Delhi may be the capital city, but it's Mumbai that encapsulates all the dynamic, chaotic parts that make up modern India. This is where you'll find everything from succulent street food to haute cuisine, bargain-basement bazaars to the finest haute couture, humbling poverty to staggering wealth, sacred temples to hedonist nightclubs. Mumbai is India—vibrant, hectic, frustrating, enervating, and exhilarating, warts and all. Mumbai is a city of extremes, where slum-dwelling strivers making dollars a day serve Bollywood stars and industrial billionaires. It's a 24-hour city stocked with some of the best late-night street food in the world, as well as fine-dining restaurants of renowned chefs. It's a cosmopolitan city of people from all over India that's nonetheless home to strident parochialism. It's a city of dreams for millions of Indians that, at the same time, affords so few any measure of comfort. And it's a beautiful city of silver towers when viewed by twilight from the new Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge over the Arabian Sea that connects the Western suburbs to the city, but which quickly descends into a maze of winding—often dirty—streets and alleys when viewed up close. Sensory overload is the name of the game on the island formerly known as Bombay (and yes, many locals still call it by its previous moniker). The first thing that hits you when you arrive at the airport is the smell—spicy, fishy, and, to be honest, often not altogether pleasant. Next comes a crazed cab ride through the seemingly lawless streets (should your driver run a red light or, just as likely, drive on the wrong side of the road, remain calm). Then a traffic jam in the midst of a veritable symphony of honking, in which barefoot children, often holding infants, and tragically disfigured men and women knock at your window, begging for change. Persevere through, though; embrace and try to understand the natural hazards of the Third World, and you'll find yourself in the middle of a vibrant, often beautiful city. There's plenty to see in Mumbai, but it's not generally in the form of stationary monuments like those in London, Paris, or Delhi. The art of experiencing Mumbai lies in eating, shopping, and wandering through the strikingly different neighborhoods and the various markets. Think of Mumbai as a 50-km (30-mile) -long open-air bazaar. Colaba, headed by Gateway of India, is the tourist district and main drag for visitors, and from the Gateway of India to Colaba Market, along the main road, is a walkable stretch of hotels, pubs, restaurants, and interesting shops. Churchgate and Nariman Point are the business and hotel centers, and major bank and airline headquarters are clustered in skyscrapers on Nariman Point. The district referred to as Fort—which includes Mumbai's hub, Flora Fountain—is filled with narrow, bustling streets lined with small shops and office buildings, as well as colleges and other educational facilities. Another upscale residential neighborhood, Malabar Hill, north of Churchgate on Marine Drive, is leafy and breezy, with fine, old stone mansions housing wealthy industrialists and government ministers. Shopping and people-watching are most colorfully combined in Mumbai's chaotic bazaar areas, such as Chor Bazaar, Zaveri (jewelry) Bazaar, and Crawford Market (aka Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market). Many of the city's newest and trendiest shops and restaurants are now out in the suburbs—where more and more people have been moving due to soaring real-estate prices and a lack of space—but South Mumbai still retains some of the very best. Some travelers opt to stay in the suburbs, either in Bandra, at the end of the new Bandra-Worli Sea Link, or in Juhu, a popular coastal suburb between Mumbai and the airports (about 20 km [12 miles] north of the city center). Juhu's beaches aren't clean enough for swimming, and the place can be scruffy, but staying out here is a good way to observe everyday Indian life beyond the shadow of Mumbai's skyline. Sunday nights bring families down to the beach for an old-fashioned carnival, complete with small, hand-powered Ferris wheels, and lantern-lit snack stalls hawking sugarcane.
Mumbai is India's melting pot, as well as its most cosmopolitan city, so it's no surprise that you can find nearly every regional Indian cuisine here, and some quality international food, too. You'll also find options ranging from casual to super chic.
Seafood from the Konkan coast—from Maharashtra south through Goa and all the way to Mangalore, in Karnataka—is a Mumbai specialty. The many seafood restaurants in Fort, from upscale Trishna to old-school Apoorva, have some of the best food in Mumbai. "Lunch home" is a typical Mumbai name for the slightly dingy seafood joints that bring in the crowds at lunchtime. North India is represented as well, with kebabs and tandoori. If you're looking for kebabs, head to restaurants specializing in Punjabi or Mughlai cuisine, or, if you have a fairly strong stomach, go to Khao Galli near Bhendi Bazaar; the late-night kebab snack option is Bade Miya behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Meat-heavy dishes from the Northwest Frontier (the area of undivided India that's partly in modern-day Pakistan) are also popular, and closely related to Mughlai food: check out Neel, at the Mahalaxmi race track in Central Mumbai, for upscale versions. On the other end of the spectrum are Gujarati vegetarian thalis—combination platters of various veggies and lentils, though the ones in Mumbai tend to be a bit oilier than those from elsewhere in India. Soam, at the top of Marine Drive, is a great upscale place for thalis, where they're less oily. You may also encounter some Jain food, which is also vegetarian but cooked without any root vegetables—and that includes onions and garlic. You'll find authentic South Indian vegetarian food—dosas (fried, crepelike pancakes), idlis (steamed rice cakes), wadas (also spelled vadas; savory fried, and often flavored, lentil-flour doughnuts), and simple, light thalis (combination platters)—all over the city.
There are many multicuisine restaurants around the city—usually fairly cheap, tacky joints that make good kebabs, decent Indo-Chinese food, and terrible continental food.
People eat late in India. Lunch is generally around 1-ish, and dinner is anytime between 8:30 pm and midnight—if you're meeting local friends, expect to eat around 9:30 or 10 pm. If you plan on eating at 7, reservations probably aren't necessary, and you can expect a fairly empty restaurant; if you want to eat at 6, call ahead: your restaurant may not even be open for dinner yet. Locals generally dress for dinner. They aren't formal, but they are usually well turned out. Shorts and the grunge look are only acceptable at cafés.
