- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
Welcome to The Oberoi, Mumbai. But before you cross the hotel’s highly securitised threshold, you’ll need to circumvent Mumbai, India’s most populated city, and also it’s most dynamic and action-packed, by a long shot. You’ll know you’re alive, as there’s never a dull moment here; the more you look, the more you see. And unlike Delhi or Jaipur, cities more popular as tourist haunts in the country, and for sure the more alluring at first sight, this is not a city that will embrace you the moment you set foot on its turf. But linger a while, and you, too, will fall under its spell.
I know, because I did. And for so many reasons. The Oberoi, Mumbai sits on Marine Drive, at the city’s most southern end. It’s near Colaba, where Mumbai’s most beautiful buildings and monuments are located (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus; Crawford Market; the Gateway to India; the Hanging Gardens; and Flora Fountain, to name a few), harkening back to the days of the Raj. Bollywood aside, the glitz and glam of the whole social scene, the boutiques, the restaurants and the food culture, the gold, the jewels, and the oodles of money…you’ll be dazzled.
While maybe not oodles, you’ll still need some cash to stay in The Oberoi, Mumbai. But it’ll be worth every penny, as you’ll leave here wondering just how the hotel manages to pull it all off so perfectly synchronised; hospitality so magnificently delivered by this well-oiled operation.
For luxury travellers, there’s no better place to be pampered than here. And I mean pampered. Stay a few days, and put yourself into the team’s capable care. Because whether you’re a savvy traveller or not, India can overwhelm; they won’t let that happen here. I found myself relaxing and just enjoying every moment, so much so that I wasn’t sure how I was going to return to my ‘normal’ life when I left. And that is, after all, what travelling is all about, isn’t it?
The gleaming black marble entrance is impressive. Several bellmen, dressed all in white, are there to greet you. They move into action as soon as your car drives up, taking charge of your luggage as you are guided through security.
Getting inside is not as easy as it once was, and unless you are a bonafide guest or visitor, you are not permitted entry. Cars are screened, as are all bags and people on an individual basis. Safety is paramount here; the hotels in the city take security seriously.
Once inside, you take the lift to the reception area and main lobby, where the floor-to-ceiling windows offer a breathtaking view out over the Arabian Sea, and Malabar Hill on the other side of the bay.
Graciously welcomed, I was checked-in and escorted to my suite, where the butler met me to explain all the room features, showing me how everything worked and familiarising me with the hotel and all its facilities and restaurants. He brought drinks and snacks and offered to help me unpack, but I declined; I couldn’t wait to get downstairs and explore, especially as there’s a shopping mall attached to the hotel. Well, who could blame me?
When I came back from the shops, unburdened, as the doormen insisted on relieving me of all my shopping and sending it directly to my room, all the stuff I had left strewn all over was neatly arranged, clothes hung up. A note from housekeeping was left on the desk, to say that if I needed anything I only had to ask. Yay.
Rooms and suites
Closed after the horrific incidents which took place in the city in 2008, the hotel was completely redone, although the lobby to me looked the same. But there was no need for a big change. There are now fewer rooms as the inventory was somewhat reduced by making them a little larger. There are 73 suites and 287 rooms, with the smallest starting at 31 m² (330 ft²), and many of them are sea-facing, looking out over the art deco buildings along Marine Drive.
With a staff-to-room ratio of 550 to 287, and an average of 220 overnight guests per night, the result is inevitable: you’ll be looked after – in style.
My suite was very comfortable, two rooms with a living and working area and a large bedroom, all wooden floors, with a big, adjoining bathroom. There are places to charge all devices, and you won’t need a conversion plug. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the premises, and the signal was strong. There were movie channels and major international networks available, so I could have watched TV in every room, including the bathroom, if I had been so inclined. I wasn’t, preferring to remain in these perfect surroundings without a care to the greater outside world. Reality could wait for another day.
