Hidden away off one of Assagao’s winding tree-lined roads is an old Goan home given a new lease of life. Freshly painted in white and teal, the 1930s home ‘Amalia’ now hosts The Project Café, which offers food, design, retail and the experience of living in a beautifully restored space, surrounded by original art.
“We collect interesting people,” says co-founder Drasty Shah. “We then put them together to create multi-disciplinary pairings which result in unusual displays of work in this setting. Bismarckia our outdoor cafe, is a prime example of multidisciplinary collaboration between filmmaker, writer and visual artist Aradhana Seth with Grey Works, an Ahmedabad based design firm specialising in concrete furniture.”
The outdoor café features brick circles embedded in the grass, an ode to Ahmedabad. The beautiful murals of the palm on two walls watch over the garden and the performance space. “With its rustic texture, its understated yet flamboyant form, its colours, materiality and pleating lines of its leaves, Aradhana saw the Bismarckia as the ‘tree of the house’, the motif, inspiration and namesake of this garden café’s design. Combined with the exclusively designed concrete furniture, the space has been envisioned as an enduring hub of relaxed conversations and contemplation,” says Shah.
Drasty Shah’s background in event management and hospitality shows in every little detail of the large and airy space. Spread over 13,000 sq. feet and three separate houses, The Project Café offers six elegant rooms (five doubles and one single). Each room has been designed by a different kind of designer (furniture designer Neeta Kumar, architect Hiren Patel, fashion designer Anuj Sharma and interior designer Pulin Shah) who have brought their own inspiration to this slice of Goa. A pool, a kitchen garden and a vertical herb garden add to the freshness of the space.
In the main house, a corridor doubles up as a small art gallery (currently showcasing a sold-out exhibition of work by artist Ruchi Bakshi Sharma) and leads into the shop which has an evolving display of products from elegant clothing, books, tea and furniture.
“Everything you see is designed by different people, curated by us, and is on sale,” says Shah. When Shah says everything is on sale, she means it. From the furniture (the sofas, the curtains, wallpaper and all the décor), to the crockery, to the light fixtures over your dining table, if you like it, it’s available. Catalogues of the various retailers on display are also available so if you like a chair in a certain fabric or colour, you can have that customised as well.
The light-filled dining room doubles up as an art gallery (Dayanita Singh’s evocative and award-winning ‘Museum Bhavan’, a collection of nine accordion-pleated pocket displays of themed photographs is on display till 15 March). The restaurant is open for all-day dining and to add a dash of excitement, the ‘world cuisine’ menu is curated by a different chef every few months. Currently, F&B Manager Irina Kozlova and consultants Kanu Gupta and Nirvan Thaker oversee the menu along with Drasty. Visitors can walk in and experience the food, the shop, even the stunningly dark and brooding yet elegant lounge currently decorated by luxury furniture store Gulmohar Lane (and yes, everything in that room is also for sale).
Outside, the regal grey-green Bismarckia also shows up in cyanotype photographs by Jagrut Raval and forms a flamboyant backdrop to the ‘Conversation Corner’ in the front garden with tiny colourful chairs set in its alluring shadow, perfect for whispered chats among new and old friends.
The Project Café, Amalia Villa No 198, Mazzal Waddo, Assagao, Goa. Doubles from Rs5,500 including breakfast. Website