Once you set foot in the bustling and fascinating Mumbai, It may take some time to cross the city and it might be difficult to find the spots but, Yes! Maximum city has some shelter to offer. Arty in Kala Ghoda, Charmingly old in Colaba, or Boho chic in Bandra, pick your cosy way among these three neighbourhoods.
- COSY IN KALA GHODA -
Tucked in the museums and art galleries quarter, this is where the arty people gather. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the Kala Ghoda art festival (first Saturday of February), you might as well experience a colourful journey. Start the day with a healthy breakfast at The Nutcracker, visit a museum or two, have lunch at Britannia and Co restaurant. A coffee at Kala Ghoda Cafe for a little energy fix, take a stop at the Skye Blue Synagogue -Elyyahoo Kenneseth- (a quick look at the inside is worth the glance), shop for some local hipster items at Filter, then for some local movies, music and magazines at The Rhythm house. End the shopping tour with some Indian organic products and outfits at Fabindia. And cool down with a refreshment at the Pantry.
THE NUTCRACKER - Feel good café
This little feel good cafe serves breakfast all day. Friendly owner Anaheeta Bafna created her mostly vegetarian menu with chefs who have worked in well-known establishments such as The Taj Mahal Palace Tower. Their sandwiches and salads are also worth a try, new on the menu is the Chunky Mushroom Burger. Fresh food is prepared in house, and the coffee, using blends of Robusta and Arabica comes from plantations of the southern peninsula region. While desserts are made from fine Belgian chocolate. “The Nutcracker” is also a posh chick headquarter; If you prick up your ears and listen a little you might be able to catch up on the latest gossip, Delightful.
ASK: For their summer cooler and shakes, goes well with anything.
BRITANNIA & CO - Lunch must go
Certainly a must-do in Mumbai, this family run restaurant founded in 1923, settled in a Renaissance style building, is a work of art by Scottish architect George Wittet (famous for the “Gateway to India” monument). The charming 93 year old owner Boman Kohinoor will help you make your choice among his timeless Parsi and Iranian cuisine. London Dishoom restaurants found inspiration in those types of cafés, which only a few remain in Mumbai. Plus, you get to Dine below a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, Mahatma Gandhi and the Zoroastrian prophet Zarathustra. Unlikely.
ASK: For the Chicken berry pulao (rice made with Iranian barberries) and… The crème caramel.
Lunch only 12-4pm. closed on Sundays.
KALA GHODA CAFE - Arty Café
Photographer and owner Farhad Bomanjee created this little café, bakery, and gallery in an early 20th century barn. Its intellectual vibe attracts many students of the area, and is well known for its coffee quality. The organic house blend sourced directly from plantation is made from south Indian Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties. Salads and desserts are also good. Breakfast is served until 13:00.
ASK: for an expresso and a dark chocolate cake, the perfect energy fix equation.
FILTER - Hipster Corner
This little hipster corner store curated by advertising copywriter filters, as well as showcasing the works of illustrators, photographers, graphic designers and product innovators. The store offers a range of products that goes from limited edition prints and stationery, to T-shirts, mouse pads, diaries, sketchbooks… A good mix of local and international modern refined aesthetics.
ASK: For the latest works from Mumbai designers.
11am-7pm- Closed on Sundays
RHYTHM HOUSE - For some Bollywoods
This place knew the golden age of LP vinyl discs, cassettes and compact disc. Rhythm House started in the 1940’s and remained in the same premises ever since. You can’t miss their blue and yellow facade. Selling Indian and western products, they have of course switched to CD’s, DVD’s and Blue Ray since then. Here is where you can find the best of entertainment industry: Music, Movies, magazines… An institution.
ASK: For the best Bollywood movies
10:30 to 19:30
FABINDIA - Shop local
Fabindia was created in 1960 by American John Bissell to curate sustainable rural employments. Today, the brand works with over 15 000 artisans. Their stores (over a 100) offer everything in one go, all made from traditional and hand based processes: Textiles, fashion items, stationery, furniture, organic food… Their body care products are particularly worth the try. All at affordable price.
