24 hours in Mumbai: An itinerary for lovers of luxury
09:30am: Good morning Mumbai!
Begin your Mumbai darshan (a Sanskrit term for visual contact with the divine) with a steaming hot cup of chai (tea) and a hearty breakfast at Indigo Deli, the elegant café-deli-gourmet hub near the Gateway of India. Order the couscous upma -- a South India meets Mediterranean mélange or the hearty eggs benedict.
10:30am: Shopping for an Indian lifestyle
After a nice morning repast pay a visit to the world of Soma (2nd floor, Amarchand Mansion, Above Golden Gate Restaurant, Madam Cama Road, Colaba; tel +91 (0) 22 2282 6050). Soma's block-printed table linens, razais (pure cotton quilts) in pastel candy colours, hot pink overnight bags, table linens and napkins with block prints just scream India. Think pink lotuses, elephants and marigold prints. Their casual wear and clothes for little kids are chic and comfortable for hot Indian summers.
Move on to Phillips Antiques (Indian Mercantile Mansion, Opposite Regal Cinema, Madame Cama Road, Colaba; tel. +91 (0) 22 2202 0564), Mumbai’s oldest antique store. From affordable bric-à-brac (ask for the Sialkot Wooden Bone box) to stunning antiques, they also carry original engravings and an enviable collection of Tanjore and glass paintings. It’s a journey into vintage India.
Not far away is Ensemble, the temple of desi couture and the original designer boutique in Mumbai. Look for Anamika Khanna and Sabyasachi's bohemian styles, Tarun Tahiliani’s ephemeral silhouettes and Monisha Jaising’s jeweled tunics among many other gurus of Indian fashion. Newer designers like Atsu and Pratima Gaurav add a fresh zing. It’s where the divas of Mumbai shop. For global, cutting edge fashion pick Bombay Electric Mumbai’s answer to Barney’s New York (only smaller and more quirky). Here local design talents blossom, from Delhi’s Anupama to Goa’s Savio Jon, Anuj Sharma and Nachiket Barve. You'll also find in-house label Ghee Butter and Pashma’s pashmina shawls.
Bungalow 8 is owned by the lovely boho chic Maithili Ahluwalia. The store could be the quirky but beautiful house of a grand dame whose life has bounced between India and France for decades, such is the Parisian influence on its decor and product selection. Dining and living occupy the first floor, bathing and sleeping the second and dressing the third. They source goods from all over India and The Bungalow, their in-house fashion label, is Indian craft in French silhouettes, in opulent-to-the-touch textures. Not to mention pieces of iconic couture jewellery by Jamini Ahluwalia (Maithili’s mother) which every woman in Mumbai aspires to own.
1:30pm: For lunch, Mumbai street food on a plate
An Indian vegetarian lunch is a must at Soam (Sadguru Sadan, Ground Floor, Chowpatty, Girgaum Opp. Babulnath Temple; tel. +91 (0) 22 2369 8080). Begin with their fresh and fabulous sweet lassi (yogurt shake) then order the dahi batata puri, an Indian savory snack made of crispy wafers, potatoes, tamarind chutney and yogurt. Or try their pav bhaji (vegetable mash with butter-soaked bread -- mother of all Mumbai street food). Ask for their seasonal recommendation, then try their delicious khichdi (a rice extravaganza) and end with the hot syrupy jalebis. There is always a line, so be prepared to wait.
For a more meaty, Indo-Iranian fusion experience, go to Britannia, for Parsi food -- a unique blend of Persian and Indian cuisines. Order the berry pulao (a chicken and rice dish peppered with tangy cranberries, nuts and spices), salli boti (mutton curry and potato crisps) or dhansak rice (lentil and mutton stew with brown rice). For dessert ignore everything except the legendary caramel custard.
3:00pm: Handcrafted jewelry, colonial furniture and bespoke tailoring
Drive down to Mahendra Doshi (Giriraj Building, basement, 201 Walkeshwar Road, near Teen Batti, Malabar Hill; tel. +91 (0) 22 2363 0526) for colonial style antique furniture (four-poster beds, planters chairs et al) and high quality reproduction furniture. The charming Chiki Doshi and Mahendra bhai will guarantee a trip down architectural India and ensure your treasures reach you safely in any part of the world. The Raj, as the name suggests, is another house of antique Indian wooden furniture and replicas. Ricky Lamba, the dashing owner is one of the most tastefully turned out men in Mumbai. You have to get a fully hand-embroidered kurta (tunic) from this great hole in the wall called Neemrana (6 Purshottam Building, New Queen's Road, Opera House; tel. +91 (0) 22 2361 4436).
