Faustina Johnson checks out Sector 29’s newest, breeziest restaurant, the cycling-themed Ciclo Cafe.
A sweat-soaked friday afternoon found me in the gracious refuge of Ciclo Cafe in Sector 29, Gurgaon. My legs swinging happily from my tall stool, my teeth sinking readily into an exquisite mango tart, I felt quite contented, and playfully deconstructed my beeline scramble into the one
restaurant I did not know on this street.
The full street view through the steel-framed glass window store front was my first clue: I was practically sitting on an open verandah, except, I had the full, cooled insulation of the four walls around me. It was a long, long day, and all I had needed was a brief respite. I was faced with a street full of fortified restaurants with their extravagant exteriors, which intuitively put me off. Tired, I may be, but I was not ready to crawl into the darkness, yet.
I scanned the street one last time, and Ciclo Cafe flashed into my vision with an unfamiliar facade. One look at the aquamarine and white storefront, and I breezed right into the single best decision all day that day- I looked right through Pranskter Cafe and its fruity-delicious house brew located right next door.
If the rest of the eating stops in Sector 29 stand out with their unmistakable, glamorous veneers, this restaurant stands out exactly because it is not flashy. And it’s muted palette abounds with innovative and subtle nuances built into the theme of cycling, as the name suggests. The end effect is unique, something I have come to call the pastel steampunk, for want of a better phrase. Chandeliers with fringes framed in cycle gear wheels greet you up the ramp into a reception area. Over the reception hangs an elaborate and almost gothic chandelier fashioned from trailing laces of cycle chains, looking down on the handlebar desk, which doubles up as the reception. To the left is the semi-open space where I rested, dotted with wood tables that had been embedded with chunks of glass in which gears, ball bearings, spanners and other paraphernalia are frozen. “A bright yellow wall with a circular cutout, framed with multiple cycle wheels was designed to let in more light from the front façade”, Navya, one third of Studio Wood, the collaborative mastermind behind this space, points out. It is this unique balance of the inside and outside that adds on to the ambience in unpredictable ways. “We were nervous about how people will take to the concept, in Delhi. People seemed intrigued when we told me about this project, and we hoped that the reception will be similar to The Ciclo Cafes in other cities like Hyderabad and Chennai”, Vrinda tells me. With its collaborative energy, Studio Wood, made up of Navya Aggarwal, Vrinda Mathur and Sahej Bhatia, is redefining what it means to be creative and innovative in today’s individual focussed world. “Growth at an individual level is so much more . You learn so much off each other. You see what they are doing correct and note it down and try to make that a habit,” Navya gushes.
The ground floor is sectioned into the glass fronted verandah, and a dining area, with a bakery and a bar placed alongside. Pockets of retail space are peppered around, selling cycle parts, add-ons and other gear from across the globe. The other materials used in the design, apart from steel, are concrete, bamboo, cane, and oakwood, all blending into a delicate balance. Like I said, raw, steampunk aesthetics, freed from its clunkiness. The printed tiles on both levels add to the carefree ambience, and are reminiscent of a Tuscan-style casa. The sea-blue facade, therefore, finds graceful continuity, and is reiterated in the stools, and the upholstery.
“In order to open up a light well into the basement, the floor was core cut and a metal and wood staircase was designed for the same,” Vrinda points out, explaining how the light is somehow carried into the basement. The basement is another story altogether. With chai-coloured leather sofas and a wide range of bicycles, rows of sturdy cycling clothes, and a dedicated energy-drink corner, the basement looks like the ideal adrenaline-buzzed hangout. I could just imagine preposterous cycling stories being shared over mugs of coffee and energetic laughter.
The refurbished metal sheets that usually find themselves fashioned into cycle chains find an apt resting place in the ceiling of both the levels, creating a smooth continuity between the two. If the ground floor is a breezy quick-stop on your way elsewhere, the ground floor is a mellow invite into its roomy sofas, for a long, caffeinated conversation. The magic that makes these two levels somehow flow into each other is abundant throughout the design, making the myriad materials come together into a comprehensive aesthetic whole. I take particular care to emphasise this- it is one thing to make a restaurant innovative and engaging, and a completely different ball game when it comes to creating a space that isn’t so done up that it is distracting. Coming from the young designer trio, this in itself is an incredible achievement, and hints at the power and joy of collaboration and creative dialogue that drives Studio Wood.