It's worth noting, too, that if you're staying in South Bombay, there's no need to head out to the suburbs to eat, but if you're staying outside the city center there are plenty of quality food options if you don't feel like going downtown to eat.
Just down the block from Regal Cinema, Monde's is similar in atmosphere and cuisine to its older brother Leopold's up the road. It's a great place to grab a beer—unlike Leo's, they don't have a full liquor license—and it's always packed. Opt out of the characterless air-conditioned room and instead post up at one of the cramped tables in the main space, where the jukebox plays at full blast and the walls are covered with cartoon murals of Mumbai life. Continental and Chinese cuisine are available, or you could stick to the greasy french fries and onion rings.
When it defiantly reopened just four days after the first shots of November 2008 terrorist attacks were fired and 10 people were killed, the crowds were so big the police had to shut the place down all over again. The following day it was open again. Order a bottle of ice-cold Kingfisher beer to wash down the hearty, typical bar food—chicken tikka, french fries, that kind of thing. Surprisingly, the Chinese food is actually the better bet: the beef with chili peppers can't be beat, and the chicken fried rice and the chili chicken are highly recommended.
Mahesh Lunch Home
Somewhere between Apoorva and Trishna—geographically as well as atmospherically—Mahesh is another legendary Fort seafood restaurant that attracts the office lunch crowd as well as packing them in during the evenings. The character has been stripped out of the place since they decided to go upscale, and the floor-to-ceiling marble might be a bit much, but the food remains reliably authentic. With that in mind, pass on the butter/pepper/garlic concoctions and stick to the traditional Konkan fare, like prawn gussi (a spicy red curry), rawas (a local fish), and fried kane (a bony Mangalorean fish). Decades into its existence, it's still the place for the freshest fish in town.
Four words: Butter; Pepper; Garlic; Crab. Even if that was all this legendary Kala Ghoda restaurant served, they'd be full year-round. The succulent crab is available in myriad treatments—with Indian and Western spices, green hariyali masala, black (spicier) Hyderabadi masala—and they maintain the quality that's made it a favorite with locals and tourists alike for more than 30 years. But there's more to the menu than crab—prawns, squid, pomfret (a classic Indian Ocean fish) are there too, and it's always fresh. The interiors have a tacky 1980s feel, but you're here for the food, not the interior design.
Dingy—but not dirty—Churchill's specializes in British-style comfort food, perhaps a welcome break from all the Indian food you'll be eating. The red-and-white vinyl interior fits the food, and although the cheap chow may be starchy and simple, sometimes roast beef and gravy with steamed veggies and mashed potatoes really hits the spot. The desserts, though—oh my!—are some of the best Mumbai has to offer: at any given time you'll find five kinds of chocolate cake (brownie, truffle, you name it), and five kinds of cheesecake in the dessert case. You might be tempted to have dessert for dinner.
Mumbai's first true fine-dining experience outside of a five-star hotel coasts a lot on reputation, but it remains popular for a reason. The interior is all light wood and summery elegance, the menu is contemporary, the wine selection is vast, and the crowd a veritable who's who. The grilled prawns and most of the pastas are recommended, as are starters of beef carpaccio or the salad of grilled asparagus, broccoli, and greens. For the true Indigo experience, make a reservation for Sunday brunch—a five-hour, all you can eat and drink, top-shelf, fine-dining cornucopia of food and booze.
Styled as an haute version of a typical Mangalorean home—all red clay and bright green—Konkan is in the Vivanta by Taj hotel (still "Taj President" to taxi drivers). It does all the chow your average home might serve, but more refined, with cleaner flavors and elegant presentation: food is served on copper thali plates lined with banana leaves. The prawn gassi (Mangalorean curry) is spicy and delicious, and the crab dishes will not disappoint, but breads tend to be rather dry. Still, it's probably the only coastal restaurant to offer a great, if expensive, bottle of wine.
The jewel of the Moshe's empire, this elegant, European-style restaurant is where chef Moshe Shek, a Mumbai Jew, puts his culinary skills on display. It offers some of the city's best international food—pastas in creamy sauces, eggplant roulade, crusty cheese garlic bread (baked on the premises), Israeli stuffed chicken, hearty soups, and the highly recommended char-grilled rawas (Indian salmon). Fresh bread and some of the city's best pastries are also available: try the cheesecake. Reserve an inside table—though the outdoor patio is lovely, it's sometimes engulfed in the stench of the fisherman's village across the road.
Families, vegetarians, and foreigners who can't handle street food flock here for healthy Gujarati food. Granted, the use of ghee (clarified butter) is quite liberal, but not all dishes use it—like the various kinds of chaat (veggie and bread snacks). The spicy potato patties stuffed with peas and smothered in savory yellow dal are highly recommended, as is palak moong dal (yellow lentils sautéed with spinach), vitamin bhel (a light veggie salad), and spinach and cheese samosas. The modern take on classics doesn't deter the locals and it's likely to be packed, but you'll soon get a seat amid the pale yellow walls, wooden benches, and loud aunties.
Wasabi by Morimoto
Wildly expensive, Wasabi attracts a rich clientele who don't mind spending an extra few thousand rupees for fresh, delectable sushi in a town that almost entirely lacks any, even of the barely edible variety. On the second floor of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel and styled after an upscale but fairly authentic Japanese sushi joint, the restaurant offers great service, a nice view toward the Gateway of India, and—we cannot emphasize this enough—great sushi. If you've got the cash, try one of the tasting menus (6 to 12 courses), which will take you through the best dishes, from whitefish carpaccio to rock-shrimp tempura to salmon nigiri.
