There is a new Indian aesthetic emerging. It can be seen all around us. It is Indian in soul, yet does not draw overtly from typical styles associated with Indian design. +91, an Indian restaurant which only recently opened its doors in Juhu, Mumbai embraces this very ethos.
It all starts with the name. +91, also the dialing code for India, is an unconventional name for a restaurant, but when analysed so apt for this one. The owners, Bipin Grewal and Vipul Shah, wanted a casual dining restaurant with design elements that were not overtly Indian. They wanted a space that was vibrant yet discerning and with an unconventional Indian aesthetic.
Interior designer Minnie Bhatt was called in to lend her magic touch to the entire project. Hers is a well-known name when it comes to restaurant design in Mumbai. Talking about the fine balance in design that she has managed to strike, Minnie explains, “I did not want the space to have any predictable design elements normally expected in an Indian restaurant. I wanted a fresh and contemporary approach to the design, that was Indian at heart yet international in appeal,” When she visited the property for the first time, what struck her was its curvilinear facade with uniform windows. It also seemed to ‘jut out’ from the building and was visually quite striking. This is what inspired the art gallery approach to the design of the space, which incidentally starts with colourful pigeon sculptures on the outside that greet the guests.
She commissioned an artist to create India inspired art installations for the window niches which also conveniently became the primary design focus of the space. All the installations are quirky and artsy and each one of them has a write up explaining the thought behind it.
The restaurant is screened from the road by thread art created to lend a backdrop to the installations and to also provide a bit of privacy for the diners. This also adds a dash of colour to both the facade and the interiors of the restaurant.
“Since we had an Indian art gallery in mind, we wanted to create a ceiling that lent character to an otherwise minimal space. The geodesic ceiling is created with cement sheets, to be in sync with the material palette of the space,” says Bhatt. The flooring is beige IPS and sets a neutral tone.
The guest area of the restaurant is 1200 sq ft. In this space, the furniture as well as the décor carries the vibe forward. The chairs which were customised especially for the project are made of teak wood and natural cane; their design has an Indian appeal and is yet contemporary in form. There is a striking Indian matchbox artwork created for the one large wall of the space.
The matchbox label designs talk a lot about the times they were created in, and have a very quirky yet earthy appeal. The lampshades are made out of Indian appliqué fabrics, bought from a textile retail store. Bicycle wheels are used along with these to create unusual pendant lights. Here again, we get to see an edgy contemporary touch applied to out and out Indian elements.
The name and branding of the restaurant was minimalistic. Hence, Bhatt wanted it reflected in the design language for the interiors too. She has managed to achieve a fine aesthetic equilibrium. The interiors are not overtly crowded nor are they too minimalistic to the extent of being clinical! All elements have been balanced beautifully.
Bhatt has designed varied restaurants in Mumbai. What made this project different? “Each restaurant project has been exciting in different ways. This is the second Indian restaurant I’ve designed, the first being Mirchi and Mime in Powai. Both of them do not have a stereotypical Indian restaurant vibe, and are yet completely different from each other. +91 is different because of its unique design which is irreverent and does not adhere to any particular trend in interiors,” concludes Bhatt.
Text By Dhanishta Shah
Photographs Courtesy Prashant Bhat