ASK: For their lemon and mint foot scrub. Such a relief after a walking day.
THE PANTRY - Where you cool down
Tastefully styled, this all-day bakery cafe is a good place to cool down after a long day of touring. The decoration, all white and pastel colours, creates a space inspired by a home kitchen. Which makes it very cosy. The food can be disappointing, so I’d recommend a fruit juice or a cuppa.
- COSY IN COLABA -
Let yourself go to the warmth of old Bombay. In between a visit to The Taj Mahal Palace, and the Gateway of India, head to The Table for a relaxed fine lunch among Mumbai’s beautiful people. Go window shopping at Bombay Electric, take a breath of contemporary art at Chatterjee and Lal gallery, and finish with a cool beer at Leopold Café.
BOMBAY ELECTRIC - Must see
Welcome to the coolest shop in Mumbai. If you’re looking for what Indian emerging talents and indie labels have to offer, it’s right here. Set in a beautiful heritage building facing the Taj Mahal, top names as respected fashion designers Manish Arora, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Sonam Dubal are also represented. The store also serves space for art projects, book readings and exhibitions.
ASK: to try some clothes on to feel part of Mumbai elite, who knows you might have saved enough to afford it in the end.
BUNGALOW 8 - Must shop
Since 2003, Mumbai’s beautifully styled first concept store spotlights the very best of Indian inspired design and fashion. This is where Madonna and Sting shop when they are in town. From dining and living, bath, bed and fashion, everything is lifestyle connected. Walking thru the shop is like living in a dream house. Bungalow 8’s philosophy is to pair “Indian-ness with global-ness”. Charming.
ASK: For their house designed kimonos to bring some cosiness back home
At the time of writing, the Colaba store was about to move to Churchgate.
An organic pop up restaurant helmed by owner Maithili Ahluwalia’s mother is coming up in September.
CHATTERJEE AND LAL - Quirky Art Gallery
Housed in a Victorian era warehouse, the gallery formed in 2003 by husband and wife Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal is an interesting spot if you want to discover the city’s art scene. They focus on the works of emerging and mid-career artists. For the curious ones.
ASK: For the event calendar of artist projects in other spaces within the city.
THE TABLE - Meet the Socialites
It’s a serious affair here, Native San Francisco Alex Sanchez who has been awarded the Best Chef in India title, creates his international inspired menu around seasonal products. Nearly all is procured locally. Small or large plates will adjust to your appetite (and your wallet). The perfect place to dine among Mumbai socialite family.
ASK: For their spiced lamb mini burgers. Good enough to share and to fit into their “lively social atmosphere”.
LEOPOLD CAFE - Legendary
Leaving Colaba without stopping by at “Leo’s” would be a mistake. Immortalized by Gregory David Roberts in his best seller Shantaram, this cafe, bar and restaurant first appeared in the city scene in 1871, and used to be a wholesale oil store and a pharmacy.
Being one of the first sites touched by the 2008 terror attacks, some walls still bear bullet holes. The place reopened 4 days after the tragedy as a symbol of survival. It has always been the place where locals and tourists meet. A legendary landmark.
ASK: For a Kingfisher beer, that’s what to drink here.
- COSY IN BANDRA WEST -
The fast growing high and middle class community in the north of Mumbai made this area a hype of a kind, especially around Pali Hill where expats like to settle. Bollywood is Bandra-centric, so don’t be surprised to see some actors along the way. Here, you live next to them. Start with a cosy brunch at Pali Village Cafe, then some eccentric shopping at Loose Ends, shop nice interior design at The White Window. Travel in time for an unusual drink at Toto’s Garage and finish with an Indian modern twist dinner at Pali Bhavan.
PALI VILLAGE CAFE - Cosy brunch
A 60’s European style restaurant with an Indian touch makes it one of the cosiest eatery in Mumbai. Heritage tiled floor and exposed walls, the decor itself takes you on a journey. Their menu is highly Mediterranean inspired so don’t expect to find typical local food here, for that you’ll have to go to Pali Bhavan next door. However, for brunch, this is the right place to be. Modern and old fashioned.
