HomeLifestyleFood, fashion, and a slice of culture at Cafe Kalki in Mettupalayam

Food, fashion, and a slice of culture at Cafe Kalki in Mettupalayam


Cafe Kalki located on Ooty Main Road is a cheerful place to sit back, relax, and enjoy a simple meal

Cafe Kalki located on Ooty Main Road is a cheerful place to sit back, relax, and enjoy a simple meal

For Karunya Rajan, founder and creative head of Kalki Design Studio, a sustainable fashion label based out of Mettupalayam, 33 kilometres from Coimbatore, the lockdown became an opportunity. She started Cafe Kalki in Mettupalayam six months ago, right at the foothills of the Nilgiris, to showcase her Indo-Western clothing line over samosas and coffee.

While the charming décor features art deco trinkets and curated furniture, the open space and greenery bring a friendly, neighbourhood vibe that is instantly calming. “Coimbatore lacked a space where you could just build a community, a space where creative people could spend some time together or collaborate. I chose Mettupalayam, my hometown, as people here are still connected to their roots. We have a farm here. I take care of our potato mundi at the vegetable market here. There is naivete to life which is very much incorporated in the work we do,” explains Karunya.

One of her first collections was Sungudi which she describes as a conversation between the cultures of Madurai and Saurashtra. People from Saurashtra came to Madurai and used this craft as a way to earn their living. They taught the locals, settled, and made the city their home. “My clothes speak about where I come from, my South Indian culture, and my roots. The clothing label brings together art, literature and textile and we have been a part of lit fests in Jaipur and Chennai, and the Biennale in Kochi. Having raised in a family where you see your father and grandfather wearing khadi every other day, I was naturally inspired by Indian handlooms,” says Karunya, adding that she also did a collection called Manjal, based on turmeric crop that is a part of every South Indian home.

Hand embroidery work at progress at Cafe Kalki,
| Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

The studio involves the community, women and men, to make hand embroidery or patchwork. “We have a farm where we have families working with us for over 60 years now. Their children, who work in mills and garment units, are involved in embroidery and tailoring with us as part time work. We also train them if they are interested,” says Karunya, adding “A lot of designs use patch work where we upcycle scrap: any scrap can be converted into a thing of beauty. When an element of human hand is involved, it becomes more than a value addition, a tangible feeling. The beauty just adds on and the wearer gets to experience it.”

Karunya says that food became an important part of this story quite organically. “It’s an open space where anyone could walk in, break away from the air conditioner, breathe fresh air and enjoy a simple meal,” she says. Stating that the space is deliberately “haphazardly done,” she says, “The walls are left bare. We want to bring artists who want to be seen or to simply talk about their creative process. The place was created to bring in the creative community who can also take back something.”

 Breakfast bowl at Cafe Kalki

Breakfast bowl at Cafe Kalki
| Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

Karunya roped in her friend Swapna Srinivasan to run the kitchen at Cafe Kalki. “We enjoy biting into crisp samosas in Mettupalayam and that’s how mutton samosas made it to the menu,” says Swapna, adding that their focus is food that is fresh and local. It was during her stint in the US while working for a software company that Swapna explored food scene there. “I loved the red meat, beef, and pork. I plan to introduce small plates with items like Mexican tacos, tapas, beef burgers, and pizzas too.”

She says the menu is a fusion of South Indian, Continental, and a few Thai dishes.

Decor at Cafe Kalki

Decor at Cafe Kalki
| Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

The breakfast smoothie bowl stays true to the philosophy: a generous strawberry, banana smoothie is topped with crunchy granola and pomegranate. The coconut curry bowl features noodles and vegetables dunked in a spicy coconut curry. “I tasted it during a trip to Fort Kochi in Kerala. We tweaked the flavours the way we like it. The lemon grass coconut curry served with herb rice and house salad is inspired from an amazing shrimp curry I had in Sri Lanka,” says Karunya, adding “We make spaghetti in butter sauce instead of olive oil and garlic. There are local favourites like biriyani and parottas too.”

Cafe Kalki is located on Ooty Main Road. Call: 9791708079



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