The design of Pot Pourri by Minnie Bhatt Design is modest and unassuming yet quite ingenious

By Maria Louis

Comfortable and easy-going are words that immediately pop into your mind when you encounter the fluid spaces that demarcate the bar and dining areas of the new restaurant at Cubic mall in Chembur. When brand owner Pradeep Nair approached Minnie Bhatt to design the new Pot Pourri in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai, he had conveyed his desire for just such an unpretentious space. The clients wanted fluid sections that focused on the bar and dining areas. “It had to have an energetic all-day ambience that converted into a vibrant one in the evening,” recounts Bhatt, whose first impression of the site was that it was a huge area (the guest area alone amounted to nearly 2,500sq-ft) with great ceiling height and perfect for taking the unpretentious brand to a new level.
The client brief was in tune with the designer’s thoughts for the space. “It’s a large space and could be visually segregated as desired,” explains Bhatt. “One side of the site has a lot of natural light coming in, and that really helps the space.” Having frequented the first outlet in Bandra while their office was located close by, Pot Pourri was a familiar brand to Minnie Bhatt Design – and the design team enthusiastically came up with a number of layouts to zone the space into food-focused and bar-focused areas. They planned a live kitchen area which is visible to the entire restaurant, and dining seating that would appeal to families and young diners.
The restaurant is divided into a dining area, a bar section, the live kitchen and the smoking zone – fulfilling all the requirements of the clients. “As the space is naturally divided into two sides from the entrance, this layout worked best to create a dining area to the left and bar zone to the right,” insists Bhatt. “We did many iterations of the layout, placing the kitchen and bar in various corners of the premises – and finally arrived at the current one. There were pros and cons to all the layout options…but this worked the best, as the kitchen is spacious with a live kitchen section and a permanent buffet arrangement. The bar, too, is positioned effectively to visually engage the guests. The vibe had to be easy and unpretentious, so we only created one artsy installation with bicycles and kept the rest of the aesthetic subtle and discerning.”
In keeping with the easygoing vibe, the colour palette is of natural tones of pure materials like the grey of cement (IPS) that is used for the flooring along with cement tiles to break the monotony, the natural redness of bricks and natural brown of the teak wood table tops. As yellow is the colour of the brand, the bicycle art installation was done in yellow. Corrugated cement sheets are used to panel the walls of the private dining space and painted in rusty tones of brown. The entire colour palette is of natural tones offset with dark navy blue and tan faux leather used to upholster the couches. White and mustard yellow tiles in a chevron pattern form a backdrop to the live kitchen to make it look fresh and appealing. The columns were clad with red brick covered with distressed plaster. All the lights are custom designed and created especially for the restaurant. Elements like antique mirrors, pots and plants, and wall textures were added to lend character to the space.
The flooring design, with its hexagonal black, grey and ivory tiles in the central area of the bar space – radiating out randomly – helps to visually segregate the spaces. The rest of the restaurant has flooring done in grey IPS that seamlessly merges with the hexagonal tiles. A chunky wooden community table is set in front of the bar counter with customised hanging lights suspended over it. Sofa seating was planned on one side of the space along with curved booth seating with marble-top tables. A metal framework was created for shelving between the sofas with lights coming out of them, and the chairs are in red oak wood and tables in wood and white-and-grey speckled marble.
Two triangular marble tables seat six guests each. These have a different form compared to the rectangular, square or round tables. The bar counter has barrel lids for the beer taps and an installation with wooden barrels above the booth seating. “We raised the area towards the façade of the restaurant and planned booth seating on it. The DJ was accommodated on a loft above the booths overlooking the restaurant. A small PDR area with concrete lights over the table, was created towards the back and segregated with an installation of yellow bicycles,” adds Bhatt. “The backdrop is finished with corrugated cement sheets, with a quirky installation of typewriter keys.”
Luckily, the clients were very accepting of the design decisions. “They left everything to us in terms of design after the layouts were discussed and closed, ensuring easy operations,” discloses Bhatt. Still, there were other challenges – one of them being that the façade of the restaurant from the mall side had irregular curves. The designers panelled it to form window panels with text on them, among them the quirky ‘Gas Chembur’ that brought a smile to our faces. A small entrance area was created inside with wireframe motifs that express the brand identity.
Bhatt adds that “the most challenging aspect was getting the work on site executed as desired, as the project execution team needed a lot of monitoring, considering we were working with them for the first time.”
Obviously, the designers succeeded in getting what they wanted, for the clients were satisfied with the final product. “It shaped up exactly as we had imagined, giving the easy, unpretentious and casual vibe that we set out to create,” says a satisfied Bhatt, whose method of working is probably what gets her the desired results. “We had samples of every design element made – like the different chairs, the hanging lights, the wall paneling, etc. Art is included in the artwork created above the bar, the yellow bicycle installation, the quirky ‘qwerty’ typewriter keyboard depiction and the small yellow wireframe elements at the entrance.”
While she has no regrets, Bhatt admits that the one thing they could have done differently is the location of the projector screens. But that’s a small detail in the larger scheme of things.

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