If you're searching for an authentic seafood lunch home—read: unpretentious, tasty, and cheap—this old-school Kala Ghoda mainstay is spot on: slightly dingy, full of locals, with a too-cold a/c section that smells faintly of moth balls. The king prawn gussi, a spicy red masala dish, is the best thing on the menu, though the tandoori pomfret (an Indian Ocean fish) is a close second. Whatever main dish you choose—especially any fish with a dry green Hyderabadi treatment—order a couple of neer dosa as accompaniment: think rotis, but much lighter and fluffier, and made of rice; most Konkan restaurants have them, but none do them better than Apoorva.
Serving the best ice cream in town, Natural—which has the taste of Indian malai (sweets so creamy they're almost like cheese)—seems to be everywhere. Established in 1984 in Juhu, Natural now has outlets throughout the country. Open until around midnight—depending on the shop—Natural shops attract students and families alike on most weekend nights. All of the ice cream is made with fresh fruit or nuts, and contains no preservatives; highly recommended are the tender coconut, roasted almond, or seasonal Indian fruit flavors like cinnamon-tinged chikoo (a caramel-flavored fruit also known as sapodilla), custard apple, or mango.
Salt Water Café
This unpretentious restaurant in Bandra Reclamation—a section of Bandra—has a classic nouvelle cuisine menu and a simple rooftop terrace. The crab cakes are especially good, the steak is decent (but remember that unless it's crazy expensive, steak in India usually means buffalo), and the drinks are relatively cheap. It gets crowded on weekends so be sure to make a reservation, preferably for the terrace, where the cover of giant palm trees somehow blocks out the cacophony from noisy Chapel Road below.
If you're used to 100-rupee kebabs, this hotel restaurant will serve up a shock, but though they don't come cheap, the succulent kebabs are perfect for those who don't want to risk Delhi belly (yes, even in Mumbai it's called that) at a hygienically challenged late-night spot. Elegant and subdued, with excellent waitstaff, the restaurant's only drawback is the minimum 25-minute wait for your food—but good things take time, and the chicken seekh kebabs (ground chicken and spices), Chilean sea bass served in a green hariyali (spinach and mint) masala, and the chicken pahadi kebab (chunks of saffron-tinged chicken topped with egg whites) are worth the wait.
Though the name implies something quite different, this restaurant actually serves pan-Asian food, and attracts a mix of couples and families out for a special occasion. A bubbling pond with wooden statues greets customers to an interior decked out with traditional Asian accoutrements—mini yellow catamaran sails over the lights, giant Japanese orchids, and various Asian scripts on the walls. For starters, try the Malaysian beef tenderloin satay, and follow with Da long xai (ginger-flavored, wok-fried lobster with water chestnuts and asparagus) or the rung koo mun shao, another Malaysian dish made with braised, skin-on chicken and mixed vegetables.
Under the same ownership as Woodside, this new restaurant dispenses with the pubby atmosphere to focus on simple, rustic cuisine using local ingredients. The food is excellent and incredibly reasonably priced considering how refined it is, and although it'd be nice if it had a wine license—the white interiors, open kitchen, and general atmosphere fairly scream "Wine Bar!"—the excellent baked goods and mains more than make up for the lack of booze. Try the creamy potato pie, the grilled chicken or pulled pork sandwich, along with the grilled rawas and literally any of the breads or pastries, and get ready for the best salads in town.
The Mumbai outpost of the Michelin-starred London original, this Bandra haunt is worth a visit for those who absolutely must have a fancy Chinese dinner, and can't wait until they're in London, New York, or Miami (where prices, because of tax and local markups here, will be a sight lower). Even then, it's likely only worth dining here if you're in Bandra already. Try the Peking duck with Ossetra caviar (we said it was expensive; might as well go all out), the stir-fry tenderloin with black pepper sauce, or the dim sum basket, in which the scallop shumai is likely the star, but all of the dumplings are outstanding.
Pali Village Café
Quality European bistro food—and the opportunity to see a Bollywood star or two—draws suburbanites, and even a few Townies (people from South Bombay), to this converted two-story furniture store in Bandra. While the rest of Mumbai runs headlong into the future, this place harks back to Bombay's bungalow roots with simple wooden tables, wrought iron railings, and exposed brick. The pastas and sandwiches are well executed, but it's the thin-crust pizza, served by the slice—rare in Mumbai—that's the real draw, though the grilled Australian lamb chops might be the best dish on the menu.
For decades the food stalls in front of Elco Market have been serving some of the best—and cleanest—vegetarian street food Mumbai has to offer, and they were doing so well that the owners were able to open this two-floor restaurant inside the market, offering essentially the same food. Try the cheese pav bhaji for a heartier take on a Mumbai classic, the ragda pattice, and pretty much any of the other classics listed in the "Street Food Favorites." Finish off with a serving of sweet, doughy gulab jamuns, basically doughnut holes in a sweet syrup.
This Italian restaurant at the Oberoi hotel has become known as the best in town. Granted, Mumbai is not exactly known for its carbonara, so the bar isn't set too high, but Vetro could stack up against Italian food in any moderately-sized American city. And if you're in the mood for a break from spicy food, this minimalist chic restaurant is perfect, especially for lunch. Try the Caprese salad to start, then move on to grilled, spiced chicken, or the antipasti bar, with its wide selection of olives, cheeses, Italian meats, and salads. Those who say the food is bland are likely just more used to spicy Indian food.
Shortly before Ziya stormed Mumbai's culinary world, renowned chef Vineet Bhatia, hailed for his experimental fine-dining Indian food, quietly opened this lower-key version of his revolutionary Indian restaurant. Perched on the rooftop of an apartment building, Azok may look like a lot of the other outdoor lounges in the city, but rooftop dining is a rare treat in Mumbai, and the food heralds the future of Indian cuisine. Try the mustard tempered stir-fried prawns with wasabi, the lamb biryani, and the chicken tikka with creamy red makhani sauce (a mild, creamy tomato curry) over penne pasta.
