Mumbai is a city, but Bombay is an emotion.
And it is Bombay, that Soho House’s first Asian outpost, has encapsulated so skillfully into its essence at Soho House Mumbai. With a slightly crowded front owing to the city’s impenetrable traffic, the 38-room hotel and clubhouse has the scent of Juhu Beach as a luscious breeze, all packed into an 11 story house facing the Arabian Sea. Usually flocked with dewy skinned, georgette flowing, chunky wristwear clad socialites, it was almost a subtle mandate to look naturally fit and alluring for whomever one might make eye contact with. And more. So we had to pack to match.
The vibe was simply alluring, what with a colonial house that had the blue and green and white colors of Havana, with awnings and balconies that danced to the honking cars as the palm trees waltzed in grace. While further away from the South Bombay haven of Marine Drive where the elite resided, it was at arm’s length from the Bollywood studios and media, owing to its entourage of people watching media.
The many spaces of the building had an identity of their own, changing moods and hues as the sun splashed into the walls all day, and transformed with musical interludes by dusk and night. Rajasthani design fused with Art Deco with Indian antiques and curio items from local artists. The green, I realized, was Jaipur marble with rattan panelling. The rooftop was the cherry on the mutli-layered with respect to the crowd, the dome shaped cabanas and a glitterati of young, affluent, artistically inclined hormones flocking in and out. Other spaces were the library, the cinema, the Italian staple Cecconi’s on the ground floor and a more intimate array of dining spaces in between. All the artwork was sourced by South East Asian artists like Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Thukral and Tagra.
The bedrooms are adorned with French Provencal style beds flanked by gigantic Victorian era lampshades that were covered with sari fabric, the kind that also was used as linen drapes that seductively swayed in the breeze. Patterned tiles flanked the cool floor (even in the bathrooms), and the polished teakwood showed no signs of being worn by the humidity of the streets. There were also quirky vintage touches like rotary dial telephones and retro radios.
The bathrooms were massive, with green and white tiled floors, deep bathtubs, and Cowshed therapy beauty products. One of my favorite indulgences, in addition to the rosé wine served complimentary in my suite for a morning sip or a salacious evening pre-game.
Breakfast began in my room with masala chai, coffee, and homemade biscuits, taking me right back to the days when I could eat guilt-less-ly enjoy real butter and flour sweet morsels. Waking up to the sunrise and the crashing waves was a sensual stupor that I could savor for a lifetime.
Up on the rooftop, the cuisine was a mingling of Eastern and Western favorites, against the backdrop of the gushing Arabian sea. Under the colonial era fans with the waves ushering and splashing in to a morning welcome, the honking cars of the streets felt like a faraway city, despite being just a few stories downstairs.
Being a beverage boy, I savored the spiciness of the turmeric and black pepper tea in whole cow’s milk (haldi doodh), as well as the kadak (sharp) black tea served street-style in a glass! The dosa was crisp, freshly made and served with a whipped cilantro coconut chutney that was a staple for my breakfasts in India. Less common but more hearty were the fried bhajias: vegetable tempuras of potatoes, onions and tomatoes fried in a spicy batter and formulated into such shapes that one couldn’t gauge one vegetable from another! Quite the hangover remedy.
The bites were equally luscious, and being in Bombay, I skipped the Italian scene-y space downstairs and chose my roti, daal, gravy dipped veggies and jasmine steamed cashew vegetable basmati rice instead – hot, steaming and undeniably indulgent.
After days spent longingly in the city, the same space transformed into a gathering crowd for the glitz of the city, and cocktails matched the hormonal levels with equivalent stupor. My favorite citrus infused whiskey washed with desi ghee, essentially getting the liquor level high while leaving a garnish of ghee on my tongue and lips for a decadent bite (and sealing in sparkling moisture). The gin and elderflower cocktail was more sober, blending into the floriagraphy of the ambiance.
The nights were spent soaking in the sweeping views and engaging with the newfound loves by the undulations of the pool waters, which while no match for the vast sea, was a crafty backdrop to enticing conversations.The one thing that lulled me to sleep were the dramatic views of the Arabian sea and the sound of waves crashing, which conjured so many dreams.
Of sunshine and sea breezes.