Mumbai has long been India’s commercial and film capital, but the city is fast becoming a formidable art, style, culinary, and design destination—a welcome development in the wake of 2008’s tragic attacks. Once-badly-damaged hotels have reopened with elegant interiors and stepped-up security; restaurants such as the Thai-inspired Koh by Ian Kittichai (and soon a branch of London’s famed Hakkasan) are giving an international edge to the city’s food scene; new shops are luring European fashion talents to create sophisticated lines from locally sourced fabrics; and artists are reinventing south Mumbai’s art scene in and around the Fort and Colaba districts.
Navigating Mumbai’s traditional sari stands and stylish boutiques can be daunting; luckily celebrity personal shopper Monica Vaziralli (91-98/2007-8611) can guide you to the best spots. Two of her top picks: Neemrana (6 Purshotam Bldg., New Queen’s Rd., Opera House; 91-22/2361-4436) for cotton and georgette saris, robes, and blouses, and the newly opened Bandit Queen (130 Dinshaw Petit Lane, Kalachowki; 91-22/2294-8752), a home-goods emporium launched by Belgian designer Valerie Barkowski and textile exporter Sunita Namjoshi. The duo’s collections are all handmade linens and cottons from Indian mills and include elaborately pleated and embellished bedding that can take 40 days to create. For a finely edited selection of works by Indian designers, head to Mélange (33 Altamount Rd., Cumballa Hill; 91-22/2353-4492), where owner Sangita Sinh Kathiwada carries more than 20 mostly eco-friendly brands, including classic kurtas, tunics, and caftans with a modern spin. At the 2,500-square-foot D7 (Turning Point Bldg., Khar Danda Rd., Khar W.; 91-22/2648-5626), near Bandra, seven of Delhi’s best talents showcase their designs. Look for colorful bags from Manish Arora, a favorite of singer M.I.A.; appliquéd tunics from Namrata Joshipura; and the clean-lined wool suits and sweaters of Rajesh Pratap Singh, India’s answer to Jil Sander or Martin Margiela. Bungalow 8 (Grants Bldg., 17 Arthur Bunder Rd., Colaba; 91-22/2281-9880) made its name almost a decade ago selling contemporary furnishings; two years ago, Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin vet Mathieu Gugumus-Leguillon arrived to launch the Bungalow—a line of women’s wear. Now Gugumus-Leguillon has unveiled a men’s collection with a cutting-edge twist on traditional Indian designs.
New modern art galleries are attracting Mumbai’s sophisticated set to the commercial Fort district. At the year-old Gallery BMB (Queens Mansion, G. T. Marg, Fort; 91-22/6171-5757; gallerybmb.com), which includes a cozy café and bookshop, the focus is on young, burgeoning Indian painters and sculptors, with pieces by P. S. Jalaja and Sonia Jose. In the street-stall-filled Colaba neighborhood, the cavernous Gallery Maskara (Warehouse on Third Pasta, 6/7 Third Pasta Lane, Colaba; 91-22/2202-3056; gallerymaskara.com) packs a former cotton warehouse with groundbreaking installations by local and international artists. Nearby, on the seafront, Volte (2/19 Kamal Mansion, Arthur Bunder Rd., Colaba; 91-22/2204-1220; volte.in) specializes in new media video and art installations.
When it made its debut last year, the 25,000-square-foot restaurant complex Tote on the Turf (Mahalaxmi Race Course, Keshav Rao Khadye Marg, Mahalaxmi; 91-22/6157-7777; dinner for two $100) was an immediate hit because of its location—beside the Mahalaxmi Race Course—and its avant-garde design by London-based Serie Architects, which lined the ceiling with a forest of white metal branches. Drinks such as tequila-infused sangria and celery martinis are still crowd-pleasers at its 40-foot-long teak bar, and foodies come for the East-meets-West menu (think beef tikka, Parma ham spring rolls, and a savory mushroom-and-walnut “tiramisu”). In August, Thailand-born chef Pongtawat Ian Chalermkittichai (of New York’s Kittichai) opened Koh by Ian Kittichai (135 Marine Dr.; 91-22/3987-9999; dinner for two $80) in Mumbai’s InterContinental Marine Drive, where he serves signature dishes such as chocolate baby-back ribs, Japanese hamachi sashimi, and green curry with slow-roasted chicken. Indigo’s contemporary European, Indian-inflected dishes lure the likes of Bill Clinton and Brad Pitt, and its newer Indigo Café (Clifton Trishul C.H.S., Oshiwara Village, Andheri W.; 91-22/2633-6262; lunch for two $40) is a far more low-key brunch spot in the Andheri district with thin-crust pizzas, pastas, and all-day breakfast classics such as eggs Florentine.
It took 21 months, 2,000 craftsmen, and $38 million to renovate the Palace Wing of the Taj Mahal Palace (Apollo Bunder, Colaba; 866/969-1825; tajhotels.com; doubles from $510)—and the result is just as impressive as the numbers. The 285 redesigned rooms—some outfitted with rosewood floors—have mahogany beds and glass-walled bathrooms. A 20-minute walk west, you’ll find the overhauled Oberoi (Nariman Point; 800/562-3764; oberoihotels.com; doubles from $625), where cream-colored marble imported from the Greek island of Thassos lines the hotel’s 14-floor atrium lobby. Upstairs, the 287 rooms incorporate elaborate hand-carved wooden furniture and restored Indian artwork. Just north of Bandra, the 14 rooms at the stylish Le Sutra (14 Union Park, Khar W.; 91-22/2649-2995; lesutra.in; doubles from $270) are inspired by classical Indian art, from the Shringar suite’s peacock motifs to the Buddha frescoes in the Nirvan room. In the Worli business district, there’s the 202-room Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai (114 Dr. E. Moses Rd., Worli; 800/332-3442; fourseasons.com; doubles from $390) with a duplex spa, the sophisticated rooftop Aer lounge, and an on-demand fleet of BMW 7-series cars for guests.
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is midway through a multibillion-dollar makeover that’s slated to be completed in 2012. The centerpiece will be a new Terminal 2, designed by New York–based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and expected to serve some 40 million passengers annually. Shaped like an X—and linked to Mumbai’s proposed light-rail network—T2 will serve as a mega-terminal and ultimately replace the four domestic and international terminals now in operation.
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