In the continuation of a series of events at the design-driven eatery — we explored the successful expression of creative narrative within restaurant interiors.
Last autumn we began a series of breakfast events, hosted in the beautifully-designed environs of the new Dishoom Carnaby restaurant. Fittingly the focus has fallen on design itself — with our opening event exploring the role that storytelling can play in culinary contexts.
On the 12th of July, again hosted over a delicious breakfast in the Carnaby space, we set out to explore the opportunities for stories to come to life within restaurant interiors — and the ways that modern restaurateurs are embracing innovative experiential approaches to engage and delight their diners.
Sharing their learnings and observations were Dishoom co-founder Shamil Thakrar, and Robbie Bargh, founder of experience design agency Gorgeous Group, who help craft stories for restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes and stores — for clients across the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries.
Here’s what we learnt
Interior design as tool for storytelling
As Shamil and Robbie explained, they aim to use Dishoom’s interiors to locate guests in a particular place and time — “It may not be your memory, but it's someone else’s memory,” described Shamil.
The Carnaby restaurant's detailed interior takes inspiration from Irani cafes that could be found on street corners across the area then called Bombay during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Founded by Iranians fleeing religious persecution and inspired by traditional tea stores, these cafes were busy, lively places, where people spent their time.
From spinning ceiling fans to chequerboard tiles, design references throughout each restaurant hark back to the interiors of these cafes, with some design elements modelled on specific buildings in Bombay.
“We pick apart an aspect of Bombay narrative, and bring it to life in our restaurants,” he explained.
The importance of shared spaces
A major seaport, Bombay was a city shaped by immigration, and its Irani cafes acted as communal places where people from different countries, cultures and religions could come together. “Cities are stronger because of their shared spaces,” Shamil explained, and it’s this atmosphere of community he’s tried to recreate within each Dishoom eatery too, aiming to design an environment where students and steel magnates can sit and eat at adjacent tables.
As well as through pricing, this is achieved by seemingly small but important interior design choices that help create an atmosphere that’s more casual and convivial — whilst still making an impact. Shamil cited the example of cutlery and napkins, which are are placed in pots in the middle of each table, rather than places being set in a more formal way.
Tempering the speed at which you scale
By design, Dishoom hasn’t grown as rapidly as other successful eateries. Shamil explains a desire to “deepen and not dilute” as they grow, crafting ever-more detailed stories and designing ever-more immersive interiors with each new opening: “The food, the service, the design, the music — the entire experience should be better,” he explained.
As the project progressed, Shamil has come to view the business in a more holistic way, understanding that the interior design, and the physical experience it helps create, are key to the entire endeavour.
As Robbie put it, “Clients have to make money, but the guest has to make a profit too” — they have to gain something through their experience.
London, W1B 5QB,
Start:12th July, 2016 at 9:00am
End:12th July, 2016 at 11:00am