Ahmedabad’s Mitti Ke Rang, built entirely using sustainable materials, is a reminder that eco-friendly eateries can be gorgeous, too. By Nivedita Jayaram Pawar
Materials such as clay, mud, jute and turmeric are hardly associated with restaurant design and construction. Thankfully, some architecture firms are now using these natural materials in an inventive way that’s not just sustainable, but also soothing to the eye. Mitti Ke Rang, a casual restaurant in Ahmedabad, is one such place.
Designed by Snehal and Bhadri Suthar of The Grid Architects, Mitti Ke Rang celebrates owner Milan Prajapati’s family roots in pottery and makes a conscious attempt at highlighting the designer’s heritage, talent and earth-sensitive approach to design. “The client wanted to launch a restaurant but within a very restricted budget. So we told him to let his family—who is still into this craft—use their talent, and, in turn, we would use various forms of traditional vernacular materials in the restaurant. This way, we could subtly, but emphatically, illustrate family skills while also keeping costs under control,” says Bhadri.
After numerous trials on-site, they finally decided to use a mixture of clay, grain husk, a dye extracted from kesudo flowers (flowers from the talipot palm tree, also known as flame of the forest), turmeric, and a natural binder to make a plaster for the walls. The result is a beautiful wave-like pattern that traces the rhythm of hand movements. The hay—which serves as a reinforcement—holds the paste together, in turn preventing it from developing cracks. The natural dye from kesudo flowers lends a festive charm and lets out a warm welcome. “It was a conscious decision to not use any paint or material that generates a carbon footprint. We wanted to drive home the point that eco-friendly buildings are not only low-cost but also sturdy and luxurious in appearance,” adds Bhadri.
The designers didn’t stop at clay. Discarded wood find a new life here in the form of furniture and lining for the ceiling to enhance indoor acoustics. Reclaimed jute strings and fabrics from wedding mandaps are judiciously used to fashion lamps for the restaurant. Jute has also been used to hide the air conditioning compressor and drainage pipes. The floors at Mitti Ke Rang are adorned with local ceramic tiles.
Mitti Ke Rang is also a treasure trove of art. A potter’s wheel, for instance, welcomes guests at the entrance and sets the tone for the art-filled interiors. The walls have been hand-painted by the members of the Prajapati family. “We wanted the walls to have a stamp of our legacy. So, we decided to hand-paint them with floral patterns using natural dyes,” shares Prajapati. The anteroom houses an open shelf stacked with old clay vessels from the Prajapati home.
The waiting area is the pièce de résistance here. Softly lit with ambient lights, the area is treated like a gallery to showcase the family’s roots in pottery with heirloom clay items, beautifully preserved stone grinders, hand pounders and bharanis (pickle jars) on display. Prajapati also intends on adding to the collection further. Moreover, the family’s pottery roots play out on the table, too, with unfired clay plates and cutlery.
The main dining area is flooded with natural light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass walls. A thin layer of jute curtain brings in some privacy. The seating is a mix of chairs and comfortable sofas draped in floral-patterned upholstery. Potted plants add a good dose of greenery.
Wholesome, fresh meals comprising of fiery Kathiyawadi delicacies rule the menu here. The star dishes include Ringan nu Olo (a spicy dish made with chargrilled aubergines, mashed and cooked with fresh tomatoes and spices), Lasaniya Bateta (garlic-flavoured potatoes cooked with onion, tomato and spices) and Kadhi Pakoda (yogurt-based gravy with flour dumplings). Accompaniments include breads made of bajra (pearl millet flour) and a comforting Vaghareli Khichdi, where rice and lentils are cooked and seasoned with spices and vegetables.