By Carolyn Caldicott
Mumbai is changing fast, a rollercoaster ride of eye-opening experiences from the old to the very, very new, and with the recent devaluation of the rupee, there has never been a better time to go. With an explosion of well-documented growth, Mumbai has erupted into a world-class city, chock-a-block with cafes, trendy restaurants, galleries, clubs, bars and great shopping to cater for the new generation of sophisticated young people. Downtown areas such as Colaba, Fort and Marine Drive will always be class acts, but now the neighbouring Bandra, Worli and Phoenix Mills are giving them a run for their money.
WHERE TO STAY IN MUMBAI
Staying at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, in the upmarket central location of Colaba (Apollo Bunder, Colaba +91 22 6665 3518 tajhotels.com), always feels like coming home. This elegant grande dame has welcomed travellers and well-heeled Mubaikers ( Mumbai residents) since 1903, and the impressive guest list has included The Beatles, Jackie O, Mick Jagger, Brad and Ange… to name but a few.
Taj Lands End ( Bandstand, Bandra.+91 22 6668 1234, tajhotels.com. Doubles from £120, room only), a modern temple of luxury and good service, is perched on the southernmost tip of boho Bandra, with far-reaching views of the sea. The choice of Bollywood stars and Mumbai's glitterati, it can't be beaten for location if shopping and nightlife is your priority. A short hop from most of the must-see sights downtown,
The Oberoi hotel (Marine Drive, Nariman point +91 22 6632 5757 oberoihotels.com), with its white, super-chic, awe-inspiring atrium and sublime views of Marine Drive, has offered a serene haven to the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Gere. If your budget is tight, but you don't want to compromise on style and location, check into the small, boutiquey, art deco- inspired Ascot Hotel (38, Garden Rd, Colaba +91 22 6638 5555 ascothotel.com), on a quiet leafy street in Colaba which is a snip at £65, B&B..
WHERE TO EAT IN MUMBAI
Regional Indian cuisine seems very last season in the fashionable areas of Mumbai, and Mediterranean is the buzz word on most hip restaurant menus. Some do it better than others, and Salt Water (87, Chapel Rd, Bandra West +91 22 2643 4441 saltwatercafe.in) never disappoints with bagels, pizza and pasta, and all day contemporary Indian cuisine served in its minimalist interior. For the best seats, head to the laid- back terrace. Pali Village café, above, (602, Ambedkar Rd, Pali Naka, Bandra West +91 22 2605 0401) is the epitome of cool, its modish Mediterranean- with- an- Indian- twist menu and urban vintage interior attracts the tattooed, smart-phone-wielding in-crowd, and makes the perfect hangout for a leisurely brunch.
The Table's, above, (Kalash Peshi Building, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba + 91 22 2282 5000 thetable.in) American chef was famously head-hunted in California to bring fine dining to this seriously cool restaurant, a great place to kick back with a glass of wine and savour well balanced Pacific Rim fusion food. For authentic South East Asian cuisine from Vietnam, Burma, Korea and Thailand, relax in Busaba's (4, Mandlik Rd, Colaba +91 22 2288 2808 busaba.net) lounge bar with an eclectic young crowd.
For stylish Italian dining head to Indigo, above, (4, Mandlik Rd, Colaba +91 22 66368981 foodindigo.com), the innovative place that pioneered Mumbai's restaurant revolution, or drop into its sister café, the buzzing Indigo Deli (Pheroze Building, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba +91 22 6655 1010 foodindigo.com), to feast on Italian specialities from the in-house deli or treat yourself tolate-night homemade ice cream, cakes and cappuccino. You must experience at least one truly Indian meal, so choose Rajdani (361, Sheikh Memon St, Crawford Market +91 22 2342 6919 Rajdani.co.in), a superb, vegetarian thali restaurant: just say yes to everything and your empty thali plate will be filled to the brim with delicious, regional dishes. For the very best street- stall cooking and a carnival atmosphere, join the smartly dressed queue for a chicken tikka roll at Bademiya (on Tullach Rd, behind Taj Mahal Palace +91 22 6161 237 (zomato.com/mumbai/bademiya-fort
WHERE TO GO OUT IN MUMBAI
The place to kick off the evening watching the sun set over the sea is the cool, all-white rooftop lounge bar The Dome (Hotel InterContinental, Marine Drive +91 22 3987 9999 intercontinental.com/hotels/gb/en/Mumbai, then head out to Bandra for a cocktail or two at The Elbo Room (St Kutir Building, 13th Rd, Khar, Linking Rd, Bandra West), a casual neighbourhood bar with outside seating and a funky sound track. Join the well-heeled crowd at nearby Escobar (199 VN Sphere Mall, 4th floor, Linking Rd, Bandra West +91 22 4276 0000), whose location on the 4th floor of an unassuming building gives it a speakeasy feel. Black-clad bouncers usher you in to this ultra- designed, low-lit space with a 77 ft teak bar and fabulous roof terrace.
For a thumping local vibe, cosy down in a glowing orange pod at Mumbai's fabulous Bluefrog (Mathurdas Mill Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel +91 22 6158 6158 bluefrog.co.in), a top music venue for local and international bands. End the night at Aer, gazing at the stars, listening to low-key house beats from resident DJ and marvelling at the extraordinary views from this rooftop bar at The Four Seasons Hotel (114, Dr E Moses Rd, Worli + 91 22 2481 8000 fourseasons.com). Drinks might not be cheap at £8 a cocktail, but style this good always comes at a cost.
