Brief To build the brand identity for Darjeeling Express, and to bring this to life creatively for the restaurant – both onsite and online. This involved concept and creative strategy, styling and art direction, and the designing of graphics and collaterals.
Branding What really sets Darjeeling Express apart from the crowd of celebrity chef-led Indian restaurants and busy chains in Soho is their very human, humble approach to cooking. Darjeeling Express started as a dinner for 12 guests at home, serving Indian food lovingly cooked from family recipes that go back generations. An all-women team of housewives runs the kitchen at Darjeeling Express, and have been doing so from day one. The core proposition was clear: Home-style Indian food, cooked from the heart.
The logo is a clean modern typographic play that also incorporates elements of traditional patterns from Asma’s culture, and its distinct shape allows for a condensed version that still prompts recall. These patterns have also been stylized and included as part of the brand’s secondary assets. The brand palette deviates from the standard ‘riot of colours’ approach to Indian brands. Rather, it’s a more muted medley of shades you would actually find in an Indian home – terracotta, ivory, along with accents of blue for contrast.
Creative direction The brand guidelines have directed all aspects of Darjeeling Express. Together with the rest of the creative team, we created a warm yet elegant dining room: combining neutrals with art
deco-style fabrics and tiles inspired by Asma’s family home in India; incorporating tropical greenery alongside an installation of terracotta cups typical of chai vendors in Calcutta; and mimicking the split-colour walls found in Indian railway stations. The walls are covered with meaningful moments captured by the photographer on his travels with Asma to her hometown. No attention was spared: The condensed logo is printed on custom-made plates, and bills sent out in miniature tea pickers baskets made for the restaurant by the tea pickers at a Darjeeling tea estate.
The website is just as equally a celebration of the fantastic food and heritage behind the restaurant, putting imagery at the core of the online journey.
Darjeeling Express has successfully earned rave reviews from customers and critics alike. It has been featured on The Guardian, Jamie Oliver Mag, Financial Times, among others, and been named by the Evening Standard as one of the 15 best restaurants in London.