At 7.30 pm sharp the lights come on at Soul Fry, a quaint portugese style restaurant in Bandra’s famous Pali market. Divided into two parts with an indoor bar and an outdoor smoking area, it is one of the few restaurants that has stood testimony to the ever changing Bandra scenario.
Soul fry completes two decades
Started by Meldan D’cunha, the restaurant has seen the rise of many Bollywood starlets and singers ascent to fame. Additionally, it has borne witness to several marriage proposals over the years as well as various announcements. In July this year, it completed two decades since its inception. Apart from the new generation of kids who are looking for something new in the form of something old, Soul fry has its own group of regulars who have chosen to patronize the restaurant for it’s food and ambience.
Soul fry – Design and Ambience
Although the ambience and interiors designed by Clement Desylva have remained more or less unchanged throughout the years, the menu has had significant additions to it. As you enter inside, it feels as if one has been transported to the Bandra of yesterday. The walls have several illustrations mostly by the famous artist, Mario Miranda. What initially used to be a small eatery, known as Little Darlings went on to become an iconic Goan restaurant serving authentic cuisine post it’s renovation.
Soul fry – Owner & Origins
Although he was born and brought up in Mahim, Meldan comes across as the quintessential Bandra boy. Chatty and sharp, he is full of humor and wit. He went on to earn his diploma degree from the catering college in Dadar. He then went on to work at the Oberoi for a decade as the sous chef before working with Carnival cruise line of the U.S.A. He had also partnered with Out of the Blue and was the first person to introduce cheese fondue to the locals before it became mainstream. Using the money he made during his stint on the cruise lines, he decided to invest it in a place of his own and that’s how Soul fry came to be.
Soul Fry – Operations
He has two siblings, Charlene and Kevin. Charlene shifted back to Goa while Kevin opted to stay back and help him run the restaurant. His wife, Glynis oversees the daily administrative work of the business. Of his own admonition he informs me that initially he was skeptical about the success of his own hard work and perseverance. Since he was the first person to introduce the concept of karaoke at a time when it was relatively unknown in Mumbai, he was unsure about it’s appeal amongst the local crowd.
Soul fry –The Karoake Bar
An acquaintance of mine once told me there is a saying in Mumbai, only six degrees separate people and in the suburbs it is a lot less. Within a month’s time since it’s conception, word of mouth quickly got around about the new karaoke bar in Bandra . Since finances was an issue, he opted to do everything in house right from the karaoke screen to curating the retro play lists to hosting the events every Monday night. No cover charge is required for the event, however, if you are planning to go there and have a sit down meal, a booking would definitely be necessary so as to ensure a table for yourself as things can get pretty chaotic during the latter part of the night.
Soul Fry – The TEAM
Every morning, the staff at Soul fry come together to have breakfast before starting their shifts for the rest of the day. Momentous occasions are celebrated with much warmth and happiness in the form of biryani for all the staffers. At soul fry, everyone is like family to each other as is evident during the Christmas season when they get together to sing Christmas carols A restaurant owner hardly ever gets any days off as Meldan informs me. Every day in the early hours of the morning when most people are still asleep, he goes to the market to pick up fresh produce which decides what will be available throughout the rest of the day. Each piece of meat that he selects is chosen after much deliberation based on the supply and price.
Soul Fry – Jazz nights
Over the years, in addition to retaining their original style, they have also evolved to keep up with the changing times thereby bringing something new to the Bandra scene. Reintroducing the concepts of Jazz nights every alternate Thursdays, Soul Fry also plays host to Jam sessions every Sunday afternoon. During these Sunday afternoons, there are a variety of offers as well as reduced rates on several main dishes. Chef Johnny usually prepares the food for the guests. Meldan informs me that he’s been around for a very long time. Anyone can come here and belt out covers or compositions of their own. At the end of the day Soul Fry has incorporated new elements while still retaining its old charm. Ready to offer something to everyone, the best time to visit here would be in the evenings during the monsoon rain just prior to the weekend.