Located within the historic Art Deco building that holds the Eros Theater within the colonial part of the Mumbai, the recently unveiled French Bistro Chez Vous occupies the space that previously housed the iconic Sundance Cafe. A reinterpretation of the classic European Eatery, the treatment of the white, black and green interiors plays off an iconic French Art Nuevo motif, by allowing for its contemporary reinterpretation, whilst translating it across various scales, textures and usages. The brief handed over to the architects demanded a contemporary understanding of a traditional French Bistro, complete with identifiable elements such as a long serving bar, multiple backboards and French inspired moldings, hosting approximately 70 covers. The primary concern, to both client and the designers was in crafting out a delicate balance between a traditional bistroesque atmosphere and an upscale South Mumbai destination, being mindful to not simply the re-creation of a mid-twentieth century Parisian coffee shop within a contemporary Indian city.
The primary operational layout is quite simply a direct physical manifestation of the requirements, whilst optimizing for programmatic concerns. In terms of spatial divisions, an attempt was made to craft out multiple distinct experiences and moods within the confines of the limited space, with each area being demarcated though a subtle calibration of a combination of level changes, material distinctions and lighting variations; all the while taking advantage of the circulation though the eatery, as the instigator of the parti. Spread over 1400 square feet across the two levels, the scheme attempts to double up the circulation though the space and across the levels, as the primary generator of space and ambiance planning, accentuating it further though material and experiential differentiation. The continuous loop formed between entrance and vertical circulation slices the main space into two, the primary eating area that holds the bar, and the intimate soft seating area called the Absenthe Lounge, to the left. The mezzanine level too is differentiated similarly with the soft seating pushed to the back, allowing for the creation of an envelope of intimacy and exclusivity.
The two focal points within the interiors are of course, the Absenthe Lounge and the Bar area, both of which work through the identifiable motif of the Bistro, albiet across different interpretations. In the Absenthe Lounge, the motif reveals itself through the patterns within chesterfield fabric wall, that then doubles up as the backrest of the seating, while the back lit laser cut bar-face itself creates the motif patterns in relief.The glowing translucent wine rack revealing the outlines of the bottles within, forms both the interface between service and served, the envelope of the kitchen, as well as in parts the backdrop of the bar itself. The surface treatment of the interiors play off an iconic French Art Nouveau motif, allowing for its contemporary reinterpretation, both in geometry, as well as fabrication; whilst translating its emergence across various scales, textures and usages. Chez Vous adopes this motif as the pattern or logo most identifiable with the bistro, making way for its re-use in the fabric wall, the bar face, the molding on the ceiling, as well as graphic imprints for multiple uses across various scales.
An emergent by product of the reapplication of the motif was an unexpectedly collaborative effort between the workers and the architects, a truely educational and simbiotic relationship. Being headstrong in wanting to see the design ideas translated from the virtual to the material in their truest form, presented a challenge in directing the particular skill set that the workers possessed towards something that they were unused to crafting.For example, the construction of the fabric wall in the Absenthe Lounge, simply a regulation chesterfield wall with the buttons unevenly distributed with varying levels if depths, was met with a lot of resistance. This even though the design was simply a subtle variation of a familiar and oft repeated fabrication technique.
This blockage forced a hands on participatory approach to the construction, with the designers finding themselves constantly on site, experimenting with and fabricating multiple samples, until a set method emerged out of the trials. Such an intimate level of interaction seemed to extract the best in the workers, that in turn brought out suggestions that only a person with years of experience on site could fathom, namely he discovered the excess pressure on the bottoms was due to the unevenly distributed design, and if left unaddressed could potentially decrease its life span. He thus proposed, the fabrication of a different type of button.
Mumbai's first authentic European Bistro, Chez Vous, which translates from French into 'At Your Place', serves a contemporary French Cusine, and boasts of holding the illicit green Absenthe as the house drink, with its colour being the determinate for the space.