So I invited some friends up to see the view from my room, and asking the butler to bring tea and coffee, we sat on the silk sofa with the beautiful coloured cushions and ate cardamom flavoured biscuits, flicking through the magazines admiring all the things we could buy, downstairs, no doubt.
Upstairs, meanwhile, are several suites that are worth mentioning, including the premier suite and the biggest and boldest, the Kohinoor Suite, with its butler pantry, mini gym, various seating areas, grand piano and a bronze sculpture of a seated man by Dimpy Menon. Menon, incidentally, also created the sculpture in the lobby, installed when the hotel was recently refurbished. The Kohinoor Suite’s most famous international guest, by the way, was Bill Clinton, a few years ago, now.
The large, glass-enclosed marble bathroom can be cloistered off with an electric blind, or left open for more light. There’s a separate WC and shower enclosure, as well a large, very welcoming bath with salts and oils of all kinds. There’s also a huge double vanity, as well as a makeup mirror with a light, and all the amenities and other stuff you could need. What’s not here can be obtained at the flick of a switch where there’s a butler, waiting, at the other end.
Silk bathrobes are provided for lounging, as are cotton ones for bathing.
I tried as much as I could eat on this visit; I’m still managing the consequences, too. But it was well worth it.
The day I arrived, and anticipating a big dinner, I went looking for a light lunch and, as the Fenix restaurant in the lobby was full, I wandered off to the adjoining hotel, the Oberoi Trident Towers. There, I had lunch in the Opium Den bar which I chose because it was quiet, deserted almost, and I wanted to make a few phone calls. The menu, pan Asian, was just what I fancied, and within fifteen minutes, I was enjoying some deliciously prepared dim sum accompanied by a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Indian of course, from the Charosa Vineyards. The winery is located in the country’s equivalent of Napa Valley, called Nashik, about four hours away in the same state. Indian wine has come a long way over the years, and getting something to taste as good as this in a ‘terroir’ like India’s, is master craftsmanship, indeed.
That night, some friends joined me and we ate in Vetro, the hotel’s beautiful Italian restaurant where I was looking forward to a meal prepared by visiting Italian chef, superstar Francesco Apreda. Apreda is from Rome’s Imago restaurant in the Hotel Hassler. I had read on the noticeboard he was in the hotel for a few nights, but I was dubious about the whole affair because the sign said he was cooking up dishes with “Indian spice and fresh Umbrian black truffles”, which sounded like a bizarre blend, especially since there are no fresh truffles in Umbria in early March, ever. But one spoonful of the potato soup with black tea and black truffles had me believing. The food was a knock-out. The wine list here, too, is something else, if you don’t mind sharing your cash with the government of India, whose tax on luxuries like imported wine is shocking.
The next day, after a delicious Indian dosa in Fenix and a morning coffee with the affable GM, I was enticed into having a meal at Ziya that evening. I’m familiar with Mumbai-born Vineet Bhatia’s food, having eaten at several of his other restaurants, including Rasoi by Vineet in both Geneva and Bahrain. Here in India, it’s a very special affair indeed. Ziya is a beautiful venue, richly decorated with gold paneling on the walls and ceiling, and an open kitchen to add to the excitement.
I dined with some Indian friends so I let them pick the food, and we ended up with a medley of flavours and creations, each one more delicious than the next. The menu, traditional with a twist, appeals on all fronts. Loving a bit of street food, especially when it’s prepared in this environment and not on the roadside, the Dilli Chaat with its twist of tamarind was my favourite starter, followed by the Chicken Maharani. It was a beautiful evening, with top-notch service and some delicious Indian wine to complement the dishes.
If I had to choose one dessert anywhere (and on this occasion, I absolutely had to), it would be Indian kulfi, an ice cream traditionally made of condensed milk and cardamom: thick and rich. Here they served it as a trio: the regular, a chocolate variety, and a funky beetroot blend. Luckily, they were small portions, as they were delicious, except perhaps the beetroot one.