Britannia & Co.
Office workers come here for the world-famous chicken berry pulao—and Boman Kohnior, whose father founded the restaurant in 1923, still takes their orders. When he chants—and he will—"fresh lime soda sweet to beat the Mumbai heat!" you will order just that, but it's that pulao, with rice, chicken, gravy, and dried fruit, that will keep you coming back. Parsi food is only available in Mumbai, and this is one of the oldest Parsi restaurants that, thankfully, hasn't tried to go upscale. It's simple, fast, heavy, blissfully unhealthy food served in a dingy-looking shop with simple tables.
Rarely packed, even on Saturday night, because its in the infrequently visited centre, Oh! Calcutta serves the city's best Bengali food in a fine-dining environment of dark-wood set off by simple black-and-white archival photos from the British raj. The food is exquisite, and if it's all too unfamiliar, defer to the waiters—some of the best in the city—to choose something, based on your specifications. Start with Roshun Bhapa Maach, a steamed bekti (a freshwater fish) marinated with kashundi (Bengali-style mustard), green chili paste, and garlic. For a main course, you can't go wrong with the aam kashundi kakra (breaded stir-fried crabmeat in an orange-mango mustard sauce).
With two Frenchmen at the helm, this tiny crêpe joint serves authentic and healthy organic buckwheat pancakes at fair prices. It gets packed with office jockeys on weekday lunchtimes, but they don't linger, so the longest wait time is 10 minutes. Try the Méditerranée, with grilled chicken, olive tapenade, mozzarella, and tomatoes, or the Italie, with roquette, tomato coulis, mozzarella, and oregano, or build your own crêpe from their extensive list of ingredients. Salads are washed in bottled water and totally safe. Sweet crêpes come with various combinations of Nutella, jam, fruit, and cream. There's another branch in Bandra.
The only real bar in town is modeled on an English pub, plays decent music (though sometimes too loud), has great bar food, and free Wi-Fi. It has some of the best-priced alcohol in town and is the only such place that's neither a trendy lounge playing club music or a dingy permit room. It's also a great place to stop in after a day's walking. Try the pizzas—pepperoni, four cheese, and pesto chicken are excellent, and the margherita's no slouch—the burgers, the chicken nuggets, or Franco's meatballs (a lamb and pork mix in a tangy tomato sauce).
The Bagel Shop
Bandra's beautiful people—from Bollywood stars to expats to creative types—flock to this hip, casual café on tony Pali Hill. The laid-back style, plentiful outdoor seating, and excellent quality food more than make up for the fact that the bagels are actually just round bread, not the boiled-then-baked New York variety. Order a whole-wheat bagel with Goan-style chicken sausage and cream cheese, and one of the wonderful seasonal fruit smoothies, as you lounge on one of the rattan couches.
Hand's down the best upscale Indian food in town, this restaurant in a beautifully designed building at the track makes the journey to the city center utterly worthwhile. Portions are big—as are the prices—and the food is heavy but sophisticated. Start with a seekh kebab (minced chicken or mutton with spices) or the mutton shorba (bone marrow soup), followed by raan, a North Indian–style leg of lamb with roasted apples, or bindhi kali mirch (spicy okra), and dal makhani (a buttery black lentil dish) with rice, or any of the dozen great breads—flaky lachha paratha is recommended.
Le Pain Quotidien
This Belgian bakery, a stone's throw from the Gateway of India, offers great breads, fresh ingredients, and a giant communal table—great pop-in when you're sweating it out in South Bombay. It has the best croissants and baguettes in the city, fresh, large salads (try the Caesar or Caprese), and its specialty: tartines (open-face sandwiches)—the roasted chicken and smoked mozzarella is recommended. There are hot dishes, too, and evening specials might include grilled salmon or seared lamb chops. It's a good option for those who need a break from Indian food and want to check email on the free Wi-Fi.
Opened in 2010, Ziya quickly shot to the very forefront of Indian cuisine and although other modern, more traditionally-minded restaurants (like Neel) have taken its place at the top of the heap, it remains one of the most exciting restaurants to hit India in ages. Here, traditional Indian flavors receive nouvelle cuisine treatment from Chef Vineet Bhatia, the first Indian chef to win Michelin stars. Try his "gourmand" tasting menu—seven to ten courses that vary from mushroom kichidi (rice, yoghurt, and spices—like risotto, but mushier) with makhani (creamy red tomato curry) ice cream to a smoked tandoori lamb chop with lemon-grass foam.
Suburbanites love this quaint seafood joint near Juhu Beach, which compares favorably with the best coastal restaurants Fort has to offer. They've opened a branch in High Street Phoenix Mall, so those staying down south don't have to travel too far to enjoy the fried surmai fish (a type of mackerel), the savory crab stir fry, the big, fresh grilled tiger prawns, or the baby shark masala (actually mori fish). The Phoenix Mall branch is sleek and modern, while the original Vile Parle location is a bit tacky and dated but generally better regarded (as most originals are).
Juhu's most trendy nightspot is also one of its best fine-dining restaurants. Definitively loungey, it feels less forced and more elegant than most lounge bars in Mumbai, and the outdoor area, overhanging a nice stretch of Juhu Beach, has low white couches and sparkling candlelight. Inside, it's a bit too dim, but later on the dance floor fills up with some of Bollywood's most beautiful people, so stick around after your meal. The continental food has local influences, and runs the gamut from traditional pastas to molecular gastronomy. The signature dish—duck prepared by the sous vide method—is succulent, but the grilled New Zealand lamb shank is better.
