After opening properties in Miami and New York, peripatetic hotelier Vikram Chatwal takes T+L behind the velvet rope.
Vikram Chatwal’s earliest travel memory? Fleeing his childhood home in Ethiopia during the 1974 revolution. But that didn’t dampen his love for the road. At the age of 28, the Sikh globe-trotter launched his namesake boutique hotel company in 1999, following in the footsteps of his father, Sant, founder of Hampshire Hotels & Resorts. Now with eight stylish properties, including the just-opened Dream Downtown in New York and Dream South Beach in Miami Beach, Chatwal spends at least half the year jetting from hotel openings to fashion weeks, flea markets to sandwich stands. Here, Chatwal shares some of his latest haunts.
Chatwal spent much of his youth in London, where his parents opened an outpost of their Bombay Palace restaurant chain. “London is where I first connected with my Indian roots,” Chatwal says. Now whenever he’s in town, he stops into Mooli’s (50 Frith St.; 44-20/7494-9075; snacks for two $20) for rotis or Dosa ’n Chutny (68 Tooting High St.; 44-20/8767-9200; snacks for two $10) for crisp rice-and-lentil crêpes.
The Dream South Beach (1111 Collins Ave.; 305/673-4747; doubles from $275), which has 108 mod-glam rooms and a restaurant from chef Geoffrey Zakarian, was created by combining two historic Art Deco hotels. Just up the street is the Webster Miami, a concept store housed in another Deco landmark, where Chatwal likes to pop in before gallery-hopping in the Design District. “The freedom of expression in Miami’s art scene rivals New York’s and Chicago’s,” he says. Of course, Miami is also about nightlife, and after hours the hotelier heads to Bardot (3456 N. Miami Ave.; 305/576-5570; drinks for two $22), an intimate live-music venue in the Wynwood neighborhood. He often ends his night with a medianoche sandwich and a yerba maté soda at David’s Café (1058 Collins Ave.; 305/534-8736; sandwiches for two $14), a cafeteria-style Cuban joint down the street from the Dream.
“There’s a trancelike feeling to Goa,” Chatwal says, a vibe reflected at the Nilaya Hermitage hotel (doubles from $450). “The hotel is so earthy, you’d never think it has this posh reputation,” he says. Chatwal shops for Goan handcrafted furniture at Fusion Access (Dias House, 13/32 Rua de Ormuz; 91-832/665-0342), ceramic tiles and textiles at the Portuguese markets, and tie-dyed sarongs at the Anjuna flea market. At night, he grabs curried fish fry at the family-run Viva Panjim (178 31st January Rd., Fontainhas; 91-832/242-2405; dinner for two $7), and perhaps some punch—a mix of rum, gin, curaçao, fruit juices, and ginger—at the Primrose Café (Ozran Beach Rd., behind St. Anthony’s Church; 91-832/227-3210; drinks for two $7).
Related: The Best Beaches in Goa
“Thailand is a crazy place, like a nicely twisted India,” Chatwal says. He embraces that energy at the bustling, brasserie-style Minibar Royale (37/7 Citadines, Sukhumvit 23; 66-2/261-5533; drinks for two $10) or indie-rock bar Happy Monday (10 Ekamai Soi; 66-2/714-3953; drinks for two $5). Lambert Gems (17 Silom Soi; 66-2/236-4343), an off-the-beaten-path custom jewelry shop, is where he’ll pick up some “extra bling.” Afterward, although he owns the stylish Dream Bangkok hotel, Chatwal often retreats to one of the Authors’ Suites at the Mandarin Oriental (doubles from $330). “The old-world colonial elegance takes me back to a different era,” he says.
Costa Careyes, Mexico
An abundance of bougainvillea has made fuchsia the unofficial color of this laid-back Pacific Coast resort (costacareyes.com), “a great reminder of the outrageously hued fabrics of India,” Chatwal says. He likes to spend time here with friends in cliffside villas that “look like Gaudí designed them.” Socializing tends to revolve around house parties and outdoor film screenings, but he’ll occasionally dine out deep in the jungle at the Polo Club (52-315/351-0320; dinner for two $60) or dance on the beach at Cocodrilo Azul (52-315/351-0320; drinks for two $17), a restaurant located across the bay from a lagoon filled with crocodiles.
Chatwal’s yacht, Fathom, is a regular fixture in the waters off Antibes, but he also loves to explore the area by car, indulging in some yogurt sherbet at the bistro L’Armoise (2 Rue Tourraque, Antibes; 33-4/92-94-96-13; dinner for two $110) or grilled rack of lamb at Le Maschou (15 Rue St.-Antoine; 33-4/93-39-62-21; dinner for two $140), an in-the-know spot in Cannes. During the day, he joins the jet set working on their tans at Juan-les-Pins’ beach, but if it rains, he drives inland to St.-Paul-de-Vence, a medieval walled village that’s the site of the modern art museum Fondation Maeght (623 Chemin des Gardettes; 33-4/93-32-81-63).
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
It would be a shame for any visitor to come to Bangkok and miss the splendor of the Mandarin Oriental. For more than 135 years, this Travel + Leisure favorite hotel has been at the center of Bangkok life. The 339 rooms and 35 suites are spacious and elegant and enhanced by lush surroundings and serene riverside locale. The Authors’ Suites pay tribute to the long list of literary greats who have been long-time clients of Bangkok’s Grand Dame.