SoulBytes is a wholly unique, holistic, soul-nourishing coffee roaster and bakery located in the heart of Seminyak, Bali, specialising in excellent coffee and delicious, contemporary Australian café-style food. Alongside innovative and original dishes made with the freshest, locally sourced produce and their own specialty-grade coffee blend roasted in-house, SoulBytes serves reminders to connect with others and to lead rich and meaningful lives, nourishing not only the stomach but also the soul.
The driving engine behind SoulBytes’ philosophical and humanitarian goals is owner Ilario Colli. He was inspired by the work of Alain de Botton when considering the premise for SoulBytes; in particular his work Religion for Atheists, in which de Botton discusses the ideal restaurant: “The modern restaurant should be a refuge from coldness and anonymity, a place where customers leave better people than they were when they arrived.” This passage had a decisive influence on Colli’s determination to explore this concept in café form.
A native of Perth, Western Australia, Colli describes himself as ‘a man of letters’ with his interests based in the arts, humanities, literature, philosophy and music. Fluent in English and Italian with a good knowledge of French, German and Spanish, Colli was a brilliant student, studying at University in Perth, Bologna, Stuttgart and Vienna. As a former composer and classical musician, his love of music saw him launch a career as a music journalist, engaged by Limelight magazine, Australia’s foremost classical music publication. His passion for writing led him to begin a novel based around classical music, and whilst researching, to immerse himself in the works of the great philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Musil, Sartre, Heidegger and Camus.
“In many ways, SoulBytes is an attempt to bring many of the major thought motifs of existentialist philosophy to a wider audience, in the hope that they might be able to help others live more happily and wisely,” said owner Ilario Colli. “In this sense, it can be said that SoulBytes has a very strong humanistic and even existentialist underpinning. It is, in other words, animated by the idea that in this life, we alone are responsible for creating our own meaning and happiness. SoulBytes was always about more than just serving great food and coffee but also very much about nourishing the soul.”
Colli fell in love with Bali during his first stint on the island in 2014 before moving to Koh Samui to work on his novel Sidonia. He recognized that Bali had become an epicenter of great food and beverages, second to none in terms of sophistication in South East Asia, so in 2016, he returned to Bali, knowing it was time to realize his dream of opening SoulBytes.
SoulBytes’ philosophical and humanitarian goal is achieved in various ways. In a pledge to be more than just a café, to nourish the soul as well as satisfy the taste buds, SoulBytes has filled its beautiful café space with soulful, often interactive reminders to connect with others, show kindness, and lead rich, examined lives, in a hustle-bustle world, dominated by technology, where such vital human imperatives are often overlooked. There’s a “hug spot” on the floor, where, if two people are standing on it, they hug. A copper bust of Socrates, the father of modern philosophy, greets the customer as they walk in, and they can choose to rub his bald head to gain a touch of his wisdom. With every coffee is served an inspiring quote by one of history’s great writers, to inspire customers to re-evaluate their choices and live richly and meaningfully. Along with food, “SoulCards” are served; cards with thought-provoking questions, such as “Have you achieved your purpose in life?” and “How could you describe your essence with one word?” to prompt customers to examine their choices in their lives in order to live better and more meaningfully and encourage them to connect each other through more intimate and soul nourishing conversations. Through SoulBytes’ coffee charity scheme, a percentage of every standard coffee sold is donated to charity, so their customers are given the opportunity to contribute to others’ happiness and spread kindness.
SoulBytes’ extraordinary and unique interior is designed by Caroline Usher of Ushers by Design, the same genius responsible for the design of Mamasan, Salazon, and Shanghai Baby.
Central to the design of SoulBytes is a spectacular art installation by Australian artist Jack Bromell, running along one wall of the space. It represents a two-month collaboration between the artist and owner Ilario Colli, with concepts and ideas from Colli’s favourite philosophers, executed in a surreal, dreamlike and emotionally charged style. SoulBytes’ central bar is more of a functionally perfect piece of art, with long solid wooden curves that sweep around to provide the anchor for the tall, refinished steel frame, extending to the ceiling. The frame itself comes alive as a beautiful maelstrom of shadows and angles with the addition of the fantail-bird lighting enclosed within, reminiscent of an Escher painting floating in the centre of the space. There are a variety of tones and textures in each different zone within the space, with a rich colour palette of reds, blues and yellows, accented by strikingly graphic elements such as the mural and the herringbone design of the floors.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, SoulBytes’ food philosophy is to serve original and creative recipes, tantalising both to the eyes and to the taste buds, made with the freshest and highest-quality ingredients and, above all, with passion, compassion and love. Guests enjoy dishes that are a synthesis of the existing and the new, taking contemporary Australian café cuisine and adding unique touches to create delicious and highly innovative culinary novelties. The SoulBytes in-house bakery produces baked delicacies not only for the café, but also for wholesale to businesses throughout Bali and Gili Lombok.
“At SoulBytes, we are committed to cooking with the healthiest recipes and ingredients, preparing meals that satisfy appetites and nourish guests physically and mentally,” said Colli. “The SoulBytes team believe in minimizing the negative impact our species makes on the environment and our fellow living creatures, so all our products are prepared in full respect of ecologically sound principles.”
Coffee is a fundamental and defining part of the SoulBytes experience, where good coffee making is an art, and the barista’s work is like that of a skilled artist. The baristas are highly trained and competent, well versed in coffee-related matters and bursting with a passion for their craft. SoulBytes has their own house blend, roasted on-premises in an especially installed roasting lab replete with a state-of-the-art Probat roaster; an inimitable blend using 3 – 4 single origins, each contributing to the overall flavour and unique character. In support of the region’s excellent coffee bean industry, the blends use various Indonesian beans, including those from Flores, Java and Sumatra. Among the highlights of the coffee menu is a selection of unique and creative signature coffee drinks. SoulBytes’ unique blend is also distributed wholesale to businesses in Indonesia.
“SoulBytes is a place where people come to step away from their busy lives for a while,” said Colli. “I love that customers leave not only having enjoyed a beautiful meal or coffee, but having found replenishment for the soul as well.”