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Kudumbam – Kerala boutique restaurant

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A closer look at the pebbled courtyard draped in a glow of recessed lights – cymbal, trumpet, clarinet that arouse memories of flamboyant festivals – skillful etchings on stone wall – redolence of frangipani (chempakam) – all entwined as one harmonic experience.

Kudumbam (meaning family), the Gold leaf winner of the Kerala state Excellence in Architecture award 2011, instituted by IIA (Indian Institute of Architects) in the ‘Hospitality’ category is a restaurant that gives its patrons a feeling of spending happy times with the family. M.M. Jose, of Mindscape Architects, Kerala takes us through the design intention.

A family managed enterprise of the renowned group, Hotel Kumarakom is the elite and exclusive Kerala boutique restaurant Kudumbam. Located at Nungambakkam in the heart of Chennai, it is a departure from erstwhile concepts or themes as it unveils the sublime past of Kerala in all its grace and grandeur. Kudumbam relives the past of Kerala in a highly realistic fashion. Kudumbam or the family as the word suggests is where one seeks one’s comfort and finds one’s solace. This simple yet profound philosophy turns into the cornerstone of this restaurant.

The prime intent of the owner was to invite guests for a tasteful rendezvous with Kerala of the seventies through its indigenous cuisine and homely ambience typical of the land. It was further intended that every guest at Kudumbam must experience aesthetic delight of tradition to indulge himself in the sublimity of past. But it was quite obvious that a high-toned concept as this was, it would never fit into the old, prosaic structure of a residential property they had acquired. It called for nothing less than total revamping of the building and interiors to dress up into a high-grade and aristocratic restaurant, owner had in mind.

An image of building from pre-renovation stage – grey old structure lost in the spread and thickness of wild growing trees – unwelcoming and dull with cluttered interiors and lacking in elegance in the exteriors.

Renovation of architectural structures is in itself an art. A harmonious mix of sense, taste and judgment goes into it along with the creative allocation of spaces and resources thus transforming them into a dignified product full of light and life. It was with this reason the owners approached me. I was fascinated by the scope of the project from the very outset. To say I wholly understood the intrinsic warmth and feel of the concept Kudumbam. I took off from this pilot concept and started thinking on the lines of giving prime emphasis to the theme. The delineation of essential thematic components or traditional elements in an integrated fashion so as to evoke the exclusive and congenial feel demands scrupulous perfection in detailing. An overstated expression might cause a deviation from the central theme. Likewise a feeble expression of any sort might dump it into mediocre and prosaic.

To strike a harmonious balance between the two was the real challenge of it. Alongside I started working on the significant alterations and additions to be made to the physical structure. Sprucing up the interiors of this old home with congested space and level disparities was the immediate task. I had to start by doing away with a few unnecessary walls and windows and other obstructive partitions to welcome more space and more light. Enlarging the kitchen area by effectively adding what was earlier a bed room space to it was executed. One huge level disparity was solved by just turning that space into a courtyard. Well, again I would say all these things were issued from the demands posed by the basic theme that we were working on. Playing around with the theme and molding a style unobtrusive, concordant and hearty by its feel was the idea I had envisaged – a creative infusion in space where timeless tradition resuscitates in every curve and line – one fabulous spot where minds happily turn the clock back.

A few riveting tales of architecture have been inspired from stunningly innovative concepts. Likewise, the hospitality interiors with theme-dominated ambience have an ingrained and irresistible charm about them that directly finds ingress to one’s heart. It is nothing but inimitable touches of art that turn it into piece de resistance.”

– M M Jose

View of the vivacious and charming interiors embellished by a rare assemblage of traditional décor elements. Niche space is home to indigenous vessels and utensils unique of Kerala. Catch a glimpse of the fine design of a spread of coconut leaves on top ceiling.

A hearty delight unfurls as one drives in from the hot and boisterous city to recline in the cool shades provided at Kudumbam. A foretaste of the celebrated Kerala hospitality is evident in the signboard itself- a design inspired from a plantain leaf. The courtyard with faded impressions left by a broom is where the luxuriant flora of Kerala, jackfruit and mango invites your gaze. Along with fragrant jasmines and elegant shoe flowers (hibiscus) one also finds screw pine, the most romantic flower-concept entwined with Kerala culture, created in texture paint. Amidst the beatific charm situates the well with crystal clear water. The traditional porter’s rest here is another perfect claim of the past. Also one can witness the past awakening in the exquisite relief works of martial and performing arts like Theyyam, Thira and Kalarippayattu, etched on the surrounding mud wall.

Shelf displaying Kerala’s traditional attires, home-made pickles and banana chips in glass candy jars. Adjacent to it is China jar in terracotta. Also features the time-old ‘Aranmula metal mirror’ with ‘Kasavu Mundu’ as backdrop decently framed and hanged on wall.

The grand sit-out or ‘Poomukham’, elegantly roofed by tiles utters a cordial welcome note. Here a great tradition turns an excellent welcoming ambience. The stunning Kerala ‘padippura’ with imprints of a noble tradition greets the eye. On the facing wall hangs a designed wood piece inscribing the insightful lines of the bond and affection that turns Kudmbam or family dear and distinct. An ‘Arm chair’ on the sit-out that symbolizes seat of the ‘Karanavar’ or eldest member of a Kerala household with betel box with spittoon and a goglet of fresh water beside it adds to the air of folklore.

The relentless efforts of Somu, a distinguished art director who worked in tandem has helped give a discernible identity to Kudumbam, a 70 seater exclusive dining space extended over 3000sqft. It took a period of just over seven months for completion. The concept Kudumbam envisions providing fine tastes, great exclusivity and comfy feel for its guests in an impeccable ambience where the fascinating Kerala tradition enliven tasteful minds.

The resplendent drawing room is a blend of rarefied traditional elements transforming the space live and vibrant. The sober tone kindles the perfect mood with splendid artifacts lending the feel of past. To the corner is musician’s spot, seen here performing in flute.


Though rooms differ in design, it is one singular, soft and sober mood that pervades overall. White colors and sand finish enhance the rich and soothing effect of interiors. On the ceiling one finds the delightful design of a spread of coconut leaves. Paintings and collages displayed adjacent to every set of seats are meaningful adds-on to this pavilion of past. Mural painting adorning the wall adds a veritable charm to the tradition-smelt air. Also, displayed in all elegance and grandeur is the time-old traditional vases, jars, jugs and bottles of God’s own land.

A closer look at the pebbled courtyard draped in a glow of recessed lights – cymbal, trumpet, clarinet that arouse memories of flamboyant festivals – skillful etchings on stone wall – redolence of frangipani (chempakam) – all entwined as one harmonic experience.

The dining area is also a gallery of traditional music instruments of South India as cymbal, flute, clarinet etc are elegantly displayed. Gracefully enriching the walls are images of living legends of music and also of past maestros whose music lives after them. As if descended from some distant past a tea samovar silently rests to the corner of the room – a pleasant expression of a typical Kerala tea shop which hosted the assemblies, discussions and debates. On wall hangs the photograph of Kerala tea shop of seventies with a samovar featuring in it.

The restaurant also has an exclusive corner for display of a fine selection of Mundu and Neriyathu, the traditional attires of Kerala. In addition, the translated works of great Malayalam writers of bygone era find their place on the display shelves in dining area.


Photographs: Shijo Thomas


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