Mumbai’s Juhu has been abuzz, and a little more than usual for the last few months—the 23rd Soho House has finally opened its doors last November. Right at the edge of Juhu beach, it has become a hotspot for the who’s who of the city, an exclusive space for the creative souls. No stuffy suit-and-ties here, please. And, no phone calls in the public spaces. And work stops when the sun sets. Now, these are policies I can get behind.
It was with wide grins, that my colleague Rumela and I made plans to visit the newest kid on the block, just over a month after its opening. I live a stone’s throw away from Juhu so reached the 11-storeyed property well before R, and decided to wait for her in the well-appointed room. Great decision! I passed the time by sinking into the cushiony bed, sighing over the buttery-soft robes and contemplating which indulgent Cowshed product (a Soho House signature brand) I wanted to try out in the rain shower later. It also gave me time to examine and chuckle over the curios strewn about the room—an old (still functioning) telephone, a vintage radio which came with a USB option, a wooden chest of drawers and cupboards with second-hand books, a study table whose drawers held Bombay-inspired artwork-postcards, and a mini-bar filled with tin cans of cookies, tea bags and coffee shots. I was very pleased to discover that the toiletry kits in the washrooms also included tampons and pads—brownie points for thoughtfulness. Then there was the bigger question: Pico Iyer or Salman Rushdie? Black Panther or Coco? Before I could up my mind, R was there.
We made our way to the member’s only restaurant and lounge area on the eighth floor, and settled at a sea-facing table. Looking around, I feel like I am at the dining room of a modernised colonial mansion. Chandeliers share space with eclectic Indian art, and old-world and rattan furniture is everywhere. My favourite part of the decor is the use of saree fabrics as lampshades, a feature present throughout the property, which tie in seamlessly with the Jaipur block-printed upholstery in gorgeous patterns and colours. So far, the spaces of Soho House felt felt more like a home, and not a hotel. We later learnt that Soho House has their own design and art teams who carefully curate each property—ensuring that while the aesthetics have a Soho House standard, each house has its own unique identity. For instance, 80 per cent of the art displayed in the Mumbai house is by Indian artists and photographers, so keep an eye out for Bharti Khare, Princess Pea and Subodh Gupta. And, make sure to visit the ninth-floor library. Ideal for date nights and bookworms, Oprah Winfrey and Manto will both call out from the shelves here.
The menu, too, has both Indian and contemporary elements. To make members feel more at home, all restaurants here—Cecconi’s (Italian), Allis (coffee shop), club and rooftop—offer Soho House classics, both drinks and food, which are available in all 23 houses across the world. The truly fantastic tandoori pomfret and dal makhani go hand-in-hand with mac & cheese and chicken & avocado salad. And as for R and me, we were in for a special treat because it was the first day of the Sunday brunch at the Italian restaurant, Cecconi’s.
The ground-floor seafront restaurant is one of two open to non-members, and its many leafy plants and windows lend a perfect brunch vibe. R and I share a love for food. One look at the expansive brunch spread, and we knew this was going to take a while. We sat there for hours, going course-by-course till we were bursting at the seams. What stays with me though, is R’s happiness at spotting a bottle of brown sauce, a British staple, which took her back to her university days. The sauce is an odd mixture of molasses, tomatoes, vinegar, tamarind, with a lovely kick to it. In little ways, Soho House definitely stays true to its British roots.
www.sohohousemumbai.com; doubles from Rs13,000, there are four categories of rooms; members get a 20 per cent discount.
The sea-facing Cecconi’s Mumbai on the ground floor of Soho House Mumbai is the 11th venture of the iconic restaurant. With roots in Venice, the Italian eatery has made a name for itself around the world and now brought a range of signature dishes from northern Italy to the country.
While the ala carte menu has signature Cecconi’s dishes such as the lobster spaghetti, crab ravioli, and the cauliflower with almond aioli and salmoriglio, a few others have been introduced for the Mumbai patrons. Head chef Luca says that the taste and classic recipes were not altered so that diners got the “proper Italian experience,” but the menu was adapted keeping in mind the palate of the country. A beetroot tartare, and a risotto with peas and asparagus, along with modifications to the cicchetti (small eats) and pizza menus—turkey instead of veal, and eggless vegetarian recipes—have given the flavourful Italian favourites a unique Indian appeal.
The star of the show at Cecconi’s, however, is the extravagant Sunday Feast. “The feast is a signature of the British and American Cecconi’s as well, and we wanted to bring it here,” Luca explains. Starting with about six kinds of bread, including a house made crusty-but-soft focaccia, and going on to more than 20 different kinds of desserts, the brunch menu is pure indulgence. Make your way through breads, cheese and cold and cured cuts to delicious salads—think citrusy octopus and creamy potatoes with a bite of briny capers—to a main course that features roasted duck breast, lobsters, whole snapper, lamb chops, and crispy pork belly among other things. Move on later to a decadent dessert spread with cake and choux pastries, tarts, and fruit drizzled with sweet spice-infused syrups.
What’s a brunch without a cocktail, and Cecconi’s has a wonderfully curated cocktail menu that features a few signatures and many exclusive concoctions. From the mild sweetness of the Cecconi’s Spritz (house chinotto syrup with gin and Prosecco) to the sharpness of the Caper berry martini (olive-oil-infused gin topped with caper berry brine), you’ll find a cocktail to suit your mood or taste. Don’t miss out on the Bellinis and the Martini Martini, a cocktail of house-made sparkling wine cordial with vodka and bitters.
Lubna Amir travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.