Delicious turtle burgers and an inviting atmosphere are how most loyalists remember Sundance Café.
As the walls of one of Mumbai’s oldest haunts are torn down for a French bistro, with them go memories from a different time, and a different south Mumbai.
“There was nothing quite like Sundance,” said Farideh Vakil-Murao, 55, a former English theatre actor who frequented the café with friends in her youth. “The mood and atmosphere were very homely. The café introduced us to hot dogs and burgers, which we had never had a chance to try before. I am deeply sad that it has shut down.”
For freelance writer Shabnam Minwalla (who did not wish to disclose her age), a regular at Sundance in the 1980s, the loss feels personal.
“I kept telling my children that I would take them,” she said. “I regret that I didn’t end up doing so before it shut down.”
The menu, the vibe and the pricing were all friendly at Sundance Café, and the new owners — Satyen Melwani, 30, Frederic Fernandez, 28, and Cedric Combe, 33 — say its successor, Chez Vous (French for ‘your place’), will reflect these sentiments.
So even though terrine de foie gras, chateaubriand, French wine and absinth fountains will replace the steak sandwiches and beer, the bistro owners promise the place will be far from intimidating.
“When we ate at Sundance Café, we loved the vibe and how popular it was among all kinds of people…young, old, families. And that’s how we want to keep Chez Vous, so that you can walk in wearing what you like and feel at home,” said French entrepreneur Fernandez. “It’s a myth that French food is elitist. Most bistros in France are meant for casual dining.”
The all-white bistro, now weeks away from its opening, will house a 20-ft-long bar on the ground floor; you’ll be able to choose between hardwood tables, couches, sofas and poufs to sit on, and the blackboard will list the chef’s specials — a trademark element at bistros across Europe.
“We will be maintaining the windows, because they are beautiful,” said Melwani, the bistro’s Indian partner. “The pillars outside will get a black finish, and we will scrawl the menu on them every day.”
A lot will change at this Churchgate institution in the iconic Eros building, but just as Sundance did in 1979, Chez Vous will encourage Mumbai to try something new. French cuisine, this time.