The Hindu - 5th August 2019

Room with a view 

Artisan Lab: marrying retail and food

This new store in Delhi invites you to slow down and browse.

You’ll need to go around the building, into a lane behind the Forest Essentials in GK 1 N block market, to reach the entrance to Artisan Lab. Its dusty pink staircase, green palms, and timber balustrade hold promise. The first floor is home accessories, while the second has an extension of that (with some clothing), along with a cafe.

Noor and Neimat Sethi studied design (in New York) and hospitality (in Switzerland), respectively, working abroad and then returning home to start their own business. It’s taken the sisters a year and a half to plan things, and their project is now ‘live’.

The aesthetic is hand-crafted products in varied materials, from glass and brass to leather and jute. If you spot little bits of acrylic, they’re nuances in design. There are a few statement pieces, like a brass side-board with malachite accents in the door knobs, a coffee table in resin with bone inlay, a leather desk with a hair-on-hide chair. It’s a good place to pick up a gift (prices start ₹380, though it’s reasonable to expect a ₹1,500-2,000 purchase for one). You can mix and match a set of bowls with a cheese platter, or a large lazy-Susan server with linen napkins. Most things are sourced from India, with a few from South-East Asia (check out the jute throws). They have their own label too that does floor coverings in leather, cushions, table linen and more.

The idea is for a visitor to “slow down”, browse through cushions, hurricane lanterns, platters, terrariums, and more, order a coffee, maybe get some cake. “The other day a lady came in and said she wanted the wall painting (a part of the décor in the store) to be replicated in her house, and she also wanted the jhoola,” says Noor, who takes on home styling and interior-design projects as well. Other times, especially over a weekend, people may just come in just for the food. The women are there, helping you with ordering or picking up an accessory.

A late breakfast with the truffle scrambled eggs on toast with coffee is a good start to a weekend. Breads are baked in-house, and the thick wedge of sourdough, with just the right hydration and sourness, is a Saturday-morning wake-up. I did the wild mushroom risotto, for an umami hit. It’s not overbearingly cheesy, and Neimat says she goes by the ‘Friends of the Earth’ philosophy that uses balance in cooking, so nothing in nature (like meat or dairy) is over-used.

If you’re stopping by for an evening snack, do the Gambas Pil Pil (prawns cooked in rosemary and chilli olive oil on a baguette). You’re good for dinner, because portions are generous, especially the desserts. Absolutely do the Pastel Del Tres Leches (a butter sponge soaked in three types of milk). While the menu has cues about gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, the team is happy to tweak orders, and they’re one of the few places that does gluten-free bread. They’ll soon have keto bread and will be retailing their flavoured olive oils and breads.

N 18, Greater Kailash 1 Market; 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; ₹1,500 for a meal for two