North Meets South

Executed by architect Ritika Rakhiani of Urbanmistrii Studio, Padmanabham restaurant in New Delhi is making the dining experience a holistic one with its interesting artworks and savoury treats from the region. 

Compiled by: BI Staff
Photographs: Avesh Gaur, courtesy Urbanmistrii Studio

With everything from local signature delicacies to international cuisines, to say New Delhi is a foodie’s haven is stating the painfully obvious. So, what we’re here to tell you instead is that the city’s stomachs have one more reason to rejoice — Padmanabham, a restaurant in Janpath that specialises in traditional South Indian fare.

Situated on the ground floor of Connaught Place arcade, the eatery is spread across 3,100 sqft with a private area on top of its split level, all beautifully executed by a young, local architectural design firm Urbanmistrii Studio headed by architect Ritika Rakhiani. The client, who is a devotee of god Vishnu, wanted his restaurant to pay tribute to the deity. The name Padmanabham refers to one of Vishnu’s personified avatars, where ‘padma’ mean lotus and ‘nabha’ mean navel. Therefore, the design of the restaurant loosely riffs off this concept and aims to create an authentic experience for visitors by using traditional elements in a contemporary setting.

Padmanabham draws major inspiration from the Chettiar culture of Tamil Nadu, which is known for its vibrant colours, ornate wooden elements and motifs. Its interiors highlight elaborated details and embellished features such as paintings and wooden handicrafts. As you walk in, an artwork spanning the length of the central seating area depicts the life cycle and ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu with floral motifs. Intricate lotus-themed mandalas are painted on the ceiling, where each colour and band represents virtues such as mindfulness and wisdom. Pop relief work in the shape of a lotus rising from a pond is carved on the walls, representing prosperity and purity. Golden lighting fixtures along the nave highlight the blooming lotus. The space showcases a blend of teal and beige on the walls, which complement the Attangudi tiles on floors. The crafted columns are specially shipped from Chettinad to portray authenticity.

The chairs and seating booths are polished in wood finish with teal upholstery which pops against the neutral walls. The seating, located at the front and end of the restaurant, accommodates groups of four to six, each cluster separated by a wooden partition for privacy. For Ritika and her design team, the most challenging part of the project was the central section on account of its height restriction. The arcade was built in 1930s and was further planned to accommodate shops at the bottom. Therefore, the plot was linear with its length seven times the width. Ritika smartly and seamlessly overcame this structural challenge by creating open seating and counters to make the space appear voluminous.

At Padmanabhan, residents of New Delhi are in for a treat that appeals to all senses — from the vernacular architecture of South India, its interesting artworks to savoury treats from the region — making the dining experience a holistic one.