Cafe culture is a strange breed these days. In San Francisco you’ll see as many Macbooks as people at most joints; conversing is, of course, allowed, but most folks are focused on a screen of some sort, sitting alone–or together–and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. In Bombay, the Irani cafes that once flourished as laid-back hubs of genuine social interaction–long chats, delicious nibbles–have all but disappeared, with locations dwindling to the low 30s (down from nearly 400 less than a century ago).
London’s Dishoom restaurant in Covent Garden modeled its approach to dining after these traditional spots–a comfortable place to while away an afternoon. When it was time to open a new branch in Shoreditch, the owners wanted a way to capture the sense of convivial community in a unique way, so they called upon the gang at OgilvyOne UK to come up with something that would contribute to an “authentic” shared experience. “Whilst we couldn’t fill the tables with the characters from the old cafes we found a way to fill them with their wonderful stories,” Emma DeLaFosse, executive creative director, OgilvyOne UK tells Co.Design.
They set up a site where people could submit their own personal tales: of go-to raspberry sodas, of bhurji so spicy it would make you cry, of charmingly grumpy proprietors. Of the hundreds of entries, 80 special memories were chosen to adorn Dishoom’s plain white plates in various shapes and styles. “Black text and line drawings were deliberately selected to juxtapose the color of the food,” DeLaFosse says.
Bummed you missed your chance to divulge a cherished memory? There’s still a spot on the site to design your own, and hey–if it’s compelling enough, someone else might enjoy a meal over your very words at Dishoom someday.