India: ITC Grand Central Mumbai
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Address287, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road 400 012 Parel, Mumbai, India 91/22/2410-1010 itchotels.in
South Indian breakfast at Hornby's Pavilion
Drinks in the rooftop lounge
The health club for daily exercise (a jog on Mumbai's busy streets is not recommended)
- 242 rooms
- Broadband internet
- Butler service
- 24-hour in-room dining
This was the start of endless pampering. Considerate little touches—soaked almonds and honey at night; organic jams, teas and cookies to eat with in-room tea or coffee everyday—and attentive staff made my stay very pleasant. I was even assigned a butler, Poonam, a sweet young woman who attended me at every turn, calling cabs for me when I needed them, and keeping me company till they arrived.
My room was a spacious suite on the 28th floor, where floor-to-ceiling windows gave stunning views of the Arabian Sea and the saltpans. I could watch the dark monsoon clouds rolling in from the water and pouring rain down over the densely packed city. Tastefully decorated with paintings and prints by local artists, the suite contained everything necessary for restful nights and productive days: a king-sized bed, walk-in closet and dressing room, cozy armchairs, massage chair, bookshelves and books, and a long desk that I used constantly. The bathrooms are marble-floored; toiletries are all green and part of the ITC's line of products.
ITC Grand Central is centrally located, equidistant from the city's two main business districts, and its unusual location in a busy, working-class district gives the tourist a real glimpse at life in Mumbai, especially during the Ganesha Festival, which we got to witness. One of the city's largest community Ganesha statues is installed at an altar close to the hotel. It draws crowds from all over the state, for ten days of worship and song.
Within the hotel itself, stellar restaurants serve Chinese, European and American fare. A lounge on the top floor, aptly named Point of View, offers magnificent vistas of Mumbai. An Indian restaurant, Kebabs & Kurries, offers a range of regional dishes from all over the country: delicately flavored meats and morels from Kashmir; hearty barbecued chicken from the Northwest provinces; curry-leaf flavored, fried lamb from Hyderabad.
But I most loved the hotel's 24-hour restaurant, Hornby's Pavilion, where the head chef, who is from South India, serves a range of South Indian breakfast delicacies, including several kinds of rice and lentil pancakes—thin, crispy dosas made with a rice-lentil flour batter; pesaratu, a hearty breakfast pancake made with soaked and ground green mung beans with a topping of chiles and onions—all served with garlic-red chili, lentil-coconut, and coconut-garlic-cilantro house chutneys. Hornby's also serves a la carte Continental breakfasts (croissants and other baked goods, eggs made to order, cold cuts, sausages, etc.) as well as North Indian style breakfasts of potato bhaji and puris (fried bread) and some regional specialties from other parts of India, and offers buffets with a vast selection of Indian and Western dishes for lunch and dinner. With all of this to choose from, my favorite item on the menu was South Indian filter coffee: a strong decoction of chicory coffee, heated with milk and sugar, then frothed. It's increasingly hard-to find elsewhere (it's being replaced by Illy and Nescafe), and there's nothing else like it. For me, it was the apex of my stay: both comforting and luxurious at once. I indulged in a cup every morning, draining each rich glass to the very last drop.—Kaumudi Marathé
In the Area
- Gajalee: No trip to the coastal city of Mumbai is complete without a taste of seafood and Gajalee is one of the best places to indulge. Specializing in the Malvani style of cooking, which uses coconut, sour kokum and tirphal, a cousin to Szechuan pepper, the restaurant serves up fish from the waters around Mumbai, in addition to the usual platter of crabs, clams, lobsters and prawns. Try the Bombay Duck (a fish locally known as Bombil), which is flattened, dipped in a spice-filled gram-flour batter and fried, as well as the Tandoori Crab, which combines the sweetness of crab with a fiery tandoori marinade. And if you still crave for more, reach out for clams koshimbir (clams spiced with turmeric, green chiles, onion, fresh and dried coconut, and green chutney) or prawns masala. Phoenix Mill Compound, Unit No. 2, Block 3 ABC, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400013; tel: 91/22/2495-0667, 91/22/2495-0668; gajalee.com —Nidhi Chaudhry
- Bachelor's Juice House: This high-end street stall tucked away in a discreet corner along the scenic Marine Drive bayfront, has vast menu of hand-churned ice creams, creamy milk shakes and fresh fruit juices. Offerings include ginger kulfi (Indian ice cream), watermelon shakes, and ice cream in flavors like fig-pistachio and green chile. In the summer, ask for creamy "Alphonso" mango milkshake dotted with pieces of mango fruit, or the custard apple ice cream with bits of ripe fruit in every bite. If your tastes run conservative, their thick chocolate shakes will not disappoint. Marine Drive, opposite Chowpatty Beach, near Charni Road Station; tel: 91/2368-2211, 91/22/2368-8107 — N.C.
- Ayub's Shop: For the past 30 years, this has been the place Mumbai goes for after-hourkebabs, all grilled on Ayub's coal-fired, makeshift grills. Best are the rolls, filled withsucculent chicken or tender mutton, topped off with chopped onions and mint chutney.While there is some seating space inside, this is largely an open-air operation, where agilewaiters weave between parked cars taking orders and delivering food. No. 5, 43, V.B. Gandhi Marg, Fort (next to Rythm House); tel: 91/98211-99147 — N.C.
- Elco Market: Rumored to be a favorite of Bollywood stars, the twin-level eatery is full of people at any time of the day, many seated on red plastic stools in a shaded courtyard out front nibbling on pani-puri, crisp round balls of hollow fried bread filled with chickpea-potato mixture and a tart-sweet tamarind-date sauce. Choose from one of several chaat items (a variety of sweet-sour-spicy snacks e a delicious hoge-podge of chutneys, onions, potatoes, and fried dough or puffed rice), or order a plate of fiery red spicy pav bhaji, mashed vegetables cooked with spices served with bread drenched in butter. Also very good are the cooling, sweet glasses of kulfi falooda, a mix of vermicelli, milk, dried fruits, rose syrup and basil seeds, all of it topped up with a scoop of kulfi. Elco Arcade, 46 Hill Road, Bandra (W); tel: 91/22/6587-7171 — N.C.
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