Dining with a dash of decor on Chennai's ECR
Architect Anitha Mohan brings the best of her home decor work from the label Sthalam and furniture from the brand of Wood Inc to Kraft, to offer the city a unique retail dining experience.
There are plenty of ways to kill time at a restaurant while waiting for all the food to arrive at the table. If you’re like me, it would involve admiring the cutlery and coveting the crockery; perhaps even lounging on the couch just a little longer in the hopes of keeping that memory of comfort intact.
For isn’t fancy china and quirky ensembles some of the simple pleasures of dining out? Taking this fantasy beyond the confines of dining time day-dreaming is architect Anitha Mohan’s retail dining venture — Kraft. Debuting next to the workshop for her labels Sthalam – House of India and Wood Inc. on ECR (near Mayajal Multiplex), the place is set to offer patrons the unique experience of shopping furniture and home decor with the comfort of global food.
A fine furnish
“Whatever you see here can be converted to any concept in your house,” begins Anitha, while seated at a solid wooden table with a runner print of a beautiful jali pattern down the middle. Benches with a rustic slotted back and comfortable leather cushions completed the ensemble. “If you like this (as the pattern on the table) a couch or a centrepiece or a set of knick-knacks — as you’re waiting for your food — you can convert these concepts into whatever clicks for you,” she elaborates. With this in mind, Anitha has tastefully packed the place with hundreds of home decor elements.
Every table-seat arrangement is unique, offering more options for the curious consumer. The pathways hold samples of centre tables and accent pieces. The walls bore carefully curated painted plates and wooden tiles. Cabinets by the far wall hold a range of candle stands, vases, serving trays, planters, coasters and spice boxes; the cabinets themselves are on display, each a species of its own. And of course, it wasn’t complete without the multitude of lamps hanging from the ceiling.
All this began with the simple desire to create a display space for the products produced by her two design and home decor labels. Wanting to provide a touch of hospitality, Anitha’s venture metamorphosed into this ‘retail dining’ experience that she hopes will catch on soon enough. With the response she has received so far — some even before the official launch of the restaurant last week — that dream seems closer at hand. “People are walking in to see what’s on display. Even before we launched, there’s been quite a footfall. If this catches on, we’d like to open a chain of such outlets. And as we go, we’d like to include more retailers and make this a complete design space,” she shares.
While Anitha has pieced together the design part of the restaurant, holding up the food end of the bargain is M Mohamed Ali’s World Cuisine 52. While Ali had been preparing to launch a cloud kitchen that would bring the pleasures of global cuisine to the travel-deprived post-pandemic populace, Anitha’s project had him launching his venture at Kraft. Despite the challenges involved in this culinary genre — be it hurdles in accessing the raw materials or the absence of expertise — Ali has worked with chef Gokul (a Chennaiite trained in the US) to prepare a carefully curated menu to complete the experience at Kraft. “We are trying to offer food from a fair amount of countries; we have food from India, Korea, China, Middle East. It’s going to be a little bit of a mixed platter.
Another thing that we have consciously done is to make the food as familiar as possible. For example, if we are offering biryani, in the Middle East it’s called mandi. We’re trying to bring that kind of familiarity so people are not too shocked by the foreign food,” he explains, pointing out that they seek to cater not just the well-travelled crowd but also those shy to experiment. For this reason, the menu bears items like Taiwanese popcorn (very similar to the ones you get in KFC but rich with the spices and flavours preferred in Taiwan), wedding-style biryani and authentic Chinese-style fried rice (as opposed to the Indo-Chinese one), he reports.
Chef Gokul says that he received the French part of the food affair to the dessert section of the menu. From the macarons to croissants and petite pastries, there’s plenty to pick from.
With people — limited by the pandemic’s many restrictions — banking on the ECR and the destinations here for their short-term escapes, Anitha is hoping Kraft would get its fair share of connoisseurs. It can only get better from here, she concludes.
For more details, visit Instagram page: kraft_dine