One of my friends said that her sister’s family would be staying at the Taj Mahal Palace just before Christmas. I have a rage of envy, having stayed there previously, more so because I am missing out Bombay this year, keeping it simple with three weeks on the beach in Goa. I should not be envious.
So, I have quelled the envy and passed on a few tips that I hope may assist them or you. It’s a bit random, pulled from memory, no particular order, but nowhere is more than ten minutes from The Taj.
Almost on the doorstep from the Taj Mahal Palace –
●Theobroma Patisserie (on Colaba Causeway, South of police station, next to Parsi Colony) – amazing coffee and cakes, some of the best people spotting, all the rich Parsis meet for coffee and gossip here. The coffee is great, and the cashew topped Bircher muesli is worth a mention. I feel like Damon Runyon listening to the gossip about people I’ll never meet. I have also been here when the hunkiest naval officer officer in the world stepped in for coffee. Swoon. Be envious.
●Bombay Dyeing on Colaba Causeway. Their white hotel quality towels are the best in the world. You can buy an extra suitcase at the Samsonite shop a few doors away!
●Forest Essentials fragrances and skincare, all properly ayuvedic. Oudh & green tea spray lasts all day. Lemongrass or rose roomsprays are brilliant. Part owned by Esteep Lauder group now, apparently opening in London soon (but expect Jo Malone prices here). They have a shop airside at international departures, but stock there is hit and miss – check carefully as I once got back to London to find that the Oudh and green tea body spray was actually bath foam. I did not want bath foam. The rose room spray smells like Turkish delight….
●Good Earth opposite South end of Taj Mahal Palace. This shop is, in my view, overpriced but stocks nice home knick knacks. If you want to buy a cushion or a quilt, they have a machine that sucks all the air out for easy packing.
●Bombay Electric stocks a beautiful collection of overpriced shirts, bags and costume jewellery plus electro-plated tiffins at about £200 each! Good to look, lovely staff, a nice little courtyard garden too. It’s next door to Good Earth.
●There is a lampshade maker in Reay House, next to Good Earth/Bombay Electric. These are high end lampshade weavers. You do not know how much you want one of these, or all of these, until you see them, and watch them being made……
●Drop into the Methodist Church on Colaba Causeway to see the plaque to the Rev Clutterbuck, and his sad demise after surviving Bombay pastoral service for several years. Shipwrecked and drowned on the SS Stella. This is history and reflection in action. To think that he lived and worked in South Bombay in the days when that land was malarial, not to mention all manner of other tropical diseases and illnesses in the days before the discovery of antibiotics. By the way, I am not in the slightest bit religious, but love this little church.
●If you want a Parsi cafe on Colaba Causeway, go for Mondys (think the full name is Mondegars). Personally, I avoid Leopolds which is full of backpackers and young Indian guys drinking huge pitchers of draft lager. I have had a late evening in Mondys that involved friends who work or had worked in Bombay – it was like something out of Shantaram, lost and found wallets, job envy, lots of beer (not me – they had been drinking since 2pm) and one of the party falling out of the bar, breaking his nose etc and being bundled off to private Breach Candy Hospital. One of my friends and I then went back to my ocean facing balcony room at the Taj Mahal Palace to drink gin for the rest of the night….
Britannia & Co is worth a walk up to for lunch – the Ballard Estate upon which it is sited is about ten minutes walk, plus the very European styled estate provides great photo opportunities. I think Britannia & Co must have been part of the inspiration for the Dishoom chain in London. It is very characterful, even though the Parsi food was a bit too meaty for me to have too much choice. Try a dish with barberries – these are an Iranian delicacy, but tasted a bit like cranberries to my unrefined palate.
●A swift stroll up to Kala Goda will take ten minutes, more if the traffic is really busy and you are not so brave at crossing the road. It is full of little galleries and coffee shops. I like Artisans Gallery because it focuses on folkloric and traditional craft art from India, and it’s friendly and welcoming. Filter Gallery is good for prints and tasteful modern contemporary Indian gifts. Kala Goda is also the home of Trishna, a Bombay restaurant institution, well worth an evening. Do book though.
●And, if you’re staying at the Taj, play my favourite game which involves sitting in the lobby and looking at all the Chanel bags that other guests are carrying. Believe me when I say that you don’t get the same quantity of Chanel handbags at the Four Seasons nor at the Oberoi. This is Chanel country.
●Don’t miss out on the tour of the Taj either: this is for guests only and takes place early evening. It was quite fascinating and a surprising highlight of the stay there.