Conceptualised around the charm of vintage Irish pubs, The Chatter House in Delhi is not so much a ‘gastropub’ as a time capsule, buried sometime in the late 1900’s and dug open by M:OFA Studios in 2016.
Let’s take a look at a bit of pub history to set the buzz right. When David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle Pub in Clerkenwell, London in 1991, what they inadvertently ended up doing was redefining the function of the quintessential British pub to extend beyond intoxicating beverages into the domain of gastronomy. Thus, the term ‘gastropub’ came into existence and the term ‘pub grub’ expanded from cold, uninviting ploughman’s lunch to include more wholesome British food items – steak, fish and chips, roast chicken…the works. The Chatter House chain set out during its inception to encapsulate this definition of a ‘gastropub’ into its brand image, ambience, service and menu.
An understated extension of the first outlet at Nehru Place, this chapter is nestled amidst a gallimaufry of designer boutiques and upmarket cafes in the posh alleyways of Khan Market. A matte finished steel door leads customers into a narrow shadowy stairwell. Here, a sleek black steel railing mounted on exposed brick faces a stark white expanse of a wall dotted with posters of bygone artists. The stairwell eases the eyes into the transition between the bustling exteriors and the tranquil interiors.
The topmost tread of the staircase opens out onto the lower bar level. Upon entering this space, almost immediately the mind journeys toward a parallel dimension where an old underground British railway tunnel seems to be beaming with renewed luminescence at having found purpose once again. Three black riveted steel girders supporting two brick lined barrel vaults are responsible for conjuring up the olden day imagery. Two massive circular glass openings define the junction between the vaults and the external wall of the building.
Lending physical form and metaphorical life to the phrase “the light at the end of the tunnel,” the windows bring natural light into the space. While a good amount of this illumination is absorbed by the exposed brick wall surfaces, a reasonable quantity is reflected back, creating a diffusely lit interior.
On roaming along further to the upper bar level, one is suddenly snatched out of the demurely lit reticent decor of the lower bar level and thrown into a space that is flooded with sunlight. Two oversized square windows outdo themselves as they transform into a glazed sky-lit canopy that sits fixedly overhead.
Artificial lighting manifests itself in the form of wrought iron fixtures fitted with Edison bulbs evocative of the ones used by “railway tunnel mechanics during the locomotive era of Britain,” in the words of principal architect Manish Gulati. Designed by the in-house team, the seating boasts of “tanned antique leather upholstery and dark wood high back paneling reminiscent of the Irish bars and pubs in and around Dublin.”
A mesmerising pattern of white and grey terrazzo tiles uninterruptedly carpets the floor. An assortment of music and art collectibles forms a display of Irish nostalgia along the walls “leaving a profound impression on the customers without being overtly in the face.” A bar counter inspired from the Art Deco movement, an antique grand piano and extensive oak wood paneling create a “warm appeasing ambience and set the Irish pub vibe”.
The mood board palette comprises the kiln-fired red of the exposed brick, the jet black of the structural steel members, the white and grey of the terrazzo flooring, and the various browns of the furniture.
Based in Delhi, the design team began its practice in 2002. However, it was only in 2007 that Manifestation of Fluid Architecture (M:OFA Studios Pvt. Ltd.) was formalised, when the architects realised what they stand for and the contribution they wished to make. To approach every project in the field of architecture, interiors and urbanism with a holistic approach is not only the vision of the company as a whole, but also the vision of each of its employees.
This approach comprises exhaustive research, case studies, analysis, reports as well as discussions on functionality, technology, sustainability and innovative concepts. Throughout its lifecycle, every project undergoes multiple layers of planning, design and finally realisation.
“At M:OFA, we treat a piece of architecture as a living organism that changes, adapts itself and responds to every change around it. The architectural organism is a store house of energy, a place where energy resources are conserved and recycled with an eye toward self-sustenance,” says Gulati.
Text By Ar. Priti Kalra
Photographs Niveditaa Gupta