A spunky new cafT in New Delhi, Fio eliminates the hum of the metro overhead to create an urban oasis.
Imagine a 5,000 sq ft space under a metro station. You´d think it would be crowded as hell and raucous like the tower of Babel. A quiet space redolent with the fragrance of chrysanthemums, and palm fronds swaying in the winter breeze would be the last thing you would picture. And yet, this is exactly the scene you step into when you enter the Fio Cookhouse and Bar. Located in New Delhi´s bustling Nehru Place, it is a dining space where you can stick your stilettos in pebbles, pick a cookbook from the teak bookshelf, slump on a maritime chair, soak in the charcoal and olive colour palette and order modern Mediterranean food.
An organic, modern and warm space with lots of greenery was what owner Vineet Wadhwa had in mind when he started turning a dirt-space into his second Fio (the first Fio opened more than a year ago). To create a ´space that could breathe,´ Wadhwa drew upon the family´s talent pool his wife Vibha Wadhwa runs Designers Home, a furniture manufacturing unit, and his daughter Vritima Wadhwa, a National Institute of Design alumnus, is a furniture designer. The brief and the team in place, Fio went on the drawing board in September 2012 and opened its doors 10 months later. And what surprises it holds!
Open air nook
As the cemented driveway curves downwards, the Fio signboard peeps out from behind the thick green foliage. A flight of dark charcoal stairs leads to a patch of pebbles with slate-coloured flagstones to walk on. Strewn around the shady outdoor space are brown upholstered chairs inspired by Benjamin Hubert´s maritime chair and simple tables with beautiful teak veneer pressed in a pattern. Two colossal wooden balls with Fio etched on them lie on the pebble patch. The 70-cover outside space is tidily divided in such a way that each table has a corner to itself in a lush garden.
Walking through past the large wooden door, Fio spreads into a brown, charcoal and green canvas its stark white walls rugged and chiseled, ceiling to floor French windows buttressed with mild steel, flooring of retro cement, the air-conditioning ducts stashed behind dark ceiling. A beautiful white bar decorated with Balinese parasols is offset by end-to-end cabinetry stacked with cook¡books, green planters and artefacts collected from across the world. Long white linen curtains segregate the lounge and bar. The open kitchen is extremely functional; an unobtrusive staircase leads to manager cabins, walk-in freezers and wash rooms.
Thanks to the in-house talent, the furniture of the restaurant has unique appeal. Says Vritima,´Our chairs are solid wood and upholstered versions of Benjamin Hubert´s maritime chair; the other furniture has been derived from Scandinavian forms. All the furniture has been upholstered in linen and a beautiful print was also developed and printed on linen for our lounge chairs.´ The long sofas have brown upholstery with chintz bolsters.
Lighting it right
Mild steel with a matte black lacquer has been used as the base material for all the light fixtures. The lampshades have also been upholstered with linen with a print on the inside. The general overall light has been created using simple halogen fixtures sourced from Lok Nayak Bhawan near Khan Market. However, what runs away with most applause is the abstract light installation that hangs from the ceiling of the bar counter. Made of 40 rods, each weighing about 30-40 kgs, the installation has gold-plated glass ends lit with 5-watt car lamps.
Even as one dines in this pleasant ambience, one is struck by the relative quietness, for sitting a few feet beneath the metro station should actually have been quite a noisy experience. Conscious of this challenge at the designing stage, Wadhwa had considered several noise killing options like false ceilings and carpets. But the acoustic expert had a simpler solution - one-inch corkboard covers for the ceiling and a layer of chemical treatment. So efficient is the noise treatment that seated in Fio, you neither feel the vibration nor the chug of a train speeding over your head.
Never again will you dismiss a cafT-under-a-station as an untenable idea. This serene, classy and noiseless restaurant demon¡strates that some kinds of magic are possible to do!
Furniture by: Vibha Wadhwa and Vritima Wadhwa
Architectural support: Abhigyan Neogi of Chromed Design
Lights: Manufactured by Vikram Khullar
Fabrics: Customised by Rohit Khemka
Master contractors: Rohit Ganju and Ankush Seth of Builtkraft India
text: Preeti Verma Lal
Photos: Arvind Hoon
Fio Cookhouse and Bar, Epicuria,
Nehru Place, New Delhi 110 019.
Tel: 011 2628 1026.