Step into Pooja Bedi’s Happy Soul Café for wholesome wellness moments. Eat fresh, healthy, ambrosial food in the café. And take home the goodness from the retail store. Pro tip: Do not miss the hemp.
A heady whiff of lavender led me straight to Pooja Bedi’s Happy Soul Café in Anjuna. The fragrance whooshed up my head but in my mind a song was swirling — Pehla nasha, pehla khumar from the famous film Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar in which Pooja Bedi had a Marilyn Monroe-esque moment in a billowing red dress. That song is Bedi’s phone ring tone and an essential on my long-drive playlist.
By the entrance door is a highly Instragrammable print of butterfly wings where you can spread your arms and proclaim: I am a Happy Soul. On the left is a rack with herbs grown hydroponically. The space is very inviting. In a calm sophisticated manner. White rattan chairs and settees. Tables in red flower and dragonfly sheath. Onion pink glasses. Plastic flowers hanging from the concrete trusses and wrapped above chandeliers on the service counter. Aqua teal plates. Heart-shaped coasters. Servers in pink tees. Colourful bottles sitting neatly in backlit shelves. There’s something about the space that instantly perks you up. Like an unseen bliss borrowed from the unseen air.
Pooja Bedi was in conversation with a Hindi film actor. As I waited, I picked wisdom from the framed aphorisms — Being healthy is a success that many people forget to celebrate, Laughing 100 times is equivalent to 15 minutes of exercise on a stationary bike. I even tried one of the toughest tongue twisters from the wall: The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick. I, predictably, fumbled.
The monotony of the twisters was shattered by the warble of a Hello. Hello. Hello. Pooja Bedi’s geniality took over. “What will you eat? No, no, eat first, the interview can wait. What will you drink? Tell me, tell me, will order that first.” I have interviewed many but such affection for a stranger is rare.
The Happy Soul Café menu is very large. Paleo. Keto. Vegan. Vegetarian. Gluten-free. Soups. Salads. Noodles. A bunch of hummus listing. Chia Pudding. There are busters, boosters, detox, high-energy drinks. There’s a Fat Buster, Cellulite Buster, Stress Buster Smoothie; Happy Lungs, I love my Heart Smoothie. The Brain Booster juice has kick and a personality (I did not add the adjectives, Bedi says so). In it are 3 tomatoes, 1 bunch of kale or spinach, 1 large stalk of celery, 1 large Jalapeno, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 4 ice cubes and 2 Ow’Zeal Brahmi capsules. I did not have to ask the server the minute details — it is all listed on the Happy Soul website (www.happysoul.in). Not only are the measures mentioned, their goodness is detailed too. That’s such a consumer-friendly detail, you know what’s in the glass and can replicate it at home.
“We need to share the goodness of wellness with everyone. Everyone deserves to live a well-balanced happy life,” Bedi adds like a spirited campaigner for wellness.
And nowhere is there a speck of processed sugar. At Happy Soul Café, the evil sulphur-whitened sugar has been blacklisted and coconut/date sugar embraced.
Other than the scrumptious renditions of greens, millets, grains, poultry and fish, there’s hemp, too. Hemp hearts. Hemp seeds. Hemp pasta. Hemp seed oil. Honey Hemp Chicken. Hemp Buckwheat Pancakes. There’s even a Hemp & Hearty 420 Bowl — a dish that’s deceptively healthy.
Before the puritans start outraging over hemp, let it be known that on November 15, 2021, India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) recognised hemp seed and hemp seed products as ‘food’ as long as the cannabis-derivate contained less than 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.
While hemp was not on my pretty aqua teal ceramic plate, the mezze platter was laid: non-wheat pita bread that came with an entire hummus family (edamame, beetroot, black sesame, green pea) and the Lebanese muhammara which was like manna from heaven. Perhaps Bedi quickly discovered my love for the walnut-red pepper muhammara. She picked the bowl, plonked it on my plate and said, “All yours. Have all of it.” Told you, that kind of affection for a stranger is rare.
Between dips and almond pita, Bedi reiterated that Happy Soul Café & Retail is a culmination of all that she has done, learnt, braved, and embraced in life. In one long breath, she talks of pain, of reiki, of metaphysics, of spirituality, of gurus, her journey as an entrepreneur, and her plan to bring all things wellness under one umbrella. She’s not afraid of anything. Not of the past, not of what awaits her. She embraces everything. In one long moment of gracious acceptance.
As I got up to leave, Pooja Bedi shook a bowl spilling with what looked like tiny square cards. “Pick one,” she exhorted. I picked one. It read: If you want to conquer the world, shed the baggage. “Manifest it into the world. You’ll conquer,” Bedi said with the sagacity of one who has lived life to the fullest.
I have never read a self-help book. Never sat at the feet of a guru. But I could listen to Bedi as perhaps a wellness zealot is wont to. When Pooja Bedi talks, she buttresses it with scientific evidence. When she tells you a story, you believe she has lived the moment. When she curates a menu, you know it is not the long-drawn fats versus carbs battle, the war about fibres or unending debate about to eat or not to eat meat, it is only about good food. Pooja Bedi is my new good food/life crush.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars; Pooja Bedi gets all the stars for that infectious warm-heartedness)
Vibe: Remember that absolutely beautiful Pehla nasha, pehla khumar song…. Happy Soul Café is a pretty extension of that pristine love
One dish we loved: Mezze platter, tender coconut water with coffee.
One thing that didn’t work for us: Plastic flowers are such an anomaly in a space that is all about all things organic and natural
Good to know:
Address: Happy Soul, House No. 650/5 at D’Mello, Gumal Vaddo, Anjuna, Goa 403509, Phone: +91 98200 51130
Timings: 8 am to 8 pm. All days of the week
Instagram: @happysoullifestyle, @poojabediofficial
Free wi-fi: Yes