A sense of deja vu enveloped us as we entered the lobby of Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport, for we were reminded of our stay at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport. This time, we were not in the city of Mughals but in the city of Ganpati visarjan, vada pav and Bandra bandstand, which also happened to be our hometown. Ankita was a little tired from her trip to Dwarka, Gujarat (tales to come very soon) and a sweet staycation at a plush hotel with a relaxing spa treatment, rooftop pool and all-day dining was just what the travel doctor ordered.
The vast lobby was very tastefully done, with walls plastered with botanical art, high chandeliers and the warm-toned lighting that adds an extra touch of luxury. We were given a room on the seventh floor, not with great views because this was an airport hotel after all, but with a comfy bed, soft carpeting, TV, writing desk and tea/coffee maker – all in an earthy colour scheme. Our bathroom was not too bad either. The only thing missing was a balcony. After a refreshing cup of coffee, we set about exploring the hotel.
Tattva spa was on the very same floor, while the fitness centre and swimming pool were on the top floor, along with a beautiful rooftop garden. The best part about the fitness centre was the view of Mumbai city with the mountains beyond. Of course, the array of fitness equipment was also impressive. In the evening, we enjoyed treatments at Tattva spa (shirodhara for Ankita and potli massage for Mohit) and you can read all about it here. After our treatment, we made it to the rooftop right in time for sunset.
We really like the space-saving concept of wall gardens, which has become popular in hotels worldwide. We wandered around admiring the flowers and views in the soothing saffron warmth of the descending sun. Late evening was the best time to take a dip in the glorious infinity pool with sweeping views of the city and mountains and miniature palms on either side.
The pool seemed to be extremely popular with the hotel’s guests – we went there many times during our stay and not once did we find it absolutely empty. The pigeons of the area had made it their favoured haunt as well, and many kept us company from the ledges as we floated on the deep blue water. Lying down on the lounge chair after a good swim and a glass of cool water (or something headier if you prefer that) made us feel like all was right with the world.
We enjoyed a scrumptious dinner and breakfast at Saptami, the all-day dining restaurant at the lobby but more about that in our next post. 72, the bar adjacent to the restaurant seemed to have many exciting offers as well. Here’s some information to help you enjoy a staycation at Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport like we did:
Address: Near Sakinaka Metro Station, Sakinaka Junction, Andheri Kurla Road, Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400072
Phone: 022 4085 1800
Tariff: Rooms begin at around 5000 INR per night. Book here.
The warm cocoon-like feeling of a good spa treatment can be ridiculously addictive. So of course, we ensured that a relaxing hour-long session at Tattva Spa was part of our weekend staycation at Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport.
We sipped on delicious kokum juice, an interesting departure from the customary green tea as we browsed through their brochure. The treatments offered were a good combination of Ayurvedic and international therapies.
While the wellness experiences looked interesting, we decided to go for shorter therapies instead. After all, the pool and dinner at Saptami restaurant were waiting for us. Ankita opted for a Shirodhara treatment while Mohit went for a full-body potli massage. Shirodhara is great for soothing the nervous system as well as relieving head and hair woes.
We were given a choice of four different oils called pranati (energising), pavitra (cleansing), dhyaan (meditation) and vishram (relaxation). In keeping with the relaxing nature of her treatment, Ankita chose the dhyaan blend, while Mohit decided to try the pranati blend.
Our massage rooms looked extremely inviting, with jasmine flowers laid out on the bed, a comfy bathrobe, slippers and of course, disposable undergarments, towel, lotions and bottled water. There was a bathroom within the therapy room while the steam room was a short distance away.
The masseuse began by washing our feet in a copper tub filled with fragrant flower petals and lukewarm water. Thereafter, Ankita enjoyed a rhythmic pour of warm oil on her forehead, along with a wonderfully stress-relieving massage of her head, neck, shoulders and feet. The masseuse was adept at unravelling stubborn knots in the neck. Mohit enjoyed a complete body massage with “potlis” filled with potent herbs and dipped in warm oil.
Once our respective treatments were over, we convened at the steam room to allow the oils to soak in and our skin to benefit from the warm steam. When you sweat in a steam room, the toxins are released from your body leaving you feeling pure and rejuvenated.
We ended with a cleansing shower and little cups of green tea, while we filled up a feedback form. At around 4000 rupees for each treatment with taxes (Ankita’s treatment was complimentary), we felt it was an indulgence worth repeating.
