From a random conversation during hours and hours of traffic jam, HOURS: Coffee & More was born. HOURS in Kelapa Gading was created out of an idea to create a space for spending time and creating memorable moments with loved ones. Inadvertently, it has also managed to be come a place for people from various backgrounds to set aside their differences and connect.
There are a couple of prominent figures behind HOURS, including Jeffrey Budiman — distinguished architect from Grain & Green design studio, vintage car enthusiast, and dog-lover. We visited HOURS to meet him, talk over fried banana fritters plus coffee, and learn more about the café’s design and what makes food so special.
HOURS is one of the most well-designed cafés in Kelapa Gading. What’s the concept?
When it comes to design, we just let things flow. People who travel abroad have said that HOURS has elements of French modern design. To be honest, we don’t have any specific theme in mind. It’s all about giving twists to common practices in design and architecture. How to make an inexpensive material more than what it is. To recycle, upcycle, or repurpose discarded materials into something unique.
What are the examples of those?
Look at the ceiling. It’s covered in egg trays. Egg trays are really cheap, IDR 500 a piece, and it gets thrown away just like that. So we paint it white, give it a new life, and put it on the ceiling. It’s great for acoustics as well—not bad at all. And see three bell-shaped lamps over there above the coffee bar? Those are wastafel (washbasin) turned upside down.
Anything else at HOURS that is not what it seems?
These tables. Sturdy tables usually require expensive materials, so we searched for an alternative in the market and found this besi siku (stainless steel L-profile). We bent it and used it to support the tables. It’s cheap and readily available, but we twisted it into something different.
HOURS has a distinctive exterior look. Tell us a bit about it.
One of our founders is the distributor of Makita tool kits. These tool kits are shipped inside a box. That’s the inspiration behind our exterior structure, an opened box. Besides that, my partners and I love greeneries, so what greets you in front is a lohansung tree imported from Taiwan. Japanese people like to place this tree front of their house, as it gives a welcoming feel. It’s actually the most extravagant feature in HOURS. A row of orange trees line the side windows to add a comfortable touch. Something natural, but uncomplicated.
When it comes to the interior, we notice that there are higher and lower tables. What’s the reason for that?
Well, in my home, the tables are quite high. I find it more relaxing to work on high tables with my feet perched on a stool instead of the ground. Perhaps there are others who feel the same. With high tables, you can also switch position—standing instead of sitting. These tables, like everything at HOURS, have no sharp edges. God’s creations are all rounded, and we want to follow that.
Are you satisfied with HOURS’ current design? Or is there something that you want to fix?
With HOURS, it’s about creating a continually-evolving space. We alter our space every a couple of months based on what’s going on. The coffee machine? This year is the Chinese year of the dog, thus we cover our La Marzocco with dog figures. Change is necessary to keep people interested. Our table setting is flexible as well, it can be easily adjusted for events.
What’s the decor theme for now?
A lot of things are happening in June. On June 15 we have Lebaran, while June 22 is Jakarta’s birthday. We combine the two. Architecture is my background, and I see a lot of great old buildings in Jakarta. My studio made scale models of those to be displayed in HOURS. This one, Metropole, is back to its glory after the last renovation. However, Pasar Gambir and Hotel Des Indes in Duta Merlin are not as lucky. Imagine how those two looked in the past! We hope to educate people to care more for historical buildings. Despite the progression of technology, our city is not getting better. As for Lebaran, we try to incorporate the festivity with some world-famous mosque ornaments near the window.
In general, what do you think are the characters of a good cafe or restaurant?
Number one is most definitely the food. Noodle stalls are simple but people still come because the taste is damn good, right? It’s true that humans naturally see the casing first then the content; dari mata turun ke hati. But if the food is not good, no matter how beautiful the place is, people wouldn’t want to come back. Then, service. Food is good but service is lousy? People would be hesitant to come back as well. Third, pricing. Is the price reasonable, or overpriced? Finally, design and atmosphere. People these days require a place to have a certain standard for taking photos. But at the end of the day, food is what truly matters. As long as the ambience is relaxing, great for chatting with friends, it’s enough.
In your opinion, what’s the indicator of a well-designed restaurant?
For me, scent. As I enter any room, I immediately notice if there’s any foul smell. Lavishness is not important, but a good ventilation goes a long way. Smelly toilet is a big no. That’s the reason why HOURS has a cool, well air-conditioned toilet. Not humid, as it will cause unpleasant sticky feeling on the skin. So yes, be smart in using air conditioner. Good acoustics, but again, nothing too complicated, just right for conversations. We’re not making a music room.
How does design affect customers’ dining experience?
Yes, design affects customers’ dining experience, but personally I don’t want to go overboard. If people come and they are only amazed by the looks, it defeats the purpose of a restaurant. Design should not be intimidating, but fitting and supporting.
What have you learned from running HOURS for 8 months?
That unexpectedly, food does unite people’s heart. It’s true. When the need for food is fulfilled, it’s easier to truly converse with a person. Here’s an extreme case. The demonstrators? They need nasi bungkus before they can start start shouting and protesting. Another example, in Christianity, Jesus gathered people over food before he could start teaching. The same goes with all religions. Food connects hearts. It’s beautiful to see HOURS as a vessel and place for people with different skin colors and religions connect. We all breathe the same air after all.