KEEPING UP WITH THE JAMAVARS
Jamavar restaurants were first conceived in the late nineties by Dinesh Nair, co-chairman and managing director of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts.
Responding to a close friend’s lament, that diners could not get a fine North Indian dining experience when living in the South of the sub-continent, Nair decided to give his friends the real deal. He brought master chefs from New Delhi, the capital city, to oversee the North Indian cuisine, and from Chennai, located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, to look after the South Indian menu. Secret recipes of his mother Leela, after whom the luxury hospitality chain is named, were included in the menu.
Since then, the five Jamavar restaurants in Asia have achieved considerable critical success. Forbes USA list Jamavar in Bengaluru amongst the world’s Top 10 Power Dining Spots, whilst Jamavar in Chennai has been cited as a ‘delectable’ experience by restaurant critic Fay Maschler, so the pressure on their first international restaurant located in London’s Mayfair is immense.
Designer’s Fabled took reference from the Viceroy’s house of New Delhi, with delicate colonial flourishes combined with the intricate patterns and vibrant colours from the 16th Century Kashmiri shawls for which the restaurants are named. It is a glamourous Indian dining room with rainforest and brown emperador marbles, dark timber panelling, floors from Havwoods and gilded lincrusta wallcoverings. The space is offset with brass accents, hand-cut marquetry and a sculpted bar made up of Indian print block patterns and Lutyens inspired furniture.
“the concentric timber floor design for the lower ground floor was designed to reflect the ceiling coffers above the floor. These came out really well with the brass trim detail.”
FABLED FOR DESIGN
What first drew you to interior design?
I remember when I was a young kid playing at my Granny’s house in Sevenoaks. She had an amazing house, magical for a child, and I often enjoyed making dens out of her furniture. She suggested to me then I ought to be an interior designer and the idea stuck with me. She obviously knew me very well, even at that age.
How did you meet partners Steven Saunders and Simon Gallagher and what made you go into business together?
I met Steven and Simon when we all worked at David Collins Studio. The three of us worked together in a team and had a great affinity with each other. When we moved on working together seemed the obvious thing.
Fabled specialises in hospitality, retail and commercial residential design – do you have a particular leaning towards any one particular sector?
We’re probably best known for our restaurant and bar design work, which we’ve been doing for years and love. But recently we completed the redesign of the Conrad Hotel in Dublin and are now working on two fantastic hotel projects in London. We’re really enjoying designing all aspects of the hotels and would love to work on more of these.
We’ve also been fortunate to start work on an incredible series of retail projects this year that we’re looking forward to unveiling later.
And as well as the retail we’re starting to do more residential design. We’re very keen to grow this work, both for private clients and for developers, as there’s something quite magical about creating a home for our clients: really getting to grips with their personalities and drawing out what makes them happy in their homes.
So, to answer your question, no, we love working on them all!
Of all the projects you have been involved in throughout your career, which are you favourite bits; do you have any images we could show?
We’re privileged to have such a variety of projects which have provided a wealth of exciting opportunities, and variety is one of the things we love the most. But some of the recent highlights have been seeing the design of Margot and Jamavar come to fruition. I’m really pleased with how the detailing came together on these.
Which interiors do you really wish you’d designed?
It tends to be architecture that I’m more jealous of. I’d love to have designed the Barcelona German Pavilion by Mies Van Der Rohe. It’s completely timeless and will always be perfectly stunning.
At Fabled you offer furniture design as well as interior architecture, what made you expand down this route?
We like to design everything from the architecture down to the smallest detail, and creating bespoke furniture and lighting pieces means that we can create truly unique spaces for our clients which can’t be copied and bought off the shelf.
You also offer brand development from logo design to the look of a website, isn’t this straying into an entirely different aspect of the marketing mix?
We love to be involved with all aspects of the finished restaurant from the branding and uniform design to the glassware and tableware. This means that we can help our clients create a holistic aesthetic which ties in with the overall concept. We’ve built up a wealth of resources and amazing suppliers over the years and collaborate with the best on each project to tailor every detail to our clients needs and to make sure it marries through with the design narrative.
We see you’ve created a space for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, is this a private dining room?
Yes, we were asked to redesign the furniture for the private dining room at Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental for the Fat Duck team. It was an incredible opportunity to create something really unique.
It appears to be a perfect encapsulation of Blumental’s personality, but with a nod to history as befits the concept of the restaurant; did he have much involvement?