Juhu, the home ground of Prithvi Theatre, is one of those lovely pockets of Mumbai that is unfortunately a little hard to reach. Lined with posh residences, celebrity hang-outs, the original Natural’s ice-cream outlet and the sea breeze from Juhu Beach, this swanky suburb is home to more than one fancy hotel. But Novotel Mumbai is our favourite. We have so many fond memories of this hotel – wonderful sunsets at Gadda Da Vida, a bachelorette staycation for a friend and a few corporate events, all of which let us bask in the familiar hospitality of the Novotel group. But last night, we were there to sample the Navratri buffet at The Square, their 24 hour signature restaurant at the lobby.
The entrance was suitably festive with a wall decorated with festoons and dandiya sticks, ideal for a short photo session before the hunger pangs hit. The lavish menu with an emphasis on vegetarian fare and Gujarati cuisine had been overseen by Executive Chef Kailash Gundapalli, with a special Tam-brahm counter curated by Food Consultant Geeta Hari.
Ms. Hari, resplendent in her pattu podava (South Indian silk sari) ensured that we tried the raw banana bhajias, neer mor (a Tamilian version of buttermilk with lots of green chillies and curry leaves), panagam (a sweet drink made of jaggery and ginger), and “Tam-brahm idlis” fashioned from the special rice flour popular in the South.
We began with bowls of steaming hot and spicy dal rasam. Sous Chef Devendra Kunwar also plied us with a variety of starters such as paneer tikka, fried baby corn and vegetarian kebabs. And how can we forget our friendly server Prateek, who made the excellent recommendation of some Fratelli Sangiovese (their house red) to go with our meal?
While all this special attention was fantastic, we were itching to get our hands on the enticing buffet spread that curved around the seating area. We tried the dhoklas and khandvi from the Gujarati counter, a few salads, capsicum usili, arbi gravy, French beans poriyal and curd rice from the Tam-brahm counter and some dahi wada from the chat counter. Yes, there were all a lot of sections and we couldn’t decide which one was the most appetising. We were absolutely floored by the Tam-brahm fare – Ankita is one herself so you can trust us.
There was even an Ayurvedic salad counter featuring sprouts and an array of raw vegetables. But we were more drawn to the platter of til laddoos (out of place perhaps or maybe Ayurvedic in nature!); they turned out to be melt-in-the-mouth and buttery.
For this feast, the vegetarian dishes had been emphasised as the nine-day menu coincides with the Hindu festival Navratri. But meat lovers wouldn’t be disappointed either as there were plenty of non-vegetarian dishes on offer as well. The Tam-brahm section featured primarily onion and garlic-free dishes sourced from the Palakkad region of Tamil Nadu and fussy eaters had the option of ordering pasta and pizza as well. A choice of varied fried papads, including our favourite sago (sabudana) papad went very well with the food. A pav bhaji counter and North Indian fare such as paneer masala and many other vegetable preparations completed the feast.
But we’re forgetting something, aren’t we? Dessert was a sight for sore eyes – balushahi and milk cake, sweet pongal, mango cheese cake, Florentine chocolate cake, eggless varieties of many indulgences, a variety of ice-creams, a unique “coconut slice” and our all-time favourite baked yoghurt with muskmelon lay spread out before us. We tried many (we aren’t about to reveal the number) of the aforementioned treats and came away replete.
Book your table at 02266934444:
Address: Novotel Hotel, Juhu Beach, Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu, Juhu, Mumbai 400049
Dates: 21-29 September, 2017
Timings: Lunch 12-3pm, dinner 7-11pm
Price: Rs. 1773 per person (can be upgraded to a champagne buffet at an additional cost)
Sip on artisanal cocktails and dine on gourmet Italian and Mediterranean fare at The Daily Bar & Kitchen in Bandra, Mumbai, a restaurant whose aesthete is part grunge and part experimental art.
The name plate outside proudly states that the restaurant was established in 2013, in a font that’s reminiscent of the 19th century. If that’s a strategy to make folks think it’s one of the oldies, it could work.
Inside, there are two parts to the restaurant. The lower level is smaller and practically empty during the day – the real action is at the upper level, which houses the bar and sports a ceiling strung neatly with various framed newspaper clippings of interesting articles over the years. This could be great for a first date where you’re hunting around for things to talk about. For instance, did you know that Nicki Minaj has been funding an Indian village since several years, contributing to its computer centre, tailoring institute, reading programme and two water wells? We bet your date didn’t.
