Jobs fill your pockets, adventures fill your soul
Staying in Mumbai’s Juhu district, at THE Park Hotels, is the perfect place to set out and explore the city from
Article by Andrew Threlfall
To those who had never visited the country, India can conjures image of cricket, entrepreneurship and Bollywood on the one hand and gridlocked roads and call centres on the other. Indeed when it comes to Mumbai (formally called Bombay) many merely transit through the city on their way to more touristic locations. Yet such images miss out on what brings the city alive and fail to explain why Mumbai is India’s richest city. So what’s the best way to do this teaming metropolis?
First of all you’re going to need a hotel that provides local insight on the reception desk, the best local tours and cuisine that matches anything on the continent. THE Park Hotels have been around 52 years offering boutique luxury accommodation after pioneering some of India’s most inventive restaurants, liveliest bars and nightclubs, award-winning spas and health clubs. There are eleven hotels in THE Park Hotels collection: seven in India’s major cities (Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai plus the soon to be relaunched one in Mumbai) as well as three in the leisure destinations (Goa and Visakhapatnam). Meanwhile Denmark Tavern, which has opened to great reviews, in Serampore (north of Calcutta) is the hotel group’s first heritage project.
The Mumbai hotel is strategically located in the much sought after Juhu district, home to Bollywood celebrities and also to a new Soho House, virtually across the road. House manager of SH Ben Hanson, arrived last November from Britain and welcomes the new kids on the Juhu block: “I’ve had a look around and it looks astonishing. The decor looks incredible and I’m hearing great things from the kitchen. With the addition of THE Park Hotel, Juhu is now, more than ever, the must stay address.” Compliments aplenty from neighbours, not necessarily rivals.
As no less than 15 chefs show me around the kitchens (spotless, unlike too many in the city) and bring out the iconic lunch menu of coconut water, Chana jor garam, Sev puri, Pav bhaji and Malai Kulfi, I see what Ben and occasional Soho House resident artist, and Mumbai expert Natasha Kumar, mean when they praise THE Park Mumbai.
“It has brought in a sweeping contemporary design, rejuvenating spaces, innovative dining and even a sensuous feel to this vibrant part of the city,” Natasha tells me.
Miss Kumar certainly knows what she’s talking about, having had her first show was at the tender age of 17 at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Since then Natasha has acquired an extensive following among discerning collectors in the UK and worldwide with her work literally exploding on to canvas in a riotous collision of colour and characters, palaces and people, local Coke adverts and holy cows. And contemporary everyday Mumbai features heavily.
Indeed street life lie behind her recent decision to create a triptych of lorry portraits that could come straight out of a Mumbai traffic jam. A recent meeting with the Dalai Lama himself in Dharamsala, and an exploration of the Buddhist caves at Ellora and Ajunta have opened a new creative chapter so watch this canvas, “but this new hotel THE Park, is what really makes Mumbai a great stopover destination, or base to explore from.”
And nowhere is more visceral to explore (the hotel can arrange for you) than Versova Fishing Village, a cacophony of decompressing men back on dry land, emptying out their fresh catch sold, exclusively, by the local women in the Koli Community in their fantastic saris. Go by TukTuk, it’s like being in a Bond film, evading traffic by millimetres.
Relaxing back at the hotel it is a little incomprehensible to think that some of those local fish made it back by TukTuk to Meishi, an elegant restaurant that specialises in Asian inspired all day dining – Japanese, Thai, Chinese, always with a hint of Indian using fresh and organic ingredients. Signature dishes of oriental farm fresh salads, an innovative edamame mezze, avocado carpaccio with silken tofu, and those freshly caught lobster in an authentic Singaporean curry are standouts.
Next door, The Walt, is a dramatic whisky bar with a cosy alfresco patio and booming sound system, if you feel like recreating the very final scene of Slumdog Millionaire.
Overlooking the Arabian Sea, the hotel’s 60 rooms (in six different categories) have views of either the ocean or city while some even pan down over the historic Juhu airfield. A soft monochromatic colour palate, far from the madding crowds and Natasha Kumar’s colour spectrum, is accentuated with a spacious living lounge contrasted with a fuchsia pink round dining table that complements the façade glass windows. The lounge is an ideal place to hold casual meetings, up to now, the principal reasons why people are flying and drifting through Mumbai wondering what to do in their downtime, when not discussing spreadsheets. But that is changing landscape, as are things down by Juhu beach.
With Zone hotels now present in Coimbatore, Jaipur, Chennai ORR and Raipur, and upcoming launches in Mahabalipuram, Bhubeneswar, Jodhpur, Goa, Bangalore, Igatpur, Pondicherry, Coorg and Kelambakkam, the brand will have 17 properties by 2020.
I have to confess though that the Zone have phenomenal staff and management who really stepped up and THE Park Kolkata’s 40 Luxury Premium Rooms and 36 Luxury Rooms really do boast state of the art luxury, such as The Residence, an all suite deluxe floor with 16 Deluxe suites and the Presidential suite providing special in room facilities including private Jacuzzis and personal butlers.
The hotel is known for its mesmerising array of bars and restaurants and Zen, the brand new contemporary, specialty restaurant, promising a “Theatre of Food” from celebrated Chinese, Japanese and Thai chefs. Same with the Indian restaurant, Saffron, fusing the traditional with modern day flavours, while the all-day restaurant The Bridge offers the best of world cuisines.
I guess I will be heading back soon. India is nothing if not overwhelmingly welcoming and full of surprises. And Mumbai? At least make that 24 hour stay 48 hours, and that 48 hours 72 hours. Blow you horn!
Enquiries: THE Park Hotels/ theparkhotels.com