We actually worked closely with Ashley Palmer Watts, Heston’s head chef at Dinner, to create something that personified Heston’s personality and the approach to cooking at Dinner. Each chair features a wood carving of a different character from the ancient cookery books referenced in the dishes at the restaurant.
Whereas ‘Ramsay’ is totally different to the perceived character – it’s all sophistication and soft colours – what was the inspiration here?
When we designed Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, it was the launch of the restaurant under Chef Patron Claire Smith’s helm. We took inspiration from her approach to her dishes in the approach the design.
You specified Havwoods on The Conrad Hotel, Dublin. Was this the first time you had worked with us and what made you choose a Havwoods product?
Actually the first time we used Havwoods was for the floor at Beagle. You had a timber floor that resembled small railway sleepers so we used these. It worked very well with the narrative of the design.
Since then you have also specified us for Jamavar. This is a splendidly rich design with dining tables designed like chaturanga (ancient Indian chess) boards, rainforest emperador marbles, dark timber panelling and a mirror- embellished bar, but can you tell us a little about some of the details which you feel work particularly well?
The design for Jamavar is packed full of details. One of my favourites is the gilded Lincrusta wall coverings we had made. I was also particularly pleased with the bespoke rattan furniture we had made for the restaurant.
In Jamavar the floor is really intricate: Versailles panels, marble tiles and Notte planks from the Italian Collection which are laid in an intricate pattern with other materials; can you tell us a little more about how you came up with this idea and was it complex to achieve?
Upstairs, the marble chequerboard floor design is a reference to Lutyen’s marble flooring designed for the Viceroy’s House in Delhi. But the concentric timber floor design for the lower ground floor was designed to reflect the ceiling coffers above the floor. These came out really well with the brass trim detail.
What are your top five materials to work with and why?
We always strive to find new materials and different uses for materials on each project so this varies a lot. I’m always excited by a new characterful marble I’ve not seen before. I always try to stay up to date on what all of the fabric houses are producing; this can be very inspiring and, since colour is such a key aspect to our projects, using beautiful fabrics helps to add colour and texture. I regularly look to see what different timber finishes fine furniture makers are using and how these can be used in different ways in our restaurant projects. And, finally, for our flooring we tend to use a lot of fumed and smoked woods which adds a lot of depth.
As a designer, what is your ultimate ambition?
Simple: to create beautiful spaces that stand the test of time.
If not design, what would have been your dream job?
I’m also a musician and I am continually writing music. I was in bands when I was younger, and if I hadn’t become a designer my musical outlet would definitely be my main creative output.
And finally, what’s top of your bucket list?
I’d love to design a complete building and surrounding landscape, from the architecture and grounds to every piece of furniture and fixture in the space. Something that would truly be a representation of my personality. Maybe one day I will achieve this.
THE MAN BEHIND THE FOOD AT JAMAVAR
Of revered culinary pedigree, Rohit Ghai has lead several Indian Michelin starred kitchens including Gymkhana and Benares.
You have already headed up several Indian Michelin starred kitchens; how does the food at Jamavar differ from these?
We are more focused on quirky dishes and excellent techniques; the best ingredients and uncompromising quality ensures a memorable dining experience.
We understand that you spent six weeks in India before opening; can you tell us a little more about how this has impacted on the menu?
Jamavar London will showcase a wide array of flavours from across India. On the menu are dishes from the Royal Kitchens of the North alongside succulent options from the shores of the South and include Goat Shammi Kebab, Churchur Paratha, Scallops Bhel and Lobster Neeruli. I have also created some special tasting plates with an innovative twist inspired by my travels through the sub-continent.
How frequently and extensively will your menu change?
I am always focused on seasonal availability and local products so I have decided to make changes every quarter.
Jamavar in Bengaluru has been named among the World’s Top 10 Power Dining Spots by Forbes USA, and Jamavar in Chennai was hand-picked as a ‘delectable’ experience by restaurant critic Fay Maschler, which obviously places enormous pressure on you. What is your ambition for Jamavar London and do you have a plan to achieve this?
Of course, I have my dreams for Jamavar London and I hope it will take Indian cuisine to another level. Right now, we are working hard to deliver the best we can for our guests.
And finally, for a Jamavar first timer, what is on the menu which is simply not to be missed?
I strongly recommend the tasting menu which provides different experiences from right across India.