A Slice Of History

Ar. Quaid Doongerwala of DCOOP restores an iconic space at Kemps Corner, Mumbai into a pizza joint suited to contemporary Indian context and peppered with historical elements

Quaid portrait

A sense of history prevails in this corner of a posh locality in South Mumbai. What used to be an iconic Chinese restaurant at the bustling Kemps Corner is now a pizzeria joint that brings an element of Naples into its design. Ar. Quaid Doongerwala was enlisted by the owner Jay Mehta to create a contemporary space that did not blindly emulate Italian pizzerias but brought an element of Indianness to it. The overall space including the obscure cash counter, restrooms and ill-maintained backyard was all extirpated and renewed to create maximum space to hold more people. The materials are basic, rather minimal and rustic. As one enters the restaurant, what used to be a tight space with a mezzanine is now opened up to hold the double volume ceiling with the original jack arches. The colours on the wall are a pale grey interspersed with interesting murals that continually tie the space together.

Pizza metro Pizza

Design exploration

The rustic and unassuming materials create a sensorial experience for patrons. As Ar. Quaid points out, “The space offers a layered experience. One must keep coming back to this place to discover it. Since the major part held the load-bearing walls, we used it to our advantage to create pockets of spaces with different views and different experiences.”

Pizza metro Pizza

The Bharat flooring with customized designs captivate the guests, while the original Thonet chairs and steel and marble tables complement the unassuming décor. The colour tones are dominated by wooden brown and steel grey. As one walks through the main area, the pièce de résistance is the wood-fired Napoli oven with mosaic patterns. From there, one enters into a different part of the restaurant and the architect explains the dramatic renovation the space underwent. An alcove space, which previously held a cash counter, was now a family dining area completed with a portrait of a lady opera singer. The toilets that rested bang in the centre made way for a showcase – a green Vespa scooter.

Vespa at Gustoso, Kemps Corner

Cosy corners

The linear space spills to the courtyard that is connected by large panes of glass divided by wooden frames. The courtyard is a cosy outdoor space that is so unique when compared to the usual Mumbai restaurants. The lighting was supervised by reputed British designer Tom Oates of Chelsea Design. The array of down lights in the courtyard area creates an interesting pattern on the grey walls, while the bar composed of cement and copper maintain the design dialogue. The water tank at the far end is covered with grids of Mild Steel that brings the rusticity to the outdoor space, while the green plants and the bougainvillea add the much-needed freshness.

Pizza metro Pizza

The private dining space beyond the courtyard can hold a small group of 10-15 people. The stunning wall mural displays a scene from the town of Naples. The customized cement flooring in hues of white, brown, blue and green create an earthy space. The area holds the trademark Thonet chairs and tables made of MS base and marble tops and laminan surfaces, while a combination of down lights and uplights add drama and highlight the window arches.  “Creating structural changes and integrate services were the major challenges in this project. Luckily we created ducts for air conditioning, exhaust and wiring that led to the service areas built above the standalone dining area beyond the courtyard,” recounts the architect.

Pizza metro Pizza

Thus, the design is reminiscent of a distant past and the history of the space is carefully unearthed and redesigned for a relevant modern-day context.

Pizza metro Pizza

Text: Anuja Abraham
Photos: courtesy Gustoso

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