Spread over two floors in a charming Victorian grade II listed building overlooking Newcastle’s quayside, Khai Khai is a new Indian restaurant that transports patrons to another time and place as much by its traditional Indian comfort food as by its rustic charm and nostalgic elegance. London-based design studio Run For The Hills drew inspiration from Michelin-starred chef Alfred Prasad’s dishes, which are traditionally prepared over hot stones, coals and wood fire, including age-old tandoor ovens, using the interplay of darkness, fire and transparency as the underpinnings of their design. Seductively mixing period details, vintage furnishings, tropical planting and moody lighting, the restaurant’s aesthetic tiptoes between colonial style and urban cool. Coupled with Run For The Hills’ bespoke signage, artworks and branding, Khai Khai is an artfully crafted venue that bridges Newcastle and India with an understated sophistication.
Featuring high ceilings, original bay windows with quayside views, and historical features, the imposing ground floor “Heritage Room” transitions from a convivial, light-filled space during the day to a moody, dimly lit environment that evokes the fireside gatherings in India where communal cooking and eating traditionally takes place. Lime-washed walls in two-tone warm putty tones, burnt chocolate-brown timber joinery and blackened steel elements represent Run For The Hills’ smoke and fire concept as do softly glowing light boxes, tubular lights, and a series of artworks created by the studio’s graphics team, including Giclée prints hand-finished with charcoal and gold foil and a custom wallpaper abstractly capturing the movement of smoke.
Dark stained rattan banquettes, leather and brass dining chairs, and zinc, timber and emerald-green marble dining tables imbue the space with a nostalgic refinement, while Indian antiques and vintage furniture pieces add rustic charm. Tropical vegetation, which extends from the front terrace to the restaurant’s interior with an abundance of large potted plants, hanging planters and vines, enliven the sombre palette of dark earthy hues and further underline the connection with rural India.
Combining period, Indian and industrial references, the main cocktail bar features a green marble bar counter, antique brass bar stools, and a blackened steel gantry wrapped in antiqued mesh and topped with decorative arches. Quite different in design but similar in sensibility, the lower ground floor’s “Parlour Room” bar combines a poured-concrete counter with dark timber cladding, vintage finds and Indian antiques. Swathed in the amber glow of the “Smoke Play” neon sign and the soft light from the vintage sconces and candlelight, the space, which is ideal for after-dinner drinks and private gatherings, is imbued with a sense of Victorian romanticism while conveying some serious urban vibes.