[Long Truong/Unsplash]

The Bombay Club and Don Vappie

00:00 December 19, 2012
By: Emily Hingle
[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

The Bombay Club is a stately, yet comfortable establishment of entertainment that embodies the spirit of the French Quarter nestled in with a British gentlemen's lounge look. I say "entertainment" because the Club caters to all of your senses; you are encouraged to unwind in style in plush furniture surrounded by rich, dark wall colors while experiencing decadent food and craft martinis and listening to only the best live music. Bluesman Luther Kent is a regular performer as well as restaurant customer; he loves their food. Chef Ricky Cheramie serves elegant steaks and lavish meats like duck and calamari.

No matter the English influence, you can't help but notice the local feel. The menu boasts lots of Louisiana seafood like Blackened Redfish and Seafood Platters dictated by the seasonal market, and appetizers like Stuffed Crab Artichoke Heart and drinks like the Mint Julep Lemonade. Owner Richard Fiske, a native of Boston, strove to make the Bombay Club more of a supper club than an ordinary restaurant or bar. "When I took over the bar, not only did I want to perform on my restaurant in the style of Nouvelle Cuisine of New Orleans, and Louisiana, but also to provide a showcase for our local entertainment, so I've been doing that for 16 years," he said. I'm proud to say that my customers enjoy a very unique environment to enjoy the finest jazz, rhythm and blues, and local music right here at the Bombay Club, and that's what makes us so popular." The entertainers that he chooses for the club are also some of his personal favorites. "I have a lot of local performers that are some of the most outstanding musicians there are in the city," Cheramie said. He struggles with naming the top few. "Sure, I've got my favorite entertainers: Lillian Boutte, Leroy Jones, Don Vappie. They play all over the world. Don plays with Eric Clapton, but Don plays with a lot of famous musicians because of the quality of his music."

Jazz guitarist, banjoist, bassist and arranger Don Vappie has garnered a worldwide reputation for being an A-list musician. He recently returned from France and spoke about performing at Carnegie Hall. He has relatives that have also made a name for themselves, like Plas Johnson, who played the saxophone on the Pink Panther with Mancini. "Then another cousin Renald Richard, who wrote 'I Got A Woman' for Ray Charles," Vappie said. He was Ray's first bandleader. His son Thaddeus is still playing around here. He played sax with Paul McCartney in 'Wings.'" Don's family has included musicians for at least 200 years, even his uncles had a barber shop near Buddy Bolden's home. Vappie was encouraged to indulge in music by his mother when he showed an interest in playing, even though his father was wary of the future he might face. "My dad thought I should have something to fall back on," he said. "My mother once told my dad because I really wanted to play, and a lot later she told me this, she told him, 'You gotta let him to do it. It's in him.'" Don believes that music is essential not only to the city's culture, but for life in general. "What I do is important, just as important as a guy who designs a space shuttle," he said. "People like me help us all stay sane. I really believe that. It's a window into who we are culturally. New Orleans music has a social function and has a place in our society. It's interesting that no matter what music was popular, in terms of pop music, New Orleans music still had a function in the social world." He explains how important and distinctive our history of mixed ethnicities and customs is to the city's collective culture. "Here we have these multicultural influences in everything: architecture, music, in our accent, rhythms we feel, the way we live, the way we cook," he said." I can always find a place to fit in, and I know that's got to be because of all the different things that are a part of who we are." Don was hard-pressed to name restaurants he enjoys because he believes his mother is the best chef. She is also hard to win over at restaurants. "When I take my mom out, she's always telling me, 'This isn't right,'" he said. "I love to eat, and I've had to control that addiction." He did say that he enjoyed Susan Spicer's restaurants, and Scallops seem to be one of his favorite dishes. "I was telling Richard, the first time I ate at the restaurant, the only thing I could compare it to was a meal in the Northern part of France; a pasta dish with scallops that were fresh out of the channel."

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