In the heart of Lakshmi Mills, Mumbai, nestles the city’s latest addition to fine dining. Designed by virtuoso architect, Ashiesh Shah of AA Homes, Masque is a restaurant that redefines indulgence and adventure.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience that transcends beyond what you’ve experienced till date with regards to food and ambience, then Masque will offer you ‘Botanical Bistronomy’. It is all about a setting that is borne out of the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi; the restaurant’s interiors simply reflect a way of life that is accepting of the ephemeral nature of life, while simultaneously understanding its imperfections. This philosophy plays a fundamental role in the interiors, structural and design elements of Masque.
“I wanted to create a space that was transformative and full of dramatic architectural details,” says Ashiesh Shah. The name ‘Masque’ is an allegory, and is representative of a performance. And it is in the subtle, minimalist details of the restaurant that you will find this allegory brought to full life.
The metamorphosis begins from the outer façade of the restaurant itself. Housed within an old warehouse in the city’s once vibrant cotton district, which could very easily have been missed in the old setup, Masque is an emphatic “play of materials and form that taps into the natural architecture of the space itself.” It is this engaging synergy that allows for a free-flowing two-way channel of forms.
In more ways than one, the old-style architecture that engulfs the modern and minimalist interiors lends the guests a superior dining experience. Offering three, six, and ten course meals carefully curated and masterfully executed by head chef Prateek Sadhu, Masque was initially meant to be CEO, Aditi Dugar’s central kitchen and pop-up studio of sorts.
But with the various elemental changes and additions, brought in by Ashiesh Shah, the restaurant transforms right under “natural light from the skylight above that illuminates the part white polished marble and part textured slate flooring.”
Starting with Kolkata-based sculptor, Rathin Burman’s large installation that transforms the otherwise expansive interior into a warm and intimate setting, the intricate detailing is “inspired by structures of pioneering modernists like Corbusier.” For this, one has to look no further than the heaving walls that weave in and out of the space, or even the arch that partially conceals the stairwell.
This fairytale-like setup is further enhanced by velvet curtains – adding to the dramatic narrative Masque strives to breathe into the dining experience. However, the influence of modernism is heavily reflected in this fairytale with non-glossy plates and absence of white tablecloths.
And this is where Masque trumps other fining dining restaurants by offering an experience that is unique and dramatic, quite like its name; not to mention the tailor-made and ever-changing menu that offers a bevy of gastronomic delights, ranging from simple sweet potato chips to Rhododendron Cocktail!
One of the principal philosophies Aditi Dugar was keen on structuring her restaurant around was creating a natural aesthetic. This is achieved by ensuring every ingredient is procured and sourced naturally – chocolates from Pondicherry, cod fish from the Andamans, etc. Into this pot, Ashiesh Shah brought in elements and architectural detailing that served as a simple corollary to the restaurant’s dynamic.
Adhering to the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, “elements that might be considered ‘de rigueur’ in most luxury restaurants were ditched in favour of bare natural materials.” Hard wood tables offset by brass fixtures along with stone-clad walls and flooring are reflective of the restaurant’s cardinal rule of sourcing ingredients naturally.
In simple terms, what Ashiesh Shah has done is transform an erstwhile intimidating space into a subtle continuum that houses a kind of aesthetic beauty characterised by natural objects and processes that translate into a farm-to-fork style experimental dining experience.
In this regard Ashiesh says, “The restaurant décor is fairly minimal and whatever objects are on display have been carefully procured and help create a balance of materials, textures and colours.” The elements bathed in soft light create a sort of time warp for the restaurant-goers – a space where time takes a deliberate step back and transports you far away from the humdrum of the city.
Text By Priyanka Menon
Photographs courtesy AA Home