ASK: For their buttermilk pancakes. It’s just so good.
LOOSE ENDS - Shop Quirky
Ex media professional Madhumita Goswami created this quirky shop that carries home accessories, clothes and retails “stuff less ordinary”. Its goal is to gather things that are “unlike any other available in the market”. Located near the popular Bandra market, you will indeed find products you have never seen elsewhere. Cushion covers, T-shirt, ashtray… A good stopover to buy an eccentric gift.
ASK: For the vintage Hindi film posters. You might be able to find something unusual and stylish.
THE WHITE WINDOW - Local & global lifestyle
Former film actress Twinkle Khanna, ventured into interior designing and founded The White Window, a décor retailed store which aims to present items with timeless designs. Miss Khanna has won an Interior designer reward since then, and her shop provides a wide range of products from local artisans to globally sourced object and vintage pieces.
ASK: For the Buddha head candles. They never melt. Made in India.
TOTO’S GARAGE - Classic quirky bar
A 1970’s WW Beetle fixed on the ceiling, men carrying drinks suited up as mechanics, AC/DC hits playing continuously, this is the scene that strikes you when you enter Toto, a hidden garage turned bar in the heart of West Bandra. Come early to get a seat, as it has been a place to go for years.
6pm - 1 am
ASK: For the Masala peanuts if you dare
PALI BHAVAN - Modern nostalgia dinner
Tejal Mathur, who also designed Pali Village Cafe for same owner Mishali Sanghani, definitely has a taste for stylish interiors. Antiques, vintage Indian photographs she has hunted all over the country gives a chic and nostalgic feeling to this fusion Indian food restaurant. Menu gives a wide range of choice from north to south Indian dishes. Light yet delicious.
ASK: For “not too hot” if you fear spicy
- WORTH THE DETOUR -
CAFE ZOE - One hidden gem
This huge loft converted old mill is a hidden gem in Lower Parel area. Tucked in a prolongation of Senapati Bapat Marg, you might have to ask your way a few times before reaching. The blue frog in the same street can be a landmark. When you have to cross city from north to south this is a good stopover for a western meal or drink (live band in the evening).
ASK: To be seated upstairs to get a nice perspective of the cafe.
CAFE MADRAS - Dosa for Breakfast
This south Indian eatery is a dosa (crisp rice flour crêpe) institution since 1940. The queue at the entrance would vouch for it. You’ll be crying out for more of the masala one and its melting feel in the mouth potatoes.
ASK: for their famous filter coffee, smooth and milky.
07:00 – 14:30, 16:00 – 22:30
Closed on Mondays
HOTEL GURU KRIPA - Samosa everyday
Don’t be mistaken Hotel Guru Kripa is not a hotel. This is how they used to call restaurants in Bombay. Held by the Wadwha family who fled from Pakistan to Mumbai at the time of partition, this place is packed on Sunday’s cause this is where you’ll find the best road side food in town.
ASK: For Samosa parrice (potato pancake) delicious.
9:30 to Midnight
PRITHVI THEATRE AND CAFE - A cosy stage
The cafe of the best established theatre in Mumbai is a must-go. Next to Juhu beach, you can easily relax on their outdoor colourful patio. Enjoy the artsy vibes while tasting their famous Irish coffee.
ASK: To visit the little bookshop and DVD shop related to the performing acts.
- WHERE TO STAY -
ABODE BOMBAY - Call it home
Literally “Bombay house”, the only so called “boutique hotel” in Mumbai and old restored guest house is tucked in the heart of Colaba historical heritage district. Tastefully designed and furnished with a vintage 20th colonial century and art decor, the cosy 20 rooms meet all budgets. Complimentary breakfast and Wifi. Very convenient for a first time in the city.
ASK: To meet Lizzie the owner. She has very good city and travel tips.