Tried & Tested

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower

27 Nov 2006 by business traveller

What's it like? Opened in 1903, The Taj Mahal is one of the grand hotels of India, but has been modernised with the addition of a new tower. The old part of the hotel (called the heritage wing) has unique rooms, which retain many original features but also have modern conveniences. This section retains a feel of its colonial past.

How many rooms? 565 rooms and suites.

Where is it? In South Mumbai in Apollo Bunder, overlooking the Gateway to India and Mumbai. It is 30km from the international airport (25km from domestic).

Room facilities I was staying in a Lux Grande Pool View room, which was very comfortable and spacious and had a wide corridor with generous cupboards and an area for unpacking suitcases. All rooms have a large bed with a selection of pillows and duvets, a comfortable chair, a desk and large sideboard with a minibar, tea and coffee-making facilities and a 42-inch flat-screen interactive TV with DVD/CD player.

Bathrooms are fitted out in marble and have a separate bath and shower, Molton Brown and Taj toiletries, and a good selection of amenities. The fifth and sixth floors of the heritage wing are club floors, with 18 suites and 83 rooms. Staying in one of these gives access to the spacious club lounge and facilities like personal valet, meeting rooms, airport transfers and complimentary food and beverages. Wireless broadband is available in the guestrooms, costing Rs125 (£1.46) plus tax for 30 minutes, Rs200 (£2.35) for one hour, Rs300 (£3.50) for two hours and Rs600 (£7) for 24 hours.

Restaurants and bars There is no shortage of places to eat and drink. For drinks you can choose Starboard, a bar serving drinks and Cuban-Asian snacks. The Harbour Bar was the first-ever licensed bar in Mumbai and is situated on the ground floor of the heritage wing. It too is open lunchtime and evenings for drinks, and also serves meals from many of the hotel's restaurants (which is worth knowing if you forget to book a table at one of the restaurants, which do get very busy). Aquarius is a poolside bar offering drinks and snacks under cover. It overlooks the pool and gardens and is only open to residents.

The Golden Dragon restaurant on the ground floor has been voted the best Chinese in Mumbai. When I ate there the food was superb. I tried soup, dim sum, and a range of other dishes, topped off by papaya and pineapple ice cream – while it wasn't very Chinese it was delicious. Also on the ground floor is Masala Kraft, an Indian restaurant and Japanese restaurant Wasabi. Souk is a modern eastern-Mediterranean rooftop restaurant with views of Mumbai Harbour and the city.

The Sea Lounge, situated on the first floor of the heritage wing, is one of my favourites. It is a relaxing all-day brasserie fitted out with tradition furnishings, and overlooking the sea. There is a wide choice of drinks from the healthy juice bar, as well as a range of cocktails and wine. Food includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian snacks and main courses from around the world. You can choose from soup, tapas, sandwiches, pasta and fish and chips. It's a great choice for a group if you can't agree on what to eat. I had a steak and onion toasted sandwich, which was delicious. For a snack on the move, La Patisserie in the heritage wing offers everything from pizza to sandwiches.

Business and meeting facilities There is a fully equipped business centre on the first floor of the tower wing, which is open 24 hours and has secretarial services. Meeting rooms are available in the business centre, and 12 rooms in the heritage wing can cater for everything from the smallest meeting up to a reception for 750 people.

Leisure facilities A 24-hour fitness centre and the Jiva Spa are both on the ground floor. The gym has recently been furbished to a high standard. The hotel has an open-air pool in a beautiful setting in the central courtyard of the heritage wing.

For shopping, there is a good selection (including luxury brands) at the Taj. As I was visiting a local home I ordered some flowers, and the hotel florist supplied a superb bouquet to my room within 45 minutes at a cost of Rs1,350 (£15.75).

Verdict A grand building in a wonderful location with superb service and good facilities. Great for business appointments downtown and for leisure. Even if you don't stay here, do come and take a look at a piece of history.

Prices Internet rates for a midweek stay in early December were US$235 for a standard city view and US$315 for a deluxe sea view.

Contact The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai – 400 001 India, tel +91 22 6665 3366,

Julian Gregory

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