the space.
In this eclectic aesthetic, there are different types of tables and chairs; the latter are tied together with white painted woodwork. The upholstery also follows the mismatched precedent set by the rest of the design, sporting either English flowers or stripes. A private dining room seating ten has been accommodated in a separate niche.
The open kitchen is not ‘open’ simply by virtue of puncturing a window in a wall. Like a home, it has cabinets with shelves, styled like the kitchen of a country home in England, its visibility demonstrating the confidence of the owners in how they handle this space which is usually hidden from view.
David Rockwell, founder and CEO of Rockwell Group, and the restaurant architect, once explained to Business Insider: “You have to think of a restaurant as a series of impressions. But there’s no one answer that’s right for every restaurant.” However, one theme Rockwell does follow in all of his designs: the relationship and overlap between theatre and architecture. “It’s about entrances. When you come in to a restaurant, the first impression is critical,” Rockwell says.
So it’s clearly intentional that the façade of Ghaas Phoos has four arches and simple signage, resembling the entrance to a private home. Rockwell’s love for entrances, exits, first impressions and drama are a large part of his design. But his rational architect side is also omnipresent. “Can you read the menus? Is the chair a 45-minute chair or is it a two and half hour chair? Does that match the rhythm the chef has in mind?”
Rockwell is not only the architect of your restaurant experience, but the choreographer, setting the pace for the entire meal from the greeting to the bill.
In Mumbai, Minnie is something of a ‘restaurant specialist,’ herself, with 15-16 restaurants under her belt, including Burma Burma, Silver Beach Café, Radio Bar and Nom Nom. And of course, a warm and inviting vibe is the essence of any restaurant, she states.
Restaurant design plays a critical role in attracting and retaining customers. At the same time, good design must facilitate food preparation and service. An understanding is required of the restaurant’s front as well as back-of-the-house operations, integrating it into a design that meets the needs of the restaurant’s owners, staff, and clientele. Moreover, an understanding of the restaurant’s concept, market and menu facilitates a seamless operation and enhances the dining experience.
Don’t all restaurants attempt to elevate the experience of dining out? As Megan Willet says in Why A Restaurant’s Design Is As Important As The Food, “The next time you’re in a restaurant, take a good look around you – where you’re sitting, what you’re sitting on, if you can see the menu, and how far away you are from the table next to you – and remember it was all decided by the vision of the restaurant’s designer.”
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Courtesy Ghaas Phoos restaurant