The shopping arcade of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower awaits -– a luxe bazaar you cannot afford to miss (some of India’s best shopping is still in its five-star hotels). For precious jewelry go to Gazdar’s (+91 98193 37141), Mumbai’s most celebrated jeweler since the 1930s. Uncut diamonds, vintage and art deco pieces, south sea pearls and traditional south Indian gold jewelry, this is an Alladin’s cave for the modern maharani. Indian Textiles (+91 (0) 22 2202 8783) is your one-stop-shop for stoles, shawls, fabrics and saris. You can buy fabric for a dress or get lost in the luxury of their pure pashmina shawls with fine needlework. You can pretty much guarantee their quality, which is why this is where locals come to satisfy their luxury cravings. Walk along the arcade and spot Joy Shoes (+91 (0) 22 2284 1227) to find the ultimate Indian shod, the kolhapuri chappal, exquisitely handcrafted leather slippers without a single iron nail, for men and women in multiple colors, that can take you anywhere from a casual weekend luncheon to a beach in St Barts. For men’s shirts, head to Maharaja for their linen and printed silk shirts. If you are lucky, they may agree to custom stitch a man’s kurta by your deadline.
6:00pm: Tired yet? Indians revive themselves with tea
Take the most glorious staircase up the heritage wing to the first floor of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower to the Sea Lounge, Mumbai’s period style, classical tea room. Choose from an array of teas and savories, but my bet would be on the bhel puri (puffed rice, garlic chutney, coriander and tamarind chutneys with slivers of onion and potatoes) or the kheema ghotala (mince meat ambrosia) and the cold coffee. Indians love cold coffee. If you do too, treat yourself to this café bakery for a quick snack and cuppa at Theobroma (Shop 24, Cusrow Baug, Colaba Causeway; tel. +91 (0) 22 6529 2929). The palmiers are to die for, and so are the brownies and their mutton patties which you can compare with the sticky ginger cake and mint tea infusion at the new Kala Ghoda Cafe in the art district.
8:30pm: Pre-dinner drink with fashionable locals
Head to the rooftop at this hotel on Marine Drive. There lies The Dome, a stylish rooftop bar perfect for flutes of Moët & Chandon while you admire the view of the Arabian sea and the gorgeous lit seafront of Marine Drive known as the Queen’s necklace. Or jump into a cab and head to the popular new Tote on the turf restaurant and bar at the Mahalaxmi race course, where you can order a single malt and take in the sights and sounds of one of Mumbai's most sophisticated new openings.
9:30pm: Dine, and not before time!
Tote on the turf does some world class global cuisine but what Mumbai really warrants is a spicy seafood dinner. Go to Trishna for the classic butter pepper garlic crabs, or the prawns, squid and clams cooked local style. Order the Hyderabadi dal (spicy lentils) as a side and have it with the Tandoori roti (bread) topped up with Indian Kingfisher beer.
If Tandoori food is more your thing, Copper Chimney (Lotus Court, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli; tel. +91 (0) 22 2492 0505) has some lip-smacking chicken makhani (butter chicken) and naan and the reshmi kebabs (creamy, melt-in-your mouth tender, smoky) or the even more exotic chelo kebab, pieces of char grilled lamb kebabs served on a bed of buttery saffroned basmati rice. Quite sublime.
10:30pm: Partying for the sheer pleasure of it
The Olive Bar & Kitchen in Mahalaxmi is where the city’s most beautiful people hang and anyone who is anyone knows everyone. Its owners are AD and Sabina Singh, whose effortless, laidback style ensures you get your 'Goa meets the Ibiza' fix in Mumbai. Their mezze platter and pizzas are what you want to snack on once midnight strikes.
12:00am: Cinderella-style tourist trap
After picking up a string of fresh jasmine from a street vendor hop on to a classic, horse drawn Victoria carriage along Marine Drive or around The Gateway of India. Rides are available from 8am-12am, but the late night rides, without traffic, are the best. Revel in Bombay’s timeless art deco British roots and balmy seaside weather as you soak in Mumbai’s local and contemporary vibe, one last time.