Abode is a design geek’s dream. The boutique hotel in Mumbai’s heritage neighbourhood of Colaba is filled with relics from old Bombay, but has a chic, laid-back aesthetic that would easily fit into Brooklyn or Berlin. The lobby (also a library) has black-and-white flooring, art deco arm chairs, and a chandelier from the 19th century. On the distressed walls however, are funky illustrations of Mumbai’s cyclewallahs, quaint teapots from Chor Bazaar, and a shelf of Parle-G biscuits that guests can take (for free) when they leave the hotel to explore the city. Its vintage-modern aesthetic is one that a number of travellers are seeking.
Most of Abode’s rooms are small but thoughtfully designed. Mine had a king-sized bed, a flat-screen television, and a work desk by a large window that filled the room with light. The view was of a largely nondescript lane in Colaba, except that it houses two of the city’s most iconic institutions: Gokul, a dingy dive bar haunted by hipsters and off-duty policemen alike; and Bademiya, a kebab stall that lines the tummies of Gokul’s patrons until the wee hours. In any other city, this might sound far from ideal. In Mumbai, it’s damn-near perfect.
Abode’s location is also great for cultural pursuits. Colaba is the city’s art district and some of the finest galleries in Mumbai are a few minute’s walk from the hotel. Also a short stroll away, is the Prince of Wales Museum, now called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, the Gateway of India, and the art deco movie theatre, Regal.
Inside my room, it was the little Mumbai touches that made me smile. The bedside table was a copy of the cane stands that chaat-sellers use, all the panels had Bakelite switches like those in the city’s government offices, and the wall by my bed had photos of Dhobi Ghat. It made me want to explore my city, never mind that I’ve lived here for 15 years.
Abode is ideal for visitors to the city, but also for a weekend staycation spent exploring South Mumbai. Simply walk out of the hotel (it’s in the same lane as the juke-boxing Café Mondegar) or ask the staff to help you: They organise cycling tours of the neighbourhood, trips to Elephanta Caves, even walks of the Sassoon Docks fish market at dawn.
Like Colaba, the property’s heritage value is immense. In the early 1900s, Abode belonged to the family of David Sassoon, one of Bombay’s most successful entrepreneurs, who earned his fortune through the textile and opium trade. (The Jewish trader also financed some of South Mumbai’s finest buildings, including the David Sassoon Library a short walk away). In the 1980s, this hotel was acquired by a family dealing in antiques and was a dowdy guesthouse until it received a makeover two years ago. Today, artsy travellers sip glasses of beetroot juice in the same high-ceilinged room where Sassoon probably mapped ship routes to China.
Appeared in the October 2015 issue as “Bombay Calling”.
Accommodation Abode has four types of rooms. The Basic and Simple rooms are small but kitted out with everything a traveller might need (including ear plugs, which you will need if your room faces the street). Basic rooms have en-suite showers but shared toilets, which are spotless. Luxury and Superior Luxury rooms have work desks and lounge sections, and bathrooms with rain showers. The café has a limited menu but it’s best to have meals at one of the many restaurants in the neighbourhood. If you’re a woman arriving late at night, the hotel can arrange a taxi pick up with a female driver. (abodeboutiquehotels.com; 80802 34066; doubles from ₹3,500 plus taxes, including breakfast and free Wi-Fi.)