On the ground floor of the Sea Palace Hotel, Ragaa serves surprisingly good Indian food and also has outdoor seating for dining to the sound of the ocean. The service is not great, and it can take a while to get your drinks and food, but when they arrive they are cheap and of good quality. Try the spinach chaat (fried breaded spinach with spicy tomato on top), the buttery dal makhani (a rich, dark lentil dish), and the kebab platter. After your meal, head up to the rooftop bar for an after-dinner cocktail.
Pan-Asian is a dirty term in the hands of most restaurants, but this small, hip joint proves that it is possible to do it all, and do it well. The most popular dish, with good reason, is the Khao Suey, a Burmese coconut-based soup that you assemble yourself—you get a bowl of noodles, a bowl of broth, and small bowls of ingredients like chives, veggies, chicken, crushed peanuts, etc. The Korean bibimbap (a combination of vegetables, meat, and rice) and beef bulgogi are also great. Start with the beef tenderloin skewers, pepper prawns, or any of the momos (dumplings).
One of Mumbai's best restaurants, The Table was launched by a pair of Indian restaurateurs and a young American chef from San Francisco. The lofted upper floor is perfect for romantic dinners, while below the large, eponymous, communal table extends from the bar for a more lively and sociable setting. The small plates tend to be the best, with particularly high marks for the zucchini spaghetti (literally spaghetti made from the vegetable) in a light buttery sauce with almonds, the tuna tataki, the spicy lamb burgers, and the meatballs, smothered in sauce and topped with cheese and fried onions. The large plates don't disappoint either.
Oily, spicy biryani and tikkas draw crowds to this once dingy, now oddly nightclub/spaceship-looking joint near CST. This is a spot for the late-night foodie whose taste buds are a bit more discerning than those of the people eating on the street in front of Bade Miya—and, now that it's been redesigned, the cleanliness at this restaurant might actually be Department of Health approved. The chow is unbelievably tasty, if completely traditional, and it comes fast and cheap. Try the chicken biryani, the chicken tikka, or the famous, creamy butter chicken.
Not for the faint of heart when it comes to hygiene, Mumbai's most famous kebab stand sits behind the Taj Mahal Hotel like a promise it'll never change. Always packed, always greasy, and always tasty, it's perfect for a late-night snack, but not necessarily the place for an early dinner—the grime is less apparent after dark. Try the chicken bhuna (shredded chicken in a spicy red-brown gravy), the chicken baida roti (a sort of Indian quesadilla, with chicken and egg), or, for the more adventurous, the bheja fry (fried goat brains in a spicy gravy). There's also a strictly vegetarian tandoor.
Popular with college kids, and tucked neatly off Carter Road, Kareem's serves some of the best kebabs in the 'burbs—and it's a good option for those wary of eating street-side kebabs (which, honestly, take kebabs to a whole other level), or not up for a visit to Muhammad Ali Road in the Muslim ghetto. Open-air, but decorated in unpretentious, but modern, dark wood, Kareem's has a casual atmosphere, enhanced by the bench-style seating. Try the chicken tikka, the mutton seekh kebabs (minced meat wrapped around a skewer and cooked in the tandoor oven), and, for vegetarians, the paneer tikka (grilled cottage cheese with peppers and onions). There's another on Colaba Causeway.
The Tasting Room
Popular with rich Mumbai housewives—who pack the place for lunch during the week—this Mediterranean restaurant serves gourmet food in a relaxed setting. On the top-floor veranda of Good Earth (a designer furniture store), the Tasting Room shares its hosts' penchant for subtle Indian minimalism in warm earth tones. Although the ladies who lunch tend to get a little loud midday, dinner is quite the calm affair. The watermelon and feta salad is extremely popular, and makes a good starter, as do the port-poached beets. For mains, you can't go wrong with the lamb ragu with spaghetti.
Classic no-frills Mughlai food draws vacationing Arabs to this eatery that has outlets throughout the United Arab Emirates, though this one's the flagship. It's loud and bustling—not the place for a romantic dinner—but the real reasons you're here are that you're not vegetarian and the food is top quality. Meat, kebabs, and rice dishes are guaranteed not to disappoint, but bonus points go to the palak gosht (mutton in creamy spinach), murgh badami korma (minced chicken kebabs), and mutton Kashmiri. Inexplicably, Delhi Darbar offers Chinese food, but it pales in comparison to the Mughlai dishes.
In Mumbai, unlike elsewhere in India, even mid-range hotels can be shockingly overpriced, and a hotel shortage means that good deals are few. Many hotels in that middle range aren't quite up to Western standards of cleanliness, despite their high prices, but location means everything in Mumbai, and tourists may have to sacrifice a bit on substance to get proximity to the city's best attractions. Even hotels with the highest of prices can be full because of year-round demand, so you're well advised to make reservations a few months in advance.
Chains like the Taj, Oberoi, Hyatt, Marriott, InterContinental, Hilton, and
Sheraton have huge hotels, most of them deluxe; these cater to leisure and
business travelers, and movie stars with money to burn. Whether you reserve with
a hotel directly or through a travel agent, always ask for a discount. Note that
tariffs quoted in this book and at hotels do not include 12% tax. Room rates at
the luxury hotels fluctuate depending on occupancy, and they offer the rate of
the day; the earlier you book, the better the rate you'll get. If you're paying
cash, convert your currency beforehand—most hotels give poor exchange rates.
Most of Mumbai's hotels are collected around three locations: in South Mumbai, primarily in Colaba; near Juhu Beach in the suburbs (note that the beach has been cleaned up, but it's not clean enough for swimming—even though you might see some local boys going in); and in North Mumbai, near the airport. If you're going to be sightseeing, and you have the money, stay in South Mumbai rather than the suburbs. If you're here on business, the airport may be your ideal location, and there are several luxury hotels in the vicinity.
Mumbai's cheaper hotels, usually in South Mumbai, can be decent but are still probably overpriced for what you get. During the monsoon season (mid-May through late September), these hotels are overrun by large groups of vacationers from various Arab nations who come to Mumbai to enjoy the cooler weather and rain, during which time noise levels can be very high—solo women travelers should probably stay elsewhere during this time unless they really aren't going to be bothered by the stares.
Unless otherwise indicated, hotels have air-conditioning, room service, doctors on call, and currency exchange, and rooms have private bathrooms and cable television.
Simply put, no city in India knows how to have a good time quite like Mumbai. Here you'll find everything from dingy "permit rooms" (basically cafeteria-style rooms with a liquor license) so dirty they make an American dive bar look like the Rainbow Room, and clubs so fancy they make the Rainbow Room look like a permit room. Whatever destination you choose, they all hold their own special charms. If you're in the mood for a cheap tipple, and you appreciate the character of a down and dirty dive bar, head to Gokul, behind the Taj Mahal Palace, it's the most tourist-friendly of Mumbai's permit rooms.
If you're more inclined to clubbing, Mumbai has lots to choose from—though club owners seem to have decided that the only option that works in this city are lounges with blaring music and tiny dance floors: be forewarned, though, that prices are steep, and you'll often pay New York prices, or more, for your drinks. Note, too, that many clubs and bars have "couples" policies, wherein a "stag" (lone man) is not permitted to enter without a woman. This might be a circuitous attempt to prevent brawls, pick-up scenes, and prostitution—or just a club owner figuring that in a country where many more guys are allowed to stay out late than girls, a club full of dudes isn't going to attract much business. To avoid an unpleasant encounter at the door, check with your hotel staff to find out whether your destination club or bar will allow you to enter if you're a man traveling alone or in a group of men. Dress nicely and you'll probably get in; an advance call from your hotel concierge might also make your entry smoother.
One area where the suburbs have it over the city is nightlife, and the after-dark scene in the wealthy enclaves of Juhu and Bandra thrive on suburbia's young nouveau riche as well as city folk willing to travel for a good night out.
Revelry peaks from Thursday to Sunday nights, with an early-twenties-to-mid-thirties crowd. Pubs open daily at around 6 or 7 (except a few, which open in the afternoon) and close by 1:15 am or a little later, depending, quite honestly, on how much they've paid the local cops. Some places collect a cover charge at the door. As in any metropolis, the reign of a nightspot can be ephemeral. Ask a young hotel employee to tell you where the best clubs or bars are, as trends change quickly in Mumbai.
A relatively staid yuppie crowd like to hang out in the clubby (in the British sense) setting here, but it's also one of the few bars with enough TVs to accommodate a big televised sporting event like Wimbledon or the World Cup.
This is a great late-night spot, and the closest Mumbai has to a true dive bar, complete with a pair of beat up pool tables.
One of the more popular bars in south Mumbai, Wink is on the spendy side because it's located in the 5-Star Vivanta by Taj–President Mumbai hotel. The main draw is its chill house music.
In the swanky Marriott, Enigma is one of the hottest discos in the burbs. Expect loud music.
In addition to its excellent Asian restaurant (think a combination of Burmese, Chinese, Vietanmese, and Thai), Busaba has a relaxed but small and attractive bar-lounge. There's another branch near Blue Frog and Café Zoe in Central Mumbai, if you're in the neighborhood.
With some of the best views of the city, the open-air Dome attracts a young, good-looking crowd who sit, amid candlelight, on plush white sofas and chairs. It's one of the best sunset-drink spots in the city, and the fact that the menu includes a selection from the excellent Kebab Korner only sweetens the deal. Drinks are fairly expensive, but if you're on a budget, grab a Kingfisher for Rs. 300, hardly a steal, but you're paying for the view.
Small but popular, Hawaiian Shack resembles a Goa beach spot and plays retro music.
More famous as a restaurant, Indigo also has a comfortable and happy bar/lounge area and excellent wine selection, making it a special place to have drinks, too.
Koyla is a rooftop hangout with hookahs, Arabian music, a good breeze, and tasty barbecue bites. No alcohol is served.
Olive Bar and Restaurant
This candlelit nightspot draws Mumbai's who's who for bites of top-notch antipasto, risotto, seafood salad, and sips of caipiroskas (Caipirinias made with vodka instead of cachaça liqueur).
Sports Bar Express
Loud music, a giant television screen, and pool tables in the next room are the attractions here.
Great food as well as great beats—opt for the lounge on the beach.
International bands and local acts play every night exceot Monday at this spacious, trendy nightclub, with top-notch acoustics. International cuisine is served—with munchies like onion rings, burgers, and cheese platters, as well as full meals like pasta and fried fish. Entry per head varies from free to Rs. 2,000, depending on whether there is an international or domestic act playing. Check website for schedule.
The rooftop club at the Four Seasons is one of the most popular—and most expensive—bars in town, but it offers stunning views of the city in all directions, and is probably worth a drink.
The most tourist-friendly of Mumbai's permit rooms, offering a no-frills, dingy atmosphere—this is the kind of place you want to hit up for super-cheap drinks (we're talking nearly retail prices per bottle, which you can order to your table) before you head to the club, or for a late-night drink post-clubbing, if the owners have paid the cops enough to stay open past bar time that night.
Prive and Tetsuma
Patterned on a London nightclub, Prive and Tetsuma are among the hottest clubs in town with a decent Japanese restaurant that becomes a bar at night. Both are open until at least 4 am on most weekend nights, serve expensive drinks, attract a youngish (but not teenage) crowd, and allow smoking indoors once it's late enough.
Facing the Arabian Sea, this bar is elegant and more reserved than many of its peers, and attracts a rather high-class clientele for the live jazz band that plays each night.
Mumbai is a shopper's town: in the same day, you can sift through alleys full of antiques in Chor Bazaar, haggle for trinkets on the Colaba Causeway, and stop in at the Brioni showroom at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel for marked-up luxury goods (though we'd recommend you get your Louis Vuitton and Armani back home to avoid the huge import taxes).
The Causeway, Kemps Corner, and Breach Candy are all trendy shopping areas in South Mumbai; the latter two are chic and pricey. A walk down Colaba Causeway will probably take you past most of the things you want to buy in India—shoes, clothes, cheap knickknacks, cheap cotton clothing, jewelry, and wraps—displayed at stalls lining the road; more expensive items are found in the air-conditioned shops and boutiques behind the stalls on this same road.
The arcades in top hotels offer a little bit of everything for a lot more money than anywhere else, but the merchandise is beautiful and the pace unhurried (and it's climate-controlled). If you're looking for the kind of stuff you can't get anywhere else in the world, and a more vibrant experience, throw yourself into the middle of one of Mumbai's famous bazaars. After all, odds are you didn't come to India to visit the Louis Vuitton boutique.
The city's department stores are good for one-stop shopping, and Fabindia and The Bombay Store both have a large number of branches in the city.
Throughout Mumbai many smaller shops are closed on Sunday (some of the suburbs are closed a different day: in Worli, up to Bandra, they're closed Monday; and in Bandra, up to the suburbs, they're closed Thursday, although many areas are also in the process of switching to Sunday). Malls, however, are open every day. They are especially crowded on the weekend (mall-gazing—that is, large-scale window shopping—has become a new Mumbai leisure activity).
Once you've exhausted Mumbai proper, you can venture out to the suburbs, where prices tend to be lower and the malls more numerous. Linking Road in Bandra is a trendy place to shop, and Juhu's main strip, Juhu Tara Road, is lined with cutting-edge new boutiques, shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Some good and cheap Mumbai buys: silver jewelry, handicrafts, handloom cotton
and silk clothing and household items, eyeglasses, DVDs, CDs, and books.
This is a trove of cotton bargains in a long row of open-air stalls, with mounds of colorful, cheap, mainly Western clothing for all ages. The name is completely incongruous—there is nothing fashionable about this street, but the knock-offs are cheap. Come around 11 am, when the crowds are thinner and the sun has not yet peaked—and bargain.
Jehangir Art Gallery
At least three art shows are staged here every week, either on the main floor or on the pavement racks outside in fair weather. Prices vary vastly. The whole area adjoining Jehangir Art Gallery has become an art district, and exhibitions can be happening at adjoining buildings, too. Inquire at the gallery.
Established in 1860, Phillips has the best choice of old prints, engravings, and maps in Mumbai. It also sells many possessions left behind by the British—Staffordshire and East India Company china, old jewelry, crystal, lacquerware, and sterling silver. The store is closed for an hour at lunchtime.
This is a tiny, classy boutique with exquisite silk blouses and shirts, scarves, ties, dupattas (long, thin scarves for draping), and silk-edge purses and wallets.
This pricey store has exclusive men's and women's Indian and Western fashions, and lovely costume jewelry, all by high-profile Indian designers. Ask to see the rare Banarasi silk saris, in rich colors woven with real gold and silver thread.
The Mumbai branch of the famous Chennai store has a fair selection of classic silk saris. Have a look at the authentic gold-embroidered saris from Kanchipuram, in Tamil Nadu, as well as the Bangalore saris and the uncut silk sold by the meter.
You'll find a wonderful selection of rare Indian and French perfumes stored in huge decanters here. They also stock agar wood, a rare incense base, 1,000 grams of which costs as much as a night at the Taj Mahal hotel. Sandalwood oil is also another fragrance stocked here.
Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri
In business since 1865, this is said to be the largest jewelry showroom in India, with five floors of gorgeous 18-, 22-, and 24-karat gold, diamonds, and silver jewelry.
If you want to take home some Indian recordings, especially classical music, head for Rhythm House; along with pop, jazz, and everything else, the store has an excellent selection of pacca gana (classical vocal music), Indo-Western fusion music, Hindi film music, and Indian instrumental music, as well as English and Hindi DVDs and VCDs.
Bhargava Musical Enterprise
For Indian musical instruments, try this tiny, hard-to-find shop selling tablas (hand drums), harmoniums (a Western instrument with 42 black-and-white keys that has been adapted for Indian music), sitars (long-necked Indian lutes), and tanpuras (similar to sitars, but fretless).
A few blocks northwest of Crawford Market, this is the place to go for diamond, gold, and silver jewelry. The tumultuous streets are lined with tiny, decades-old family jewelry businesses. Duck into one and sip a customary cup of tea or coffee while a salesperson shows you the merchandise. Most shops are authentic, but beware of false silver and gold; it's difficult to spot the fakes, so it might be best to buy primarily for appearance and make intrinsic value a secondary consideration.
Brave bargain-hunters should take a trip to chaotic Daboo Street for all sorts of leather goods.
Contemporary Arts and Crafts
There's a small but representative selection of Indian handicrafts at reasonable prices here.
Sheikh Memon Street
The most cost-effective place to buy jewelry is from a smaller outfit, such as Narandas and Sons, Zaveri Naran Das, or Ram Kewalram Popley —all on Sheikh Memon Street, which begins at Crawford Market and runs northwest through Zaveri Bazaar. Insist on knowing how many karats you're buying and whether or not the store will stand by the piece's purity.
Natesan's Antiqarts Ltd.
With branches in many Indian cities, this emporium sells magnificent but expensive curios, subcontinental antiquities, wood carvings, sculptures, and paintings, as well as a few smaller items at better prices.
Mysore Sales International
Regal silks from Mysore are available here.
Browse Maharashtra crafts and an outstanding collection of statues, sculptures, and idols at Trimourti.
This is an ever-expanding shopping, entertainment, and dining area in an old mill—an island of prosperity and chic modernity amid slums and industry. The complex is divided into different segments. Phoenix Mills itself has department stores like Big Bazaar, outlet clothing shop Pantaloons, and Hamley's. Palladium is the luxury mall featuring Burberry, Zara, Gucci, Diesel and the like; here too are a number of clubs (frequented by the teenage and college student set) and a Comedy Store, showcasing various comics of varying quality on a nightly basis. High Street Phoenix features high street brands. If you get hungry, outlets of Indigo Deli, Moshe's and McDonald's, among many others await.
This store showcases the best of Indian fabrics—khadis (homespun cotton), muslin, vegetable-dyed silks, and embroidered materials. You can find women's clothing (saris, kurtas, skirts, trousers, blouses, and kurtis) as well as men's shirts and kurtas, children's clothes, tablecloths, curtains, cushion covers—and napkins fashioned from these beautiful materials, some of which is also available by the meter. The Fort location is the address to head to—it's in a high-ceilinged, period building, with a wide selection—but there are a number of branches all over the city.
Exotic home furnishings and fabrics for the home are sold by the meter here. There's lots of expensive silk, and they'll organize tailoring for you.
The women's clothing and silver jewelry sold here are very attractive.
Owned by the Tata Group, a venerable and enormous Indian conglomerate whose founder built the Taj Mahal hotel, Tanishq is a reliable place to buy gold jewelry. The prices, however, are a little higher than elsewhere.
A conveniently located, reasonable, and efficient eyeglass outlet is Lunettes.
Here you'll find a superb, unusual collection of handicrafts that includes upside-down incense holders and palm-leaf lampshades. If you're staying in Bandra, you're only 15 or so minutes away.
You'll find wonderful silver jewelry from all over India here, and there are some good bargains.
Try upmarket Gangar Opticians, which offers a wide selection of designer brand frames.
An old and trustworthy family-run optician with good frame choices.
The clothing is unlikely to excite travellers, but the Western style supermarket may entice those wishing for a piece of home, whether in the form of imported cheese or chocolates.
The large, attractive, and friendly Bombay Store sells clothing and accessories for men, women, and children, silk by the meter, homewares, organic wellness products, and gifts. There are a number of branches in the city.
In this bustling but tiny flea market you can find exactly what you don't need but have to have—old phonographs, broken nautical instruments, strange toys, dusty chandeliers, furniture, and brass objects ranging from junky knickknacks to valuable antiques and curios. Keep an eye on your purse or wallet and come relaxed—it can be chaotic.
Colorful clothes with block-print designs from Rajasthan.
All sorts of housewares, including linens, pottery, and brass are on offer here. There's one in Juhu, opposite the Marriott Hotel, and one in Lower Parel.
Indian Textiles Company
In the Taj Mahal hotel, this store sells quality silks, as does the Burlington store here.
An elegant gallery in the Fort district for those looking for a break, full of works by modern masters like Atul Dodiya and rolling exhibitions.
This Art Deco-style theater usually shows current Hindi-language movies, but often screens Hollywood blockbusters.
Current English-language (and Bollywood) films are shown here.
Nehru Centre Auditorium
Interesting art films, some in English, are shown here.
Run by the famous Kapoor acting family (current Bollywood stars Kareena and Ranbir Kapoor are two of them), the theater stages a variety of plays each week, some in English, with reasonably priced tickets. They often host special programs for children, too. It's a 45-minute drive north from downtown Mumbai, or 20 minutes from the airport in nontraffic hours. An evening at Prithvi, which has an arty café and bookstore, can be memorable.
Rhythm House Private Ltd.
Performance tickets in Mumbai are usually quite inexpensive (from free to Rs. 500) and can be purchased from box offices or from the ticket counter at Rhythm House (across the street from the Jehangir Art Gallery), one of Mumbai's main music stores—selling CDs, DVDs and electronics—and another source of information on what's happening.
Nehru Centre Auditorium
Mumbai's second major venue regularly hosts theater, music, and dance performances.
Mumbai's only IMAX theater shows a mixture of popular and documentary films in its main dome theater, but it's in a rather out-of-the-way part of Mumbai, and it's advisable, especially for the dome, to purchase tickets in advance from bookmyshow.com.
A good place to catch a Bollywood film, or the latest English one, is the upscale Inox.
National Centre for the Performing Arts
This huge complex has dance performances, and occasionally hosts movie revivals. The performance schedule is posted on the website. It also includes a spacious Mediterranean restaurant, Amadeus. Note that some NCPA performances are open to members only; a year's membership is Rs. 2,500.
National Centre for the Performing Arts
The Godrej Dance Academy Theater, a main venue for classical Indian dance performances as well as workshops and master classes, is in this arts center, along with the Drama Opera Arts Complex, a 1,000-seat auditorium that is Mumbai's ballet and opera theater. It also recently added a spacious Mediterranean restaurant, Amadeus.
National Center for the Performing Arts
This complex includes the Tata Theatre, a grand 1,000-seat auditorium that regularly hosts plays, often in English, and classical concerts by major Indian and international musicians. The Little Theatre is the NCPA's smallest performance space, hosting small-scale plays and Western chamber music. The Experimental Theatre, with 300 seats, is usually used for avant-garde drama and occasionally for concerts and small-scale dance performances. There's also a new, and fairly popular, Mediterranean restaurant, Amadeus.