From October 27, Virgin Atlantic will fly daily between London Heathrow and Mumbai on a three-class Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, with flights starting at £491 return. Neeti Mehra provides a guide to the Indian metropolis…
Maximum City, as Mumbai is often referred to, has been the centre of India’s financial, entertainment and fashion worlds for decades.
The city’s fascinating past can be traced to a group of islands in the Arabian Sea, on India’s western coast. The “seven islands of Bombay” were captured by the Portuguese, who later handed them to Charles II as part of a dowry in the sixteenth century. Development and land reclamation turned them into a distinct landmass by the 1850s, and the city now known as Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra state.
Its charming south is a mélange of different architectural styles, including Art Deco, Gothic, Indo-Saracenic and Victorian, and is home to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Reserve Bank of India and the central business district of Nariman Point.
Moving northwards, the old mill districts have made way for gleaming sky scrapers, swish bars and restaurants, and the city’s newest business hub, Bandra Kurla Complex – a commercial centre with several embassies, banks and financial services and stylish eateries.
For those in town for business or leisure, here’s what to do, where to shop and the places to eat in the land of Bollywood and billionaires.
Begin in Colaba, one of the seven original islands of Mumbai. Start at the majestic Gateway of India (pictured above), the arch erected to commemorate the landing of the first British monarch in India.
From there walk to the iconic red-domed Taj Mahal Palace, a historic, luxurious hotel. While the traditional street-side shops in the area are in decline due to gentrification, wander the green lanes for a taste of colonial-era Mumbai.
Stop off at couturier Sanjay Garg’s minimalistic Raw Mango, a contemporary textile label that champions India’s artisans and sells exquisite saris. Nearby, Gautam Sinha’s slick handmade leather product company Nappa Dori sells impeccable handcrafted goods. Then there’s contemporary design boutique Clove, run by hotelier Samyukta Nair, which has a quaint collection of everyday objects.
Next, head to the adjoining district of Kala Ghoda, or “black horse”, dominated by an appropriately-coloured steed sculpture in its main square and overlooked by the Rajabai tower, pictured below. Quell your hunger pangs at one of Mumbai’s most popular Mangalorean seafood restaurants, Mahesh Lunch Home, that serves fresh catches straight from the Arabian Sea. Try the fish tawa fry and the gassi.
Walk this off at the beautiful Indo-Saracenic style museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, which has a fascinating collection of miniature art, medieval costumes and much more. If you have time, the National Gallery of Modern Art is just across the road.
Finally, wander through the district of Kala Ghoda, famous for haute couture and food. Filled with tiny boutiques and gleaming designer stores, modern art galleries and quaint cafes.
For dinner, try the classic Parsi eatery Britannia & Co, whose specialities include berry pulav (berry rice) and sali boti (mutton curry). Toast a day well-spent with a cocktail at restaraunter couple Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf’s award-winning The Table. We recommend gin-based The Puritan, with a dash of herbal liqueurs and orange bitters, or the T’s Knees, with gin and fresh pineapple and lime.
Begin in Juhu, an area inhabited by glitzy Bollywood stars and high-end hotels. Stroll down Juhu Beach, soaking in the sun, sand and splendor of the Arabian sea.
For lunch, head to the Bandra Kurla Complex, the city’s newest business centre which is also home to some of Mumba’s trendiest bars and restaurants. Sample the flavours of Goa at O Pedro, a breezy bar and restaurant inspired by the sunshine state.
After a languorous lunch, it’s on to Mumbai’s former mill area of Lower Parel, which has been transformed into a swanky design district. Srila Chatterjee and Siddharth Sirohi’s BARO is a creative space where you can pick up unique furniture, indigenous art, odd bric-a-bracs, eclectic fashion, jewellery and more.
This is also where you’ll find Piramal Museum of Art, a venture by one of India’s leading industrialist families. The 7,000 square-foot space has curated fabulous exhibits recently, featuring great masters such as Abanindranath Tagore, SH Raza and Raja Ravi Varma.
But Mumbai is best enjoyed from the top. Catch a spectacular sunset and sweeping views of the city at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai’s chic rooftop bar and lounge, Aer, for a memorable sundowner.
For a fabulous final meal try Masque, helmed by Kashmiri Chef Prateek Sadhu. He will rustle up a 10-course nouvelle cuisine tasting menu influenced by his roots.
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
Since it opened on Mumbai’s coast in 1903, the legendary Taj Mahal Palace has had no rivals to its splendid architecture, impeccable service and delectable food. A perfect respite from the eternal busyness that fuels the city. tajmahal.grandluxuryhotels.com
Soho House Mumbai
London’s hottest hotel export has found its way to Mumbai’s shores and is where millennial A-Listers, Bollywood stars and start-up founders meet. With 38 bedrooms, the boutique hotel enjoys fabulous views of Juhu Beach. Its stellar list of programming ensures that when not in the gym, cinema, or the rooftop bar, you can attend culinary pop-ups and stimulating talks, or network with a global crowd. sohohousemumbai.com
Virgin Atlantic will launch daily flights between London and Mumbai on October 27. Flights are operated by a B787-9 Dreamliner with seats in Upper Class, Premium and Economy, and fares start at £491 return. Find out more.