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Tabletops go colourfulTrans World Features
There was a time when starched white table cover defined a fine dining restaurant’s top notch standard. Anything less than a pure white table set-up was not favoured by the gourmand. Today the identical, fine China setting has been usurped by eye-catching table tops in mismatched colours, unconventional shapes or made of anything but porcelain.
Era of minimalism
The preference is for minimalism today. The philosophy has changed. Says Nimish Bhatia, well-known chef who runs his own stand-alone restaurant ‘Nimisserie’ in Bengaluru, “The tabletops are simpler today. Gone are the days of plush table cloths, formal four- course cutleries on the sides and standard B&B plates with a flower vase in the centre.” Now, one sees open tables with simple arrangement and perhaps just a runner depicting the theme. The amuse bouché has its place in the centre which is trendy and a relish (sometimes more than one) is on the table to tickle the palates. The cutlery too has gone for simplified options.
Vishrut Gupta, director, food & beverage, Pullman & Novotel, New Delhi’s Aerocity, agrees: “Tabletops have become more streamlined over the years. Gone are the days of having ten pieces of silverware on the table. Less is definitely more. It is the era of minimalism.”
What dictates this trend? “A desire to move away from the stereotype,” says Neeraj Tyagi, executive chef, Shangri-La’s - Eros Hotel, New Delhi. He explains: “Restaurants nowadays have taken more of a casual approach and aim at portraying an informal atmosphere.” He believes that patrons are becoming more discerning and are no longer keen on dining in a room with stiff linen tablecloths or they prefer a more casual yet exciting setting.”
White clearly is taking a back seat in this age of casual dining. As Elroy Tulkar, director , food and beverage, Grand Hyatt, Mumbai says, “While white and shades of white have always been in trend, people are gradually starting to move towards brighter colours.” Mismatched tableware is a hot trend which is a happy marriage of bowls and plates of different colours.
“One sees delightful palette in metallic finish as well,” Gupta adds. “Brass and warm gold-tones are digging in for a long haul, even copper, bronze and rose tones are hugely in, especially in Indian fine dining restaurants.”
“The texture is not just about China but we love to experiment,” says Tyagi. “Currently, the trend seems to be focusing on materials such as stone, slate, matte finished metal, mixed with porcelain pieces to enhance the overall appeal and experience in a restaurant. These materials give a different vibe to the overall dining experience due to their unorthodox, yet elegant appeal.”
Gupta reiterates, “We are seeing more crockery and cutlery that are made by hand. The design world is all about supporting local artisans and you’ll start to see more and more products designed by hand and incorporated into the tabletops at fine-dining restaurants and hotels. Handcrafted, natural and organic shapes are definitely in.”
“The show plates are coming back,” informs Bhatia. The blend of metal, mix of pottery, ethnic tableware is very much in. The cane baskets have given way to designer wrought iron or metallic painted baskets. He uses a show plate at Nimisseri, which gives impressions of the Taj Mahal, as it’s made of white marble, inlayed and handcrafted . He claims that it has been accepted by my discerning diners.
Contemporary, chic, and casual
With a steady rise in the number of casual restaurants, the tableware too has evolved to make the right statement. As Gupta rightly points out, “Neat and clean lines, bespoke designer table tops are the in thing and evoke simplicity, yet it’s top of the line contemporary avatar.”
Adds Tulkar, “From focusing on the linen, the attention is more on using the finest quality wood/marble that would make for an elegant table top. Instead of using the regular round/oval plates, restaurants are getting more experimental with the shapes, sizes and colours .”
The most visible shift has been from the classic whites to more fun and casual options both in terms of table linen as well as crockery, says Tyagi. “Everybody wants more modern and innovative options. The focus is on more young, quirky and vibrant tableware. A lot of fine dining restaurants are opting to move away from the stereotype, as patrons are becoming more discerning. “
However, the white plate hasn’t fully retired, Tyagi adds. “Today it’s in many avatars like interesting variations with embossed logos, with 3D features and accentuated with lace-like textures.”
Bhatia too comes to the rescue of declining white classic. “Honestly speaking, I believe, white plates have always been in and would remain timeless. This gives an original colour of food to come up and give a clean impression.”
Philosophy of aesthetics
Tabletop aesthetics should always accentuate the concept and cuisine of the restaurant. The philosophy is simple: ‘Table tops to match with the theme, atmosphere, vibe and the feel one wants to create for the dining experience.’
For Tyagi, the shape, colour, texture and design of the tableware exudes emotions which go for a perfect finish with the right dish. It can turn out to be a real pleasure for all the senses, if done right. “I believe that the tabletops should have a connection with what comes ahead. It must give you an indication of what the dining experience would be like.”
Gupta too makes efforts to keep tableware in consonance with the overall theme of the restaurant and the cuisine being served. He is happy with the way Honk, the Asian Bistro at Pullman New Delhi, reflects the dining set up. “Exclusive BCN55 crockery from Barcelona, Spain, with handmade exclusive brass cutlery paired up with a simple yet elegant patterned flickering candle as centrepiece gives it a classy and contemporary look. Everything gels well with the rooted organic ambience and the wood and brass show plates, each slightly different from the other, set the mood for the cuisine to follow,” he says.