A secretive modern-age cave? Charlee in Mumbai is a glamorous speakeasy designed by kaviar:collaborative

APR 22, 2024 | By Pratishtha Rana
Wall lights by the Light Boy Co illuminate the dining lounge, with custom furniture designed by kaviar:collaborative and manufactured by Posh Parare. Shiny black tiles by Cambay Stones surround pillars placed along the sides of the dining lounge. Photography by studio suryan//dang
The custom furniture at the bar, designed by kaviar:collaborative and manufactured by Posh Parare. Glossy black tiles by Cambay Stones coupled with a brass texture finish by Colour Coats frame the bar illuminated by a table lamp and wall lights from the Light Boy Co. Photography by studio suryan//dang

A glamorous batcave. Walls dripping with an otherworldly dark realism. Giant rock boulders stationed inside; poised yet. Some cocktail experiments underway at an enigmatic bar. This is Charlee, the new restaurant and speakeasy in Mumbai juxtaposed calmly in the thriving locale of Santacruz, helmed by restaurateur Suren Joshi and Mokksh Sani. 

Designed by kaviar:collaborative, I’m convinced on my first visit to Charlee that the likes of Jay Gatsby, James Bond, Batman and Max Payne, my teenagehood’s favourite game character would probably find this space befitting for their secret rendezvous. The entryway itself is rather dramatic. With a teeming bunch of black rocks dangling above the stairway as one ascends to the entrance. The suspense of discovering the space further palatably intensifies!

The dining lounge is interspersed with lamps from Rosha India. Stone tables designed by kaviar:collaborative and manufactured by Posh Parare act as unconventional accents. Glossy black tiles by Cambay Stones decorate the pillars. Photography by studio suryan//dang


Glossy black tiles by Cambay Stones decorate select sections of the walls in the dining space. Photography by studio suryan//dang

Adventures with dark

An almost sculpturesque statement, the cave aesthetic for interiors has been sought after for its grounded mystique for the longest time. Vividly reminiscent of the stone age, it somehow cradles a soft glimmer of connection with the earthiness of nature, albeit shrouded in darker hues. “The design concept revolves around a monochromatic palette, with dark tones dominating the space. The use of highly textural materials such as stones, gabion walls and concrete infuses an industrial edge,” state Kasturi Wagh and Vineet Hingorani, Partners + Principal Architects of kaviar:collaborative.

Then it’s not all that surprising that for us digital-world residents, palettes that conjure sensory reminders of primal ages and materials in its most natural forms, become a point of fascination. Cave-esque interiors with unfinished finishes and objects that nudge curiosity — Charlee is well a study in how to breathe a liveable character to a space while ensuring a certain enigma to its ambience. 

The entrance staircase reveals like a portal from an otherworldly dimension, crowned by suspended rocks designed by kaviar:collective and executed by Dmayas Art. Photography by studio suryan//dang


Sculptural boulders lay as the central installation inside the restaurant designed by kaviar:collaborative and executed by Dmayas Art. Artistic wall lights are by The Light Boy Co. Photography by studio suryan//dang


The wall lights from The Light Boy Co emit a warm glow. Glossy black tiles by Cambay Stones echo the restaurant’s mysterious allure, cast in dark hues. Photography by studio suryan//dang

Material versus sensibility 

It hasn’t even been a whole minute since being gripped with the visuals of suspended stones back at the stairs, another giant rock-on-rock installation assumes focus. Behind which is also an alternate way to the second entry to the restaurant. Truly clandestine, I’d say. The restaurant was originally a bareshell without any access to sunlight. The duo informs, “Architecturally, the site was a rectangle with low-ceiling height and a single glass facade that looked into an adjacent residential building. We took this up as a challenge and chose to use the existing dark atmosphere in our favour instead of competing with it.”

Table lamps from Rosha India sit in the centre of custom furniture by kaviar:collaborative, manufactured by Posh Parare. Wall lights from The Light Boy Co light up the main dining space. Photography by studio suryan//dang


Glossy black tiles by Cambay Stone drape the pillars lining the dining lounge. Photography by studio suryan//dang


The reception table at the entrance features a custom table by kavair:collective, topped with a table lamp from Rosha India. Boulders designed by kaviar:collective are executed by Dmayas Art, positioned alongside black glossy tiles by Cambay Stones. Photography by studio suryan//dang

They tactfully mixed real stones and fibreglass ‘look-alike’ stones to transpire a sense of realism to the surfaces while lending this melange with reflective brass and glass blocks stamped on the walls. The result? Industrial meets glamour offset with mellow, warm light installations dotted throughout. 

Between this rhythmic dance between the polished textures and lustrous accents, the restaurant emerges as a single entity with a spread of intimate seatings and lounge sofas contouring the main bar island, where occasional flares of fire in goblets grasp attention.

Custom furniture designed by kaviar:collaborative and manufactured by Posh Parare decorate the dining space. Table lamps by Rosha cast a mellow light on the tables. Photographed by studio suryan//dang

All vegetarian and cocktail theatrics 

Perry Road. Movie Time. Tokyo Highball. Penicillin Smash. No one cocktail at the all-vegetarian restaurant Charlee is named ordinarily. As intriguing as they sound, the cocktail alchemy here pours out in the glasses with a lingering punch to it. And if spicy concoctions is on your wishlist — try the savoury tequila-based Perry Road with bird’s eye chilli, jalapeno, citrus and chilli-coated guava on the side. Room for one more? Go for Cacao Negroni and Root next. 

With an edgy demeanour and experimentally comforting food fare on the table, Charlee imagines a convincing hideaway that unexpectedly rethinks the portrayal of a cavernous canvas set right in the heart of a thrumming cityscape. 

Charlee restaurant SantaCruz mumbai
Cocktails titled Root and Perry Road (L-R); Photograph by Pratishtha Rana

Address: Charlee, First floor, Above Mansionz, Vatsala Niwas, Linking Rd, Santacruz West, Mumbai-400054

Read more: Restaurant NAAR by chef Prateek Sadhu plates up a Himalayan crash course