Black dominates the colour scheme and the music and lighting nudge you to categorise this place as a pub. But the menu is far more extensive that what a pub would have and now they even have lunch specials, which is what we were there to experience.
It was a Saturday afternoon and the restaurant was nearly empty when we walked in. But this could also be because there was a crew shooting a film at the lower level. Our couch-table was super comfy and splashed with patches of inky black. We were presented with four different menus – a regular food menu, the lunch special menu, drinks menu and wine list. We sampled the first three – and we were mostly delighted by everything that made it to the table.
Every cocktail that came recommended was unarguably awesome. From the ones we ordered ourselves, a few were all right. The rest paled in comparison to the more exemplary ones. So our advice is to go with the server’s suggestions based on your spirit of choice.
We wanted to start with whisky-based cocktails from their signature list. The server was keen that we try Elysium, but we also ordered a Majestic Mame. The two looked almost identical when they arrived, except for the fact that the Elysium was deep gold in colour while the Majestic Mame resembled diluted watermelon juice. We weren’t entirely sure about the Elysium because it contained curry leaves but one sip and we knew this was one of the best whisky-based cocktails we’d ever tasted. The drink also contained dates, apple juice and rosso. Majestic Mame couldn’t quite compete with the genius of Elysium but it was pleasant enough, with the infusion of apricot brandy, basil and cranberry tea.
Mai Tai, from the ‘Tiki cocktails’ section came in a dramatic mug carved with an angry pirate’s face. The tall concoction of white rum, dark rum, orgeat (a non-alcoholic syrup), pineapple and orange juices was good enough for two and the orgeat lent a wonderful floral, nutty flavour to the rum. The Contender was the other white spirit-based cocktail we tried and it was served in a cosmopolitan glass. The fruity cocktail composed of vodka, poire, pear, mint, nutmeg is ideal for those who prefer lighter drinks.
When we were done with our meal, we spotted the ‘molecular cocktails’ section on the drinks menu. Our curiosity was piqued. The server’s recommendation was Gypsy Queen but we also went with a Wild Card because it included bourbon in lieu of whisky. The molecular cocktails are priced a notch higher than the signature ones but the only difference is they are poured before you, with light fumes of dry ice making their way into the air. In terms of taste, we feel the signature cocktails are superior. The Gypsy Queen was really good, with the sweet and spicy notes of clove, cinnamon, peach and apple wood smoke. The Wild Card was just all right and lacked character even with the inclusion of triple sec, martini dry, cranberry-infused tea and hickory wood smoke.
We don’t have a single criticism to make about the food at The Daily Bar & Kitchen. Be it the aesthetically served salads and starters or the nachos piled so generously with the good stuff, everything here is beyond perfect. Our main course was so scrumptious that we finished it despite the obvious lack of space in our cocktail-filled tummies. We wish we could’ve tried the desserts as well but it’s always good to leave something for next time.
From the lunch specials menu, we went for the layered halloumi cheese, watermelon and fig salad. Topped with chopped fruits and mango salsa, the salad was juicy, sweet and refreshing. The cheese and fig provided a satisfying fullness to the salad and the lettuce and radish made every bite a brilliant burst of flavours and textures in our mouths.
From the regular food menu, we opted for the chef-recommended patatas bravas and loaded nachos. The nachos came with an interesting twist – beer infused cheese sauce. The kidney beans, mayo, tomato and jalapenos were nothing short of perfect. We thoroughly enjoyed the nachos thanks to the lavish serving of mayo and cheese sauce.
Ditch the French fries and gorge on their succulent potato pockets as we did, filled with ratatouille vegetables, mascarpone and garlic aioli sauce. At six pieces per serving, this is ample for two people and the beetroot slathered at the bottom is a great accompaniment. The gooey vegetable and mayo topping ensured that every bite was full of cheesy goodness.
For mains, we decided on the oven roasted tomato and olive stuffed ravioli. To be honest, the dish wasn’t the most visually appealing when it came to the table. But when we began to tuck into the house-made ravioli, the wonderful stuffing of oven roasted tomato, olives and pine nuts cooked in a chive butter sauce began to work its magic on us. The warm and flavourful tomato sauce topped with pine nuts and goat cheese made us positively rapturous.
In a nutshell, even if you ordered from the menu purely at random, you’d probably be delighted with every gourmet morsel that entered your mouth.
