Jalsa, inside the iconic Harrington mansion, embodies Kolakta’s regal past

Holding fast to the rich architectural heritage of the city of joy while retaining a contemporary touch intact, the new restaurant designed by A Square Designs inside 100-year-old colonial building will transport you to a distant era of imposing glamour.

A charming fusion of the old and the new, Jalsa, the modern Indian restaurant situated in the heart of the city at Ho Chi Minh Sarani has every element to claim the worth of its name. Kolkata has long been the muse of designers and architects because of city’s immutable association with art and crafts.

The Jalsa Woman bedecked in traditional jewellery behind the bar, painted by Mural artist Jit Chowdhury is the emblem of its intimate and classical ambience. The artist has used natural colours and pigments from Bengal for the artwork. His work has a typical Indian sensibility, which is what we needed for this project. He also uses certain natural colours, pigments and materials, including shola pith, a natural fibre available locally.

According to Ajay Arya, interior designer and founder of A Square Designs, who crafted this chic eatery, “the interiors had to evoke a certain joie de vivre. With vibrant colours and art, the interiors set a happy mood for all kinds of celebrations, small and big.”

The Harrington Mansion which houses the restaurant is more than a century old builfing has Harrington Street Art Centre on the second floor. The design team has to carry out civil restoration with some plasterwork, and chemical treatment for the iron grills before starting the project as the building was in an ill state of repair and restoration and came with its own set of challenges including dampness and peeling plaster.

The building retains its charming colonial façade, and the interiors were created in harmony with the exteriors. The original architecture like big arches, arched windows and the high ceiling was given a face-lift.

The restaurant is divided into three areas—the central main dining hall for everyday dining, a private dining area with an intimate atmosphere, and events and party space complete with live cooking, buffet station and lounge. Each space however possesses its own identity and hues but is united by the use of synchronised design elements.

The central dining hall features intricate black-and-white pattern flooring, a 27-foot-long bar and murals that recreate the famed arched Jharokas of Indian palaces.

In the private dining hall,  arched window panes are painted to resemble the ancient lead work on glass used in old churches, and the theme of arches is carried out in a sublime manner on the opposite walls. The imagery of the murals, the arches, foliage, etc, and the colours used are intrinsic to Kolkata, while the hand-painted door in the private dining room.

Rich shades of burgundy and teal are paired in the party hall/lounge; combined with the striking black-and-white chevron pattern flooring this creates a stunning visual. “The hand-painted window panes resembling stained glass work add vibrancy to the space,” informs Arya to AD India.

With the food and interiors being a fusion of Indian and modern style, the restaurant owners have personally curated an interesting collection of platters, serving bowls and cutlery. “Made of ceramic, they are earthy, yet have a sophisticated glaze or an avant-garde shape.

Image by Pabitra Das

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