If you’re in the bustling Colaba Causeway area, you’ll discover numerous shops, restaurants, and bars, but two of the oldest and most iconic are Café Mondegar and Leopold Café, both serving delicious and inexpensive Indian and international food. The walls of Café Mondegar feature fun and colorful wall murals painted in the 1990s by renowned Indian cartoonist Mario Miranda.
Considered to be Mumbai’s arts district, the bustling old streets of the nearby Kala Ghoda neighborhood contain many independent shops selling everything from traditional Indian handicrafts to modern Indian design. Recommendations
include Kulture Shop, who commission Indian graphic artists with a new design brief every few months, with the results appearing as art prints and on a range of must-have products including t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and mobile phone cases. Filter focuses on bold Indian and international design, and Artisans Centre specializes in traditional India art and craft.
Dining options in Kala Ghoda include Chetana Thali, serving delicious and authentic vegetarian thalis. A smart and polished two-storey restaurant, Punjab Grill serves North Indian cooking with seafood specialities including tandoori pomfret and salmon tikka. 145 Kala Ghoda is a sleek choice for cocktails and creative bar nibbles.
Another fascinating neighborhood is the North Mumbai suburb of Bandra West. Known as ‘The Queen Of The Suburbs’, it’s the preferred address of affluent locals including many Bollywood stars. The hip, graffiti emblazoned streets of the nearby Ranwar Village area are fun to explore, but the main reason to base yourself here is to distance yourself from the tourist hoards of South Mumbai.
Accommodation choices include Le Sutra. Described as India’s first art hotel, its fourteen individually themed guestrooms are the combined work of over 150 artists and designers from across India, including many art students. The result is an imaginative representation of Indian art, philosophy, and culture.
Stylish and cosmopolitan restaurants abound in Bandra West. Recommendations include Olive Bar & Kitchen, with excellent Mediterranean cuisine and Mykonos-style beach décor, or hip and informal Asian dining at The Fatty Bao. Indian restaurants such as Pali Bhavan score highly on style as well as on flavor. Its décor is a mix of bygone-era colonial charm and industrial vintage. Its equally creative menu includes a version of popular local street snack vada pao (fried potato dumpling served with chutneys in a small bread roll) and entrees such as pink pepper and makroot prawn curry.
The suburbs of North Mumbai are definitely a happening place right now. Open since November 2018 in the Juhu Beach suburb is Soho House Mumbai. This fashionable members-only club and hotel is the first Soho House property in Asia. The 10-story building faces the Arabian Sea and has 38 bohemian-hip guestrooms, a rooftop pool, and club members and guests alike can enjoy events such as movie screenings and house parties.
Mumbai is undoubtedly a city of contrasts. It may be India’s wealthiest city, but it’s also home to Asia’s largest slum. The air can be sweet with exotic aromas, but it can smell bitter and pungent. The sidewalk is often dilapidated and full of hurdles such as hawker stalls or parked scooters, so many pedestrians prefer to walk in the road. And the roads can be so congested that it sometimes feels as if the traffic is slowly strangling the city. When Mumbai becomes too much, there are plenty of places offering a different pace of life.