A lot of people come to Mumbai to find a job, make a life or fulfil a dream. But do a lot of people aspire to travel here? Does Mumbai inspire the same kind of awe that Cherrapunji or Spiti Valley do? Probably not, but it’s definitely deserving of a different kind of awe. Because quite simply, there’s no other city like Mumbai. No other place comes with the kind of chaos, tolerance, haste and multitude that this city does. As a tourist, you might balk at the impossible fullness of Mumbai’s trains and the stench of its seedier areas. But peel back the layers and you’ll also find inspiration in its seafront and stories, its history and heart.
The Arabian Sea snakes along Mumbai’s coastline, endowing the city with many scenic seaside spots. The queen among them has to be the iconic Marine Drive, immortalised in numerous films, songs and literature. Be it in the wee hours of the morning when the promenade is full of joggers and dog walkers or at the mysterious time of dusk, when the sea shimmers in hues of pink, saffron and indigo, Marine Drive is ceaselessly lovely. If you keep walking along the promenade, you’ll reach Nariman Point, where you can sit in quiet contemplation. Bandra’s Bandstand and Carter Road offer much scope for romancing the sea as well. You can climb down the steps and make your away across slightly slippery rocks to get up close and personal with the waves (unsafe during high tide). If you’re driving, the route along the Bandra Worli Sea Link will leave you awed. You can also get a good view of the entire sea link from Bandra Fort. The beaches at Juhu, Versova and Mahim (Dadar) are also among our favourite slices of Mumbai’s shoreline.
Time has stood still in the arches and domes of South Mumbai’s stately edifices, with a little help from restoration work. The sheer magnificence and detailing of CST station, the erstwhile Victoria Terminus is enough to put the city on your bucket list. For a small fee, you can explore the inner chambers of the station complex and enjoy bird’s eye views of the city. Other heritage buildings in the area include The Times of India building and David Sassoon Library. The entire walkway on either side of D. N. Road feels like a journey through Mumbai’s colonial era. The Gateway of India monument is a short ride away from CST station and an epitome of architectural excellence. From the ferry point, you can enjoy boat rides on the sea and even go up to Alibag or Elephanta Island. The CSMVS and Bhau Daji Lad museums are also treasure troves of fascinating history.
We love discovering little havens of natural beauty even in concrete jungles. While Aarey Colony may be under threat due to the imminent metro line, the gardens at Malabar Hill, Powai and Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi are still available for a welcome break from urban life. We wish Mumbai had its own version of Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens or London’s Hyde Park but the charming Hiranandani Garden at Powai with little fish ponds, lakes and stone sculpures is a pleasure to visit. And if you like bird-watching and studying bees and butterflies, Maharashtra Nature Park, overlooking the mangroves of Mithi River is a must-visit. We’ve also spent many cheerful evenings at Kamala Nehru Park and The Hanging Gardens at Malabar Hill.
Mumbai was, is and will always be a wonderful amalgamation of different cultures, communities, tongues and faiths. One of the best ways to get a sense of the city’s culture is to visit its picturesque temples, churches and mosques. The Haji Ali Dargah situated off the coast of Worli is one of the oldest and best known shrines in the city. Mount Mary Church in Bandra is another well-known landmark, especially during Christmas and the annual Bandra Fair. The seaside Mahalakshmi Temple and ISKCON Temple in Juhu are worth visiting for their beautiful architecture and spiritual significance. We also love exploring little known churches in the by-lanes of South Mumbai.
Need to know
Eat: Streets take on a special significance in the Maximum City, for that’s where its residents come to shop, and that’s where they come for a flavourful bite. Mumbai’s street food specialities include vada pav, a kind of potato burger, pav bhaji, which is a gravy eaten with buttered Indian buns and various kinds of ‘chaat’ such as bhel, pani puri, sev puri, ragda pattice and dahi puri. If you’re worried about hygiene, try these at small-sized restaurants such as Som at Chowpatty.
Shop: Colaba Causeway has been our saviour since college days for its selection of pocket-friendly, yet trendy clothing, shoes, bags and accessories. Linking Road at Bandra is another option if you’re in the suburbs. But if you’re looking for speciality or bulk items, Crawford Market is your best bet. Here, you’ll find everything from cooking chocolate to decoration items and party masks.
Stay: There are several hotels in Mumbai to suit every budget, as well as homestays and guesthouses. The city is home to several luxurious five star hotels such as ITC Maratha near the airport and ITC Grand Central at Parel. These luxury collection hotels offer fascinating glimpses into Mumbai’s Maratha past and British colonisation and special weekend offers for staycations.