The roads of Gulberg have a lot to offer now in terms of restaurants and cafés and one can usually find a place to suit ones mood and craving. This time around it’s to the Veranda Bistro.
Text: Architect Maliha Vahla, Photos: Kamran Shaikh Associates
Set back from the road, a semi circular driveway deposits one onto the entrance of the bistro. Here a water element has been incorporated, flanked on both sides by an aromatic bush with red flowers. This quaint little feature, appealingly lit up at night, is best viewed on the exit from the bistro, but one does register the tinkling of water and the heady aroma of the plants on the way in. Details being a forte with Kamran Sheikh, the designer and the hospitality consultant for the place, this presents a fine start.
A walk through the Veranda Bistro restaurant, from one space that spills into another, one discovers that the plan is mirrored. The two open spaces; one that sets the building back from the busy frantic roads of Gulberg and the courtyard at rear, bookend the dining spaces between them on an approximate axis from one water feature at the front to the other at the back.
Along this implicit axis, one space leads into another and a sequential transition of spaces is established. The inside dining space in itself maintains a very linear, symmetrical division. This sort of simplicity, in return, makes room for the interior details.
Entering from the tiny portico, one is accosted by the maitre de in the reception area, furnished with large sofas, which overwhelm the comparatively narrow space, but afford one a comfortable wait. Swallowed by the seating and looking around one realizes that given the earlier impression of the place, it does not seem in any way cramped. The narrowness is somehow dealt with by giving opening s in the dividing walls with grill work to maintain the fluidity and openness. It might give a corridor-like feel which, in combination with the visual connectivity, is reminiscent of a veranda.
From this waiting area one advances onto the two larger dining spaces. These two rooms are wider than the ones adjoining them and offer a respite from the narrow long spaces, giving the necessary breadth. The walls on the far ends are the ones that have been featured. In one of these rooms, the bar is situated, right in the heart of the restaurant. Done in white with beige accents it gleams and glints with squeaky clean upturned glasses and a spotless demeanor, a very favorable impression in an eatery.
Mirrors have been used with varying colors of cut stone tiles for feature walls. The pattern from the grill reappears in the mirrors in copper hues with alternating orange and green stone. The stone twinkles and sparkles as light dances about it, lending a gilded look to these walls, aglow in their orange splendor.
Beveled mirrors in varying sizes and frames adorn the walls apart from the sconces and the dividing grill work. These mirrors placed in a strategic manner do not disturb the visitors at their table. But neither does it seem that they have been used with an intention to open up the space – they mainly serve as ornamentation.
On the other hand the furniture picked is utilitarian and at the best, unobtrusive. It’s there; it serves and stays in the background very much like a Victorian butler, getting the job done without attracting attention. An exception to this would be the heavy, cushioned seating in the waiting area and the bay window. Their sheer size and the contrast they present to the other chairs make them noticeable.
Grill work is the other prominent decorative element that has been employed. It has been used as screens and dividers; in doors, incorporated in wall sconces, and even for the magnificent lamp that hangs from at the main entrance. It is visible from the road, and gives a taste of the finery inside. Grillwork sports a symmetrical design, quite modern but still ornate. This sort of stance in the design of the bistro portrays a look of contemporary opulence.
The gilded grandeur of the feature walls has been balanced on their facing side with windows dressed in simple polished blinds. Even when there is no view available, these windows give an impression of continuing space, cordoned off in true veranda style.
Verandas, in the real sense of the word, are said to be hybrid architectural elements, very particular to the colonial architecture in the Subcontinent, Australia etc. By origin the word in itself is an amalgamation of the words “vahir” outside and “awnder”, inside. They have a distinct quality of blurring the boundary between the inside and the outside. And maybe this is the element that has not been used to its potential in a place that is a namesake.
Going further, one enters into the actual veranda in this place. It has been given a different finish so it doesn’t look like the interior spaces and neither has it been treated like an exterior space. It stands on its own, with a dark high ceiling, brick columns with a nice detail to their capitals. The simplicity with which this part has been dealt with is complementing to the use that it has been put to. It becomes the focus of the restaurant (Veranda Bistro). It is where the food for the buffet is laid out or it doubles as eating space .No adornment is needed. After the ornate gilded look of the inside it is a breath of fresh air, from where one can step out into the open space at the back. Here, the water gushing from the source in the wall comes and greets you to the airy courtyard. With seating on both sides of the water body and understated finish, the place gets its fresh, comfortable ambience. This might suit more to some, weather allowing.
Looking through the bistro inside and out, it comes through as a pleasant place, a favorite with ladies at their kitty parties and tea parties. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t earned its fair share of hungry Lahoris always on a lookout for an inviting place to eat.
Whether sitting inside or outside, at a kitty party or not, with polite and obliging staff, excellent service, a fulfilling meal and its very own aura the Veranda Bistro adds positively to the to the eatery profile of Lahore.