Restaurant Bakes Memories Onto Its Plates

London restaurant Dishroom takes inspiration from Bombay Cafes by adding stories onto crockery.

It’s not everyday that you enter a dining establishment to be served up a dish holding more than just a delicious entree. The Shoreditch establishment of a group of London-based restaurants has cooked up a competition that aims to showcase memories of Bombay…by baking them onto its serving ware.

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The project, created in conjunction with agency OgilvyOne, aims to encourage eaters to submit their thoughts and narratives on a dedicated website. Plates are vieweable online, of which the choicest will be selected to become adornments for the restaurant’s crockery. The campaign has already obtained 80 designs from anecdotes given by older Bombay residents, who may still be able to remember a time when close to 400 Irani cafes abounded in the city. Much of the aim is to reclaim and ‘celebrate’ this quickly disappearing history, as only about 30 remain. Given the importance of food in fostering community, it seemed that putting the messages onto plates was a fitting way to capture these fleeting glimpses of a former lifestyle.

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Co-founder Shamil Thakrar praised the use of design to share the past:

 We love sharing stories at Dishoom –especially through design. What we most enjoyed about this idea is the way it literally bakes these unique and personal stories into Dishoom. It makes them into something that every guest can experience for themselves and encourages them to share stories of their own. In this way, the memories will live on.

Saloni Shukla, a Bombay filmmaker, noted the social importance of the Irani cafes on Dishroom’s website:

The Irani cafés have been the familiar abode of wealthy businessmen, lawyers, struggling rickshaw pullers in need of a quick refreshment to whole families for whom the local Irani could be a place for lovely lunches or dinners. For the hooker who worked the street it was a place of refuge, too…anyone, irrespective of religion, caste or creed could wander in and find comfort in the energy of the place. A place where friends would chill, couples would court, business deals were signed and reforms were made by the great leaders of the past. A place where artists would get inspired, writers would find their characters and your old uncle could just sit back, drink a cup of chai and read the Sunday Times. A place where kids would lie to their parents and go eat and hang out with their mates. A place where stories began. Now, these places that have survived in our city for well over 100 years are close to the lines of extinction.

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Agency representatives also emphasized the need to reclaim history through creative advertising when formulating the initiative. Emma DeLaFosse, executive creative director at OgilvyOne UK, said,

We wanted to capture the spoken history of the old Bombay cafes and share them with a new generation at Dishoom. Rather than using Twitter or Facebook, it seemed more fitting to use real plates, as the sharing of plates of food is an inherent part of the culture of these cafes.

Perhaps this trip down memory lane will draw in customers, keen to remember a bygone time, or to get their thoughts baked in ceramic.

Dishoom Plates

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