Darjeeling Express Restaurant

A-nrd Studio‘s design for Darjeeling Express Restaurant in Kingly Court draws inspiration from India, featuring a warm color palette, open kitchen, repurposed furniture, and custom furnishings.

  • area / size 2,368 sqft
  • Year 2022
  • Type Restaurant,
  • Located on the top floor of Kingly Court, the restaurant occupies an L-shaped site framed by a wall of windows. Upon entering guests are transported into an interior which nods in subtle and sophisticated ways to Asma’s heritage and inspiration at every touch point.

    The colour palette of the intimate interior takes guests on a journey to the golden hour of India, where warm, earthy, soft tones come alive. Colours also reference key ingredients in Asma’s recipes. The walls and vaulted ceiling are lime washed in a rich, chickpea yellow, whilst beams and the exterior façade are painted a light cinnamon colour. This palette is complemented with a light lapis blue, a colour that became popular in the Northern India when the mineral began being imported from Afghanistan and was used as a synonym of sophistication in Muslim architectural details.

    Having an open kitchen was key to the brief set by Asma. A-nrd wanted to ensure that the woman preparing the food were the star of the interior and could be seen and greeted by every customer. Locating this centrally meant a clever use of spatial planning across the space with seating arranged so that the kitchen was visible from every corner of the restaurant. The kitchen itself was created by a central partition wall with regular openings framed with rich, dark oak counters stacked with handcrafted ceramic tableware and stoneware dishes that invite customers to lean over and peek behind the scenes. Handcrafted authentic glazed Zellige tiles in a rich amber colourway punctuate the walls in-between, whilst large opaline flower shaped wall sconces provide a soft illumination.

    Inheriting furniture from previous sites, A-nrd wanted to be clever in the way it re-purposed items. With some small adjustments an old refuse cover was re-purposed here as a new reception desk. An old sideboard became a new waiter station and many tables and chairs have also been utilised in line with the studio’s sustainable approach to design.

    Lining the exterior wall, window booth seating looks out across Kingly Court. With a reputation for their custom approach to furniture, here the studio has designed dark oak benches with a slatted construction and curving back which are paired with bespoke Burl wood tables, both of which were inspired by old photographs of Asma travelling on the namesake Darjeeling Express train. Upholstered backrests for comfort feature in mismatched textiles chosen by A-nrd to represent the richness of patterns found in India, with colour blocked patterns sitting side-by-side with hand stitched decorative detailing.

    A curvaceous and monolithic cocktail bar with vintage effect mirrored backbar is unquestionably one of the stars of the space. This beautifully crafted bar made from solid dark oak features a scalloped front counter inspired by Mughal architectural shapes. Here, 6 sleek bar stools designed by A-nrd studio are upholstered in a soft, buttery yellow hued leather designed to complement but not distract from the feature bar.

    Asma’s ancestral Havelis was particularly inspirational for A-nrd studio for the creation of the new interior; from the dark wood accents to the shape of mouldings and joinery detailing, the marble table tops and the extensive greenery which sees trailing plants in baskets hanging from beams and planting throughout around the restaurant, kitchen, and bar.

    Evoking a feeling of travelling through the busy streets of Kolkata, stacks of handmade clay chai cups by ceramist Maham Anjum embellish the restaurant shelves and kitchen counters. Elsewhere, walls are adorned by photographs which are framed in small groups, forming part of series by Ming Tang-Evans, a close friend of Asma who captured moments of a trip to India the two friends shared together.

    Design: A-nrd Studio
    Contractor: NVB
    Photography: Ming Tang-Evans