WHERE TO SHOP IN MUMBAI
Mumbai has endless shopping opportunities, it's really easy to get side-tracked and lose valuable hours so you need a plan. For a large slice of the ' new Indian cool' first stop has to be Bungalow 8, (1st Floor, Grants Building, 17, Arthur Bunder, Colaba +91 22 2281 9880 bungalow8.com), Mumbai's first concept store with a New York loft feel. A favourite with Sting and Madonna, it showcases three floors of awe-inspiring style dedicated to unusual Indian-inspired interior and fashion finds. Next stop is Bombay Electric, above, (1, Reay House, Best Marg, Colaba +91 22 2287 6276 bombayelectric.in), the fun, high-end fashion store favoured by Mumbai's fashion folk, and venue for Liz Hurley's swimwear launch. Choose from one-off pieces by India's up-and-coming designers, soft, soft cashmere, hand-picked antique tribal jewellery and vintage objects.
For handcrafted artisan products, designed with an urban audience in mind, you can't beat Fab India (Jeroo Building, 137, M.G. Rd, Kala Ghoda, Colaba +91 22 2262 6539 fabindia.com), a unique Indian brand with a huge range of contemporary kurtas, scarves, shawls, beauty products and homeware. It has now joined forces with the funky and fashionable Play Clan store, who have a whole floor in the Bandra West branch (Shop 4, Libra Towers, Hill Rd, Bandra West, +91 22 264 1675 theplayclan.com), so you can kill two birds with one stone. The Shop (57/116 Drego House, Ambedkar Rd, Bandra West, +91 22 2648 788 theshopindia.com), is in a similar vein, its designs for clothes, bedding and bags are made with naturally dyed, handprinted textiles, keeping traditional Indian techniques such as hand loom, quilting and embroidery alive and kicking.
For hard-core shopping head to Linking Road in west Bandra, where international brands, such as Levis, Mango and French Connection showcase their latest collections with a price tag at a fraction of the cost in the UK. The southern end of the street is lined with stalls packed full of super cheap designer knock-offs and a crush of punters bargaining for the best price. Small one-off boutiques are tucked away on the quiet roads radiating from Linking Rd, take a wander down Waterford Rd and browse its independent, Notting Hill-style boutiques. And don't forget to visit Good Earth (goodearth.in), a kind of Indian Habitat specialising in delicious fabrics, cushions, glass and china in their signature designs. They have several stores to choose from but the best is in Phoenix Mills Raghuvanshi Mill Complex, Senapti Bapat Marg + 91 22 2495 1954 goodearth.in
WHAT TO WEAR IN MUMBAI
Gone are the hippy chic days of harem pants and flip flops, this is now a town with serious attitude, labels are de rigueur with Chanel, D+G and Louis Vuitton coming up trumps. Skinny jeans, statement handbags, designer shades and high, high heels are obligatory. Team with one-off, home-grown designer pieces from Bungalow 8, above, (bungalow8.com) or charcoal grey printed Ts from Play Clan (theplayclan.com), who also do a great line in slinky T shirt dresses printed with Indian icons.
DON'T LEAVE MUMBAI WITHOUT
Discovering the thriving contemporary art scene in Mumbai, takes you off the tourist trail into a hidden underground heaven. Unassuming doors in crumbling mansions open into clean white spaces exhibiting the very best modern art in India. Start with The Volte galleries (2/19 1st floor, Kamal Mahal, Arthur Bunder Rd, Colaba,+91 22 2204 1220, volte.involte.in, Guild, 3rd Pasta Lane, Shahid Bhagat Singh Rd, Colaba,+91 22 2288 0195 guildindia.com and Chatterjee and Lal, 1/18 Kamal Mahal, Arthur Bunder Rd, Colaba, +91 22 2202 3787 chaterjeeandlal.com) clustered around Colaba, and see where the mood takes you.
Shop like a local for spices, tiffins, fabrics, ethnic jewellery and handmade leather sandals in the Crawford market area. It's a bit of a crush, but well worth it for the bargains to be had, and the chance to experience a slice of real Mumbai life.
WHERE TO GO FOR PAMPERING IN MUMBAI
Nothing counteracts the effects of hours on the plane like a spa session. The excellent Jiva Spa at Taj Lands End (tajhotels.com) offers sublime treatments from Ayurvedic to stress-busting deep tissue massages with a complimentary steam to start. Mumbai has some fantastic hair salons and, as it is all about pampering here, a relaxing head message is always thrown in. You can have a cutting edge cut or colour for a fraction of the cost in the UK (haircuts hover around £10) at Smashh ((shop 2, Shivanjali Society, 35, Dr Ambedkar Rd, Bandra West, +91 22 2648 8095) or Mad or Wot Clove Building, Ambedkar Rd, Bandra West, +91 2 6529 0288, madowot.com). After hours pounding the streets, make sure you make time for the best pedicure of your life at Taj Palace hotel beauty salon (tajhotels.com), and if you're missing your yoga, the Yoga House, above (53,Chimbai Rd, Bandra West, +9122 6554 5001, yogahouse.in), in a stunning converted mansion, offers well -taught classes from ashtanga to flow in its airy, white-washed studio. Join the class afterwards for a wheat grass in the House's peaceful café.