Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Hotel review: Abode, Mumbai, India

A spacious retreat in bustling old Bombay.
The lavish breakfast spread at Abode. Courtesy Abode Mumbai
The lavish breakfast spread at Abode. Courtesy Abode Mumbai

The welcome

A statue of Mumbadevi, the patron goddess of the city of Mumbai, sits in welcome on the wooden staircase leading up to the first-floor lobby. Locals hang rose garlands and light incense. It is a charming, authentic way of linking this one-year-old boutique hotel to the Colaba neighbourhood it inhabits.

The lobby feels like someone’s living room, which it once was. There are communal tables, hand-painted tiles, a library and objects on display by The Elephant Company. Fresh lime juice welcomes guests. Registration is unobtrusive and informal. Owner Essa Sham, a Bohri Muslim who used to be in the antiques business, will come out and chat if he is around.

The 100-year-old building was owned by a Jewish family until the present owners bought it in 1984. It was used as a guesthouse for antique-buying friends and business ­partners. Helped by his son, who lives in the Middle East, Sham ­converted it into a 20-room ­hotel last year.

The neighbourhood

From the road, the entrance is discrete and hardly visible – hidden in plain sight amid shops selling attar and pashmina shawls. The Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Cafe Mondegar and Regal Cinema – all Mumbai landmarks – are at walking distance. Colaba Causeway, a long pedestrian mall, is around the corner. The neighbourhood is lively with balloon sellers, musicians, vendors and street artists. Shops such as Bombay Electric, and restaurants such as Indigo Deli are close by. In terms of access, it doesn’t get better than this.

The room

The ground-floor rooms are larger. The owner’s penchant for antiques is visible in the restored wood furniture and cast-iron accessories. My room has a full-sized, claw-foot bathtub – a definite treat in space-starved Mumbai. There is a sitting area and a deftly separated bedroom. The bedside tables have books, which ought to be more common than it is. I read an autographed copy of Tahir Shah’s memoir before sleeping.

The scene

Entirely outside the hotel and easily visible from my room’s windows. Inside, it is quiet. A few guests hang around the lobby reading, working on their computers or chatting with the staff.

The service

The service is informal – ­perhaps too informal. The receptionist, disconcertingly, calls me by my first name.

Other than that, the front-office staff will print out boarding passes, arrange a taxi or organise locally trained blind masseuses who do an Ayurvedic or aroma massage with advance notice.

The food

The masala scrambled eggs that I had for breakfast were brilliant. For lunch or dinner though, it would be a shame not to explore the hopping restaurant scene nearby. Kailash Parbat has Bombay’s best chaat (street food). Theobroma is a home-grown patisserie that sells divine dark chocolate.

Loved

My room, the location and the human-sized proportions of the hotel.

Hated

The noise and busyness of the street outside at night.

The verdict

“The only place to stay in Colaba,” says Deepa Krishnan, founder of Mumbai Magic tours. I would tend to agree.

The bottom line

A ground-floor suite at Abode costs from 9,500 rupees (Dh530) per night, including taxes, Wi-Fi and breakfast.

travel@thenational.ae

Updated: December 30, 2015 04:00 AM

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