You all remember going out for brunch? Although it has begun to feel like a distant memory, we all find ourselves craving for it every weekend. These four months of quarantine have made us realise how much we took little things for granted – a nice brioche French toast, a well-cooked Mexican omelette or a simple avocado toast. But perhaps what most of us miss more than good food is an escape from our homes and go to a place that transports us somewhere else. Themed restaurants do just that – they take us to another world; much like, Deja, a chic and beautiful small cafe in Lahore that transports its visitors all the way to Paris and gives them an exclusive experience that’s pleasing for the eyes and the taste buds.
Brainchild of Khadija Shafqat, Deja is a beautiful tribute to Khadija’s journey and time in Paris, where she pursued her MBA in luxury brand management culinary. She came back to Pakistan to open ‘Dessert Directory’ with partners, consulted for a few restaurants and returned to Paris to do a couple of courses. Eventually, she came back and opened Deja, a reflection of who she is, her experiences and journey so far.
Although themed cafes are the buzz, most of them are replicas of the famous ones, leaving no space for innovation and creativity but this cafe is different. One step inside and one can notice the personal touches and the uniqueness of this chic little cafe. Wide French windows, grey and pink colour tones, gold wrought iron furniture, floral decoration and vintage chandeliers welcome the guests at Deja - making them forget they’re in Lahore.
“The cafe sums up my experiences till date. Since the project is solely mine and my husband’s, I had all the freedom to do it how I want to so it’s a mix of everything. I like to think of it as a narration of my own story and how I began growing over the years.”
Khadija points towards the botanical illustrations and chalk doodles on the wall and tells You! that this part of the cafe particularly depicts her growth. “I personally admire nature and gain inspiration from it. The blooming flowers and nature around me fascinate me and I wanted to show life in the cafe’s decor too.”
For the doodle, she brought together her friends and some professional artists who drew something or the other and helped Khadija make her dream come true. The illustration on the wall made a rather fun and memorable experience for all of them. Perhaps, that’s what makes it so much more unique and personalised.
The most interesting decor element of this cafe is that it’s done completely by the chef behind it. Not only is Khadija the head chef and the owner, she’s also the interior decorator because she wanted to give it her personal touch. And that shows – in everything from the carefully curated sleek furniture in tones like gold and pink to the shades of grey on the walls, and the floral decor here and there.
On one corner wall, there are some clipboards hung that have the ingredients and illustrations that Khadija uses the most in her food. “Some of them also have stories of where these ingredients come from and their properties, that help people understand the food better,” tells Khadija. The same clipboards are used for menus and they add so much to the overall decor and experience people have at the cafe. Khadija likes exploring; she found clipboards at a store, bought a few and decided to paint them black and gold, giving them a personal touch and making them look perfect to go with the overall decor.
When asked why she chose to go with the theme of grey, gold and pink, Khadija told You! that she actually wanted just grey and gold because of how good the two look together but it felt like there is a need for another colour. “Since pink is my favourite colour, I thought why not and it actually ended up looking great together. I think everything looks good in pink anyway and blush pink, gold and shades of grey make an amazing combination,” she explains.
When asked if she was at any point afraid that having tones of pink is going to make her cafe target women and girls primarily, she said that thought or fear didn’t cross her mind. “I do agree that majority of my guests are females but I wasn’t afraid of it. It’s not just the decor, the look and feel of my food is also more female centric.”
Coming back to the charming ambiance, the space looks well-lit during most hours of the day, thanks to the huge windows on both sides of the cafe. Khadija herself is fond of daylight and wanted to capture most of it. She added some real plants to make the space look closer to nature.
While the chandeliers that hang on the ceilings remind one of European decor, the furniture used is classy but minimalistic. “There was no theory behind it but I knew I wanted sleek gold chairs and when I saw this design, I felt like it would go very well with the entire ambiance,” elucidates Khadija. The decor also keeps transforming with time and for every special occasion like Valentines, Christmas, Eid and Halloween, there are unique installations and additions to the decor.
Undeniably, Deja is a chic and beautiful space that not only serves great food and the tastiest cakes and doughnuts but also takes you to another world. We can’t wait for it to reopen once the Covid-19 madness is over so that we can dine in amidst a Parisian setting!