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Sleep: Mumbai

Mumbai has some of the planet’s priciest real estate. To best appreciate its hotels, channel your inner Bollywood star and prepare for helipads, VIP bars and fragrant gardens

Sleep: Mumbai
Lotus Suite Bedroom at the JW Marriott Hotel Mumbai.

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Juhu/North

The water’s not for swimming in but if you want boho bars, hotels with sea views and strolls on the sands alongside jogging Bollywood stars (plus minders), Juhu is the place. Chhatrapati airport’s new T2 is a quick hop east along the access road, lined by plush hotels (the glitzy Hilton is great for indulgent layovers). And watch this space for the Mumbai branch of Soho House, set to open to Juhu’s artistic elite by the end of the year.

We recommend: JW Marriott Hotel Mumbai
The buzzing Lotus Cafe is one of the spots for the Mumbai weekend hotel-brunch ritual — a pair of Bollywood stars were brunching here when I visited. Food is served at market-style cooking stations — everything from wood-oven pizza to grilled Arabian prawns — with live Indian music filtering down from the atrium. Elsewhere, vast picture windows frame palm-shaded gardens, curvaceous pools and the beach. Contributors to weekend brunch include chefs from all six hotel restaurants, including the Michelin-starred, Spanish Arola – Restaurant and Bar, and Saffron Indian Restaurant — headed up by a fourth-generation descendent of the esteemed Qureshi clan of chefs from Lucknow. The large spa attracts affluent residents, while the 352 guest rooms (in seven price categories/sizes) are generously proportioned, with big bathrooms, Nirvae Botanicals products, robes, slippers, and complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water. Don’t miss the wedding shop, supplying Technicolor outfits to the hotel’s steady stream of moneyed matrimonial guests.
Rooms: Doubles from £140. marriott.co.uk

Best for beach walks: Sun-n-Sand Mumbai
Located on Juhu Beach, this good-value, unpretentious 120-room hotel has a sunny beachside terrace, pool and kebab and biryani bar (Kebab Hut). It also has a newly opened Chinese restaurant, Haochi (Chinese is the new Italian in Mumbai hotels) plus a small health club, 24-hour cafe and cheery breakfast conservatory. There are six room categories with sea-facing rooms costing a bit extra. All tariffs include breakfast, tea, coffee, water, a generous array of toiletries, and airport transfers.
Rooms: Doubles from £78. sunnsandhotel.com

Best for tranquil gardens: The Leela
Established by botanist and former Indian army general, CP Krishnan Nair, this 391-room hotel is dominated by fragrant gardens, tropical blooms and huge, sculptural flower displays, along with work by artist Rajeev Sethi. Restaurant Citrus claims to have the city’s biggest breakfast buffet, serving everything from gluten-free muffins to traditional idli (savoury breakfast cakes). The Indian branch of New York’s Le Cirque restaurant opened here in February, attracting the inevitable Bollywood buzz.
Rooms: Doubles from £98. theleela.com 

 

Mumbai Hotels - Premier Ocean View Room at The Oberoi

Premier Ocean View Room at The Oberoi, Mumbai.

Nariman Point

The financial district’s best hotels overlook Back Bay, the sandy arc of Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive (‘the Queen’s Necklace’). Just inland is the grand Victorian Churchgate Railway Station, 17th-century St Thomas Cathedral, and the CSMVS museum, housing miniature paintings and Hindu/Buddhist sculptures. And don’t miss a trip to Crawford Market, south Mumbai trade hub since the days of the British Raj.

We recommend: The Oberoi, Mumbai
No trace remains of the extensive damage done to this five-star hotel by the 2008 bombings that blighted many parts of the city. Extensive restoration has returned the serene calm, and a palatial atmosphere has been created by a new palate of cool creams and whites. An ocean of marble flooring is offset by a centrepiece scarlet Ritmuller piano and an expanse of blue sea, visible from the Champagne lounge’s picture windows. Above the lobby, a 14-storey atrium of 287 guest rooms (in eight categories) repeat the tranquil shades, with contrasting burnt orange and scarlet soft furnishings, and marble side tables inlaid with semi-precious stones. Glass-enclosed bathrooms (with electronic blinds) mean those staggering sea views need never be forsaken. Dining is equally impressive. Italian restaurant Vetro has over 1,200 bottles of wine in its cellar, while Ziya, the modern Indian, serves up adventurous cocktails and delicious tandoori lamb, plus standout appetisers such as potato fritter with cardamom lassi, and almond and pea tikka. It’s also a great place to watch the sparkling lights and life of Marine Drive. And should you decide to join the train of cars snaking north to the clubs of Bandra, a 24-hour spa is on hand to beautify you.
Rooms: Doubles from £171, including breakfast. oberoihotels.com

Best for Marine Drive — for less: The Trident
In a tower block adjoining The Oberoi, this is a slightly more budget five-star offering (by Mumbai standards). The rooftop pool has superb views of the Arabian Sea; book one of the rooms from the 15th floor up to get the best panoramas. There’s a well-regarded spa/gym and three restaurants including the playfully titled India Jones, a pan-Asian serving everything from teppanyaki to regional specialities. The 550 rooms come in eight categories, most in cool creams, blond wood and contrasting reds.
Rooms: Doubles from £81. tridenthotels.com

Best for quirky extras: Vivanta by Taj
Situated in the posh Cuffe Parade district, this 292-room hotel attracts a loyal local business crowd with such quirky extras as an in-house astrologer and pet-friendly rooms. Alternate floors are designed by a Japanese and a US architect — the former employing wood, natural fibres and light airy colours; the latter, more masculine hues, chrome and marble. The pool is modest but the Jiva Spa is sumptuous. The hotel’s three restaurants include the Konkan Café, serving South Indian cuisine.
Rooms: Doubles from £92. vivantabytaj.com

 

Mumbai Hotels - Taj Lands End

Maritime by San Lorenzo restaurant at the Taj Lands End, Mumbai.

