ISSUE 13  |  India Song

Mumbai’s Artistic Cafe in a Converted Barn

April 01, 2014 3:00 PM

BY Leigh Patterson

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Kala Ghoda, a neighborhood in South Mumbai, is home to the city’s art district, and some of its best museums and annual festivals. But where to duck in for a coffee in a neighborhood that has become Westernized by chain restaurants and Starbucks galore? Do as the locals do and head to the side streets.

Squeezed into an unassuming block next to a furniture shop and across from a seafood restaurant, the Kala Ghoda Café is a hidden pocket of modest design housed in an old brick barn, designed by Vinod Narkar and Vrinda Gokhale of Group4 Architects in Mumbai.

Above: The wood faí§ade of the building was modeled after some of the favorite cafes that owner Farhad Bomanjee visited as a photographer traveling through Southern India, Europe, and the UK. Photograph by Emiko Taki of Kitchen M.

Above: Thanks to the barn’s vaulted roof, the small space allowed for a second story addition. The steps lead an even smaller dining area on the loft floor. Photograph by Emiko Taki of Kitchen M.

Above: Bomanjee kept a few of the original walls of the cafe exposed showcasing deliberate imperfections as reminders of the building’s provenance. Two large skylights in the ceiling keep the sitting area open and light. Photograph from Pursuit of Food.

Above: The attic-like second story is used as a photo gallery that hovers just above the heads of diners. The gallery showcases work by Mumbai artists hung against the building’s original brick walls that are painted white for a modern update. Photograph courtesy of Kala Ghoda Café.

Above: The cafe’s minimal decor stands out against the white walls and furniture; pale mint green cafe tables add a subtle wash of color. Photograph courtesy of Kala Ghoda Café.

Above: Food and drink are simple but thoughtfully detailed: organic coffee is served with a tiny chocolate, and the cafe’s riff on street sandwiches are on fresh bread made from Bomanjee’s mother’s recipe. For dessert, Kala Ghoda’s most popular offering is a sticky date and ginger cake topped with a spoonful of clotted cream. Photograph by Emiko Taki of Kitchen M.

Above: From offering incentives for customers on bikes to hosting music nights, the cafe makes an effort to draw locals. The goal is for the space to serve as a gathering place for the community and not just for tourists. Photograph by Emiko Taki of Kitchen M.

Above: The quiet interior streets of the district are evolving into a new destination for design shops and cafes; Kala Ghoda Café was one of the first to re-envision the neighborhood. Photograph courtesy of Kala Ghoda Café.

Follow us this week as celebrate design in India: see our India Travel Guide for our discoveries. Over join Gardenista for an exploration of Indian Gardens and Outdoor Spaces.

Location of Kala Ghoda Café in Mumbai: