I count myself as a hard core Bombay-ite. Being born, brought up and having lived in the city for 35 years of my life gives me the right to claim as much I figure. But after seven years of calling Pune my home, it always startles me how much has changed every time I return to Bombay. Apart from the usual moans and groans about the weather and the traffic, Bombay seems to have exploded in terms of what to do and see and most importantly…eat! Though I live miles away, I follow the openings (and closings) of restaurants, cafes, and bars with a vicarious appetite. Even the hotel scene has seen a volte face change of late. No longer are the big daddies of the hotel world such as the Hyatts, the Intercontinentals, and the Tajs ruling the roost exclusively. Smaller, quirkier, more personal hotels are starting to make inroads into the market and they are doing a darn good job while they are at it too!
Since this trip to Bombay was a birthday visit, we decided to splurge and stay in a hotel for the night. We wanted to try something different and therefore ruled out places we had stayed before like the Trident or Palladium (now the St. Regis). A friend had mentioned her stay at this new boutique hotel in Colaba and intrigued, I followed up on the place. One click into Abode’s website and I was smitten.
Situated just around the corner from Regal Cinema and a hop and skip away from the Gateway of India, Abode is blessed in terms of location. As a tourist, you really couldn’t ask for a better area to stay at in Bombay. Yes, Colaba has it pockets of seediness and the crowds on Causeway (the main shopping drag) can get overwhelming for some but lets look on the bright side, shall we? A hotel situated bang in the epicentre of South Bombay has so much going for it. You can walk to the best restaurants in town within minutes. Old favourites such as Cafe Mondegar, the Taj Mahal Hotel, Cafe Leopold, Indigo Deli and Indigo vie with new culinary stars such as The Table, Ellipsis and The Pantry. If its not fine dining you are looking for you have the legendary Bade Miyan famous for its kebabs and rolls at your door step and Theobroma with its brownies and chip butty a short stroll away. Shopping, art, and sightseeing – you have it all at your doorstep at Abode.
But enough about all that. Let’s get to Abode! Our booking and check-in was seamless. Though previous reviews had mentioned difficulty in finding the place, for a veteran South Bombay-ite I had no such issues. Turn the corner around Regal Cinema, walk a few 100 metres or so and bang opposite Ling’s Pavillion you will see the hotel’s neon lit sign. Situated on the first floor of an 115-year old building (Lansdowne House), climb the sweeping wooden staircase, and you reach the welcoming doorway of Abode.
We booked and paid for our stay using the hotel’s website. While not extremely economical, they do offer a range of rooms to suit every budget. You can choose from Basic Rooms that come with a en-suite shower and basin but with a shared toilet that start from 3500++ to the Superior Luxury option at 9,500++ that comes kitted with your own vintage bathtub. We opted for the Luxury Room that promised us “Large rooms, with double height windows, plenty of light and a pretty view of Colaba. Each room features unique, handmade art deco tile flooring as well as carefully restored Indian vintage furniture and original artwork. A writing desk and lounging area allow you to relax after your Mumbai travel adventures. En-suite bathrooms feature a spacious walk-in rain shower.” Ps: More on that walk-in shower later.
Its obvious on first sight that very special care has been taken with the interiors of this place. A large antique chandelier lends an air of gravitas to an otherwise funky lounge cum reception cum dining room area. The original inn was completely gutted and restored by Australian designer Sian Pascale and what you end up with is a wonderful blend of vintage and modern with a distinct desi touch. Expect the ubiquitous exposed brick walls but in conjunction with salvaged old furniture, pretty frosted glass panels, colourful chairs and cushions, and the positively hypnotic patterned floor tiles.
It’s no surprise that Abode has been used for a number of photo shoots ever since it opened its doors to the public. Every corner is Instagram-worthy and offers up a small surprise. For example, the shelf of Parle-G biscuits in the lobby area with a sign that urges you to “Please Take.” Ostensibly these are to feed the many stray dogs that are sure to greet you as you walk around Colaba but nothing’s stopping you from smuggling away a few packets for a midnight treat back in your room.
Our room was on the same floor as the lobby and was a sight for sore tired eyes. A chubby bed – yes chubby – the mattress and duvet were super soft and surrounded you lovingly as you fell into its cool embrace. Can you see that I was a little frazzled by the Bombay heat? The room with its desk or ‘writing area’ and three arm chairs framed the large windows that overlooked the main street. Bamboo blinds could be pulled down for privacy but the dappled sunlight that streamed through made for a very pretty picture indeed. Lovingly re-purposed cane tables book-ended our bed and proffered a copper flask for water and cheekily packaged ear plugs for when the noisy Colaba nightlife disturbed your siesta.
So far, the room was ticking all our boxes. The bathroom however was another matter. While completely fitted with everything you can ask for in a bathroom, it has to be said that the promise of a ‘walk in’ shower was a grandiose one. ‘Squeeze-in’ was more like it and the shower head was placed so low that I actually bumped my head on it. Stark concrete walls and a neon squiggle as a mirror light seemed at odds with the comfort of the room outside but these were small niggles and honestly nothing to make a to-do about. Fitted with a flat screen TV, decent wi-fi, air-conditioning, and an in-room safe, our room at Abode managed to be cosy, charming and quirky all at the same time.
Abode offers breakfast as part of the package. Served between 7 and 11am every day, you can help yourself to cereals, toasts, jam, butter, marmalade and even Marmite and Nutella! A nod to Indian tastes can be seen in the rice pudding and the sevaiyan bowls laid out on the small buffet table. In addition, eggs to order, coffee, tea and fresh juices made for an appealing and more than adequate start to the day. Eating at the large community table is also a great way to meet the other guests and plan your day. I found the dining arrangements at Abode to be extremely charming and more reminiscent of a hostel or a B&B rather than a stuffy regular hotel. During the day, you can order from a limited menu that offers street-food inspired snacks such as bhel puri and Bombay sandwiches. But with prices that hover around the Rs. 250 bracket per item, you would be wiser just stepping outside the hotel to eat.
In a bid to do several things differently, Abode also offers spa services courtesy a local school for the blind that trains their students in massage therapy, an airport pick up and drop off service that employs only female drivers, a partnership with a nearby gym in case you need to work out, and a range of attractive souvenirs such as scarves, hand-painted cards, handmade candles, and tribal jewellery made by local artisans. If you fall madly in love with any of the fixtures in your room or fittings in the lobby, don’t be afraid to ask the management about them. You will be surprised to find that a lot of the items are in fact for sale.
To sum it up Abode is an ideal destination for the traveller looking for something different. For the backpacker in need of some pampering or for a staycation that offers you the best of both worlds – the luxury of a hotel and the comfort of a home. Check out Abode at their Facebook page -www.facebook.com/AbodeBombay or at their swoon-worthy website –