Bandra/Worli

The chicest of Mumbai’s smart western suburbs, Bandra is home to Bollywood ‘bungalows’, the Walk of the Stars (the city’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame) and restaurants serving posh street food to a hipster crowd. Leafy, residential and wealthy, it feels a world apart from downtown, although the elegant Bandra–Worli Sea Link has slashed commuting times. Just south of this bridge, the district of Worli hums with bars, restaurants and shops. This and the neighbouring Lower Parlel district are together the place for designer shopping.

We recommend: Taj Lands End
The landscaped gardens and swimming pools of this elegant Bandra hotel run down to the seafront; a three-storey atrium overlooking the lobby lends an amphitheatrical elegance, made intimate in the evening by a cathedral’s-worth of candles and a tinkling grand piano. It’s easy to see why this is a favoured spot for high tea, with a menu of chaat (savoury street food), finger sandwiches and Champagne. Up above is the newly opened Maritime by San Lorenzo restaurant. Don’t miss the excellent house wine, Fratelli, a recent partnership between a local and an Italian vintner. Masala Bay, next door, serves superb modern Indian cuisine, like seafood shorba (soup) and tandoori salmon and dahl handi (salmon and black lentils). Over 18 floors, the 493 guest rooms — in five categories — are decorated in a palate of cream, gold and beige. Most offer spectacular views of the sea, the mansions of Pali Hill or the Sea Link, arching across to downtown’s cityscape.
Rooms: Doubles from £141. tajhotels.com

Best for artistic types: Le Sutra
A novel offering in business-oriented Mumbai, this 16-room hotel features the work of 120 artists — including a mural by Baz Luhrmann — while rooms are themed around Indian mythology. Elsewhere, the rooftop art gallery hosts regular exhibitions, up-and-coming designers sell clothing in the pop-up shop, and a lively crowd congregates at the garden cafe.
Rooms: Doubles from £87. lesutra.in

Best for nightlife: Palladium Hotel
At the centre of the Phoenix Mills nightlife and shopping hub, this former Shangri-La skyscraper hotel has two trendy top-floor (38th) venues: Asilo, an open-air lounge bar that’s great for sundowners and laid-back DJ sets; and the two-floor Exo club. The lobby features silver filigree, oversized lanterns and a dramatic curved staircase. The 390 guest rooms include palatial Executive Suites.
Rooms: Doubles from £103. palladiumhotel.in

 

Mumbai Hotels - Abode Boutique Hotel

Abode Boutique Hotel, Mumbai.

Colaba

The bawdy bazaars of Colaba are the touristy heart of the city and home to the honey-coloured basalt Gateway of India. Built to mark the 1911 visit of George V and Queen Mary, it was from here the last British regiment sailed after independence in 1948. Today it’s where an armada of tourist boats depart for the cave temples of Elephanta Island. Near the gate is a statue of Shivaji, the warrior king revered by the people of neighbouring state Maharashtra.

We recommend: Abode
A welcome asylum from what can often seem a ‘50 shades of beige’ Mumbai business hotel scene, this new 20-room billet, set in 110-year-old Lansdowne House, is kitsch, classy and original. The style is mischievously multicultural, with beautiful Bharat tiles, exposed brick, high ceilings, wooden beams and bookshelves laden with books on international design, art and architecture. The lobby has a little breakfast bar centred on a 19th-century chandelier, overlooked by a circular window and two identically set clocks marked ‘Bombay’ and ‘Mumbai’. Hand-drawn signs, in English and local Marathi, are the collaborative work of British graphic designer Katy Buckley and local truck painters. Follow these along creaking wooden corridors to guestrooms featuring vintage wicker furnishings, Bharat tiling, white linen and bright modern photo collages of Mumbai scenes. Each has a wet room or freestanding bath (some share loos), with slatted wood flooring and polished concrete walls. Old enamel teapots and copper carafes crown bedside tables, lit by vintage-style wall lights. A truly bargain boutique.
Rooms: Doubles from £35 (shared loo) and from £59 (en suite). abodeboutiquehotels.com

Best for living history: The Taj Mahal Palace
Unlike many landmark hotels, this 560-room palace — a refuge for maharajas and dignitaries — is spectacular inside and out. The flower-filled gardens and tree-shaded pool are pure colonialist fantasy, while the lounges are stuffed with choice pieces from a 4,000-piece art collection and every chandeliered, colonnaded corridor has a story to tell. A cuppa at a waterfront table in the Sea Lounge is not to be missed, either.
Rooms: Doubles from £132. tajhotels.com

Best for unique boutique: The Gordon House Hotel
Much vaunted as the city’s first boutique hotel, this off-kilter offering is a rather bizarre mix of styles, with three floors offering differently themed rooms: Mediterranean, country cottage American and Scandinavian — or at least an Indian take on these. It’s cheery, bright and fun, with quotes from Oprah and Miss Piggy adorning the lifts and a popular pan-Asian bar-restaurant downstairs.
Rooms: Doubles from £118, including free wi-fi. ghhotel.com

More info

How to do it
India specialists, Greaves Travel offer tailor-made tours to Mumbai. Five nights costs from £1,590 per person, based on two travelling, including b&b accommodation at The Oberoi, Mumbai, flights with Virgin Atlantic, private transfers, guide and sightseeing. greavesindia.co.uk

Virgin Atlantic flies daily to Mumbai from Heathrow. Economy fares start from £614. virgin-atlantic.com

 

 

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Published in the October 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)