San Francisco's Babu Ji Welcomes Personalities With Bold India-Inspired Colors

When Jennifer Singh designed the San Francisco outpost of Babu Ji, she had two sources of inspiration in mind: the spirit of beloved Indian uncles, nicknamed "babuji," and the feeling of wearing your best jewelry. "In India, people living in the humblest of places still adorn themselves with jewelry, and I love what this represents," she said. Singh and her husband, chef Jessi Singh, didn't just draw upon Indian culture to outfit this restaurant, though. In order to create a space of simultaneous extravagance and togetherness, they also thought it was important to weave in the hospitality lessons they learned in Melbourne, Australia, too. "Babu Ji is all about inspiring this indulgence in life, food, and company," she continued. What the pair created is a lush atmosphere of boundless color, where guests can eat Australian-Indian cuisine while surrounded by pieces of distinct, worldly character. The interaction of the design elements — like portraits of fascinating characters against a gemstone color palette, or gleaming accents that intermingle with the bottles of a full bar — is unabashedly vibrant, encouraging people to speak up about intriguing details and bold shades. It's a confident look, but the result is a space for those who have a true zest for life.

Babu Ji bar.
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credit: Katie Newburn

Singh's favorite aspect of Babu Ji is the bar: "I wanted the bar to feel really special, like a jewel," she said. The metal-and-brass floral installation that hangs above the shelves was curated by local artist Jenni Witt, and nods to the floral garlands that Indians adorn themselves in for special occasions.

Bar close up.
credit: Katie Newburn

Singh turned to Allison Eden Studios in Brooklyn, New York for the malachite glass tiles that cover the back of the bar — which is home to an extensive drink menu. Singh had used the same tiles in the New York outpost of Babu Ji, and wanted to bring this element to San Francisco.

Dining room with portraits.
credit: Katie Newburn

Images of a wedding band player on the left and a babuji on the right hang in the dining room as easy conversation starters. "They are so intense and intriguing that even the most timid or shy guests often reach out to our team to ask the story behind these men," Singh said. J F Fitzgerald, a local company, upholstered the peacock blue banquette.

Private dining room.
credit: Katie Newburn

The private dining room is painted in a beautiful inky blue shade. Babu Ji serves thali, a selection of Indian dishes, in traditional copper and stainless steel plates with matching cups.

Portrait against bar.
credit: Katie Newburn

Rebeccah Power's "Mister Singh" gazes out against a green-blue backdrop. "The design details are interesting and stylish, but also are meant to engage the guest who wants to have a deeper experience at Babu Ji," Singh said.