Dezeen Magazine

"India doesn't value its traditions" - Shamil Thakrar at Dezeen Live

Shamil Thakrar, owner and founder of London restaurant Dishoom, laments the disappearance of traditional Irani cafes in Bombay and explains why he's setting them up in London in this movie filmed at Dezeen Live during 100% Design.

Shamil Thakrar at Dezeen Live

Above: Miles Davis and musicians recording Kind of Blue

"India doesn't value it's traditions much," says Thakrar, "[in Britain] we do look backwards a bit more for meaning. I think for us to rescue the tradition of these cafes is pretty precious."

Cafes started by Iranian immigrants in the 1920s, which are solely based around the food and are "undesigned", are vanishing as India "rushes towards modernity" and Thakrar says that where there used to be 400, only about 30 are left. "The children of the cafe owners don't want to be cafe owners, they want to be bankers or accountants, so there is an adverse trend there," he says.

Thakrar set up Dishoom in Covent Garden and more recently Shoredtich to bring the food and atmosphere of these cafes to London. "Being in a place that feels undesigned, which takes you to Bombay, we try and create that here," he explains.

The first of five images Thakrar talks about is of Miles Davis and his musicians recording the Kind of Blue album in just one take. "This is an incredible example of art," says Thakrar. "Miles Davis once said 'it's not the notes you play, it's the notes you don't', which of course resonates with design and food as well, and we think about that a lot."

Shamil Thakrar at Dezeen Live

Above: Dishoom's pop-up restaurant on London's South Bank last summer

Next he shows Dishoom's pop-up restaurant on London's South Bank last summer, made from recycled materials. "The whole idea of the pop-up was that if you take one of these cafes and walk it down to Bombay's Chaupati Beach in 1965 and it were to take a mild acid trip, what would happen?"

Next up is a set of Tintin canvas prints. "He goes through life naive, he's wonderfully innocent and I think we all should do that," Thakrar says, "particularly when you're thinking about design and food, you should come at it fresh, with a wide-eyed attitude."

Shamil Thakrar at Dezeen Live

Above: Tintin canvas prints

A Caravaggio painting follows and Thakrar describes the similarity between the Italian artist's depiction of flaws and the approach to designing their latest Dishoom branch."We spent a week with our designers recently looking for those Caravaggio-esque bits, finding the parts of these old cafes we could bring alive in a different venue," he explains.

Thakrar ends with a picture of an elderly man in his traditional restaurant in Bombay. "When you take a bite of their food, you're tasting the century of tradition and heritage, which makes the food more than just food," says Thakrar.

Shamil Thakrar at Dezeen Live

Above: Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus painting

Dezeen Live was a series of discussions between Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs and a number of designers and critics that took place at design exhibition 100% Design during London Design Festival this September.

Each of the four one-hour shows, recorded live in front of an audience, included three interviews plus music from Dezeen Music Project featuring a new act each day. We've been posting all the movies we filmed over the past few days, and you can watch all the movies we've featured so far here.

Shamil Thakrar at Dezeen Live

Above: a Bombay cafe owner speaking to his customer

The music featured in the movie is a track from Business Class Refugees by Indian record label EarthSyncListen to more songs by EarthSync on Dezeen Music Project.

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