The Hedonist: Mumbai
What to see and where to be seen
Saturday 12 November 2011
Fit to burst, I take one last bite of frozen kulfi, savour one final sip of oaky Indian merlot, and ease myself out of my chair. I have just experienced one of the finest meals of my life and am reluctant to leave the super-stylish Masala Bay restaurant at the Taj Lands End hotel (00 91 22 6668 1234; tajhotels.com). Delicous thoughts of machi Amritsari (crispy, fried fish cooked with ajwain seeds) and kadai jhinga (prawns with coriander seeds and Kashmiri chillies) flick through my mind like a deck of cards as I step into my taxi.
My friend Nitesh, a local photographer, has just called to tell me there is a Rajasthani folk band playing at Mumbai's hottest music venue, blueFROG (00 91 22 4033 2300; bluefrog.co.in). We zoom over the impressively futuristic Bandra-Worli sea link before ending up in Lower Parel, where old factories and deserted mills have made way for white-collar offices and shopping malls.
I have time for a quick browse in the flagship Good Earth (00 91 22 2495 1954; goodearthindia.com) shop at Raghuvanshi Mills Compound. It's famous for gorgeous interior goods; I settle on some china plates and get them bubble-wrapped. A sneaky glass of cabernet sauvignon ensues next door in the store's Tasting Room, a swish café.
This once gritty area has also cultivated some great nightlife and blueFROG is no exception. A nightclub, live music venue, recording studio, restaurant and magnet to the city's creative set, it is packed to the rafters most nights. Tonight, we weave through the crowd, surveying the already crammed seating area, before Nitesh stops and points to a tiny table in front of the stage. Right on cue, as we sit perched on high stools, the sound of cymbals and the dholak – a double-sided drum – starts up, and fantastically attired Rajasthani folk artists from the Marwar and Dhundhar regions take to the stage.
The crowd goes wild. Most people are immediately up out of their seats, whistling and clapping. It's finished too soon, but that's fine because a hedonist never hangs around. I'm soon back in a taxi and determined to have a nightcap before returning to my room at the Taj.
Usually the best spot close to blueFROG is the Aer Bar (00 91 22 2481 8444; fourseasons.com) atop the Four Seasons, but it isn't open during the monsoon. The taxi driver ploughs through torrential rain to one of my favourite places. Olive Bar and Kitchen (00 91 22 4340 8228; olivebarandkitchen.com) in Bandra is where the rich kids, cricket stars, film producers and buxom Bollywood beauties who live in this cosmopolitan suburb congregate.
It's a buzzing, inside-outside sort of a space and by the time I arrive, dolled-up couples are lounging about on wicker chairs, howling along to the Hindi trip-hop soundtrack. Vines creep up the walls and the all-white décor hints at a tropical, exotic vibe. The Moscow mule I had promised myself – served in an ice-cold tin jug – is quite a hit and just the thing to counter the steamy ambience around me.
Olive's menu has substance to support the style, and I'm in time to order some antipasti. I decide, perhaps foolishly, that this will complement a jalapeño Bloody Mary nicely, so I order one of those, too. Then, all too quickly, I realise that I probably ought to go home. Back in my Club Room at the Taj, I watch TV in the bath then collapse into my supremely comfortable bed.
After a late breakfast the next morning, I do a quick round of the city's best modern art galleries, sipping take-away lattes for support. The organised chaos that is Mumbai starts to wear me down, so I head back to the hotel to have a nap. Then the cycle begins all over again – with a glass of that fine Indian merlot.
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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