Other restaurant options
Don’t miss the chance to have a drink in the Eau Bar on the lobby level, where discreet gatherings and a business meeting or two take place every evening over cocktails. The service here is faultless, and there’s live music most evenings. When I was here, there was a group perfectly performing some of my Bossa Nova favourites. I came early, before dinner, but there’s a small dance floor which would surely beckon if you were here for a nightcap or two later on.
Spa and wellness
Knowing that I can have an ordinary massage anywhere I go, I decided to opt for an Ayurvedic treatment while I was here, something I have never had. Needing to determine my body type, or dosha, I sat down to answer the questionnaire they provide, my feet cooling in a bath of rose and jasmine flowers. Body type established, they prepare a special blend of oils to use for the massage, something which is done with a warm herbal poultice dipped into the oils and rubbed all over. The experience was exquisite and felt wonderful. The therapist even did my head and face, and after an hour, left me to luxuriate for as long as I wanted.
Ayurveda, I later read just to be sure, is supposed to ‘improve the imbalance of the physical body, while providing the mental clarity needed to change unproductive mindsets’. Unproductive? Well maybe, but leaving here I was so relaxed that I was sure I was less inclined to work than I had been that morning. Whatever the outcome, it did me a world of good that evening.
But it didn’t do much for my hair. So the spa team arranged someone to come and fix it up in the small and intimate salon next door when my treatment was over. Could life get any easier, I wondered?
Pool and beach
There’s a beach down a way along the waterfront, but going there is out of the question unless you’re Gregory David Roberts (the Aussie who lived rough here in town and then wrote Shantaram). Luckily, there are two pools you can use (one belongs to the Trident Towers), interconnected by a garden, located above street level and nicely secluded from neighbouring buildings.
The water’s heated (the only one in town), and the size is ample in both cases, so you can get in a good few laps followed by an ice tea (or something stronger). Pool service is great, and if the sun’s out, it’s the perfect location for a few hours of R&R.
Plans, I was informed, are underway for the construction of a deck area which will make things even more resort-like. Meanwhile, because the pool is situated on the same level as the spa and the fully-equipped gym, getting to and from is very easy indeed.
This is not a haven for children. Mumbai, in fact, is not a destination for kids, and I didn’t see many in the hotel. Having said that, the Oberoi offers things like cooking classes for younger guests, and they will bend over backwards to make food and snacks that will appeal.
Staff and service
Having once (briefly) worked in a restaurant, I know that being a waiter can be stressful. Keeping everyone happy at the same time is a tough task, so I admire those that do this job well. I noticed here at breakfast that the staff never took their eyes off the tables, never ignored an empty glass, and never forgot to ask if a guest had everything they wanted. And they were rapidly turning tables here, too.
Obviously, working at The Oberoi is a privilege, since I would imagine that you have to be pretty special to get a job here in the first place. The unions are strong in Mumbai; you only have to pick up a newspaper to know that. So getting the right people from the get-go is paramount. It seems to have worked. Everywhere I went, and everyone I had a word or conversation with were eloquent, polished, helpful and friendly, no holds barred.
Originally a business district when The Oberoi was built and first opened in 1986, the dynamics have changed at Nariman Point. Businesses have moved further out to try to avoid the extreme congestion in town, and so the Oberoi reached out to the top-end leisure market, and that’s who you’ll now see here for the most part. It was easy to lure them, as all the components are here: a spa, a gym, shopping, fine dining, great service…And they come back, for sure, because one visit to Mumbai will never be enough.
At breakfast, my go-to venue for getting a feel for the in-house clientele, I saw mostly Arabs, Chinese, South Africans, locals and Americans. There was also a small group coming and going, perhaps before or after a cruise, obviously having the time of their life.
Having made a career out of travelling, I should be more self-reliant when it comes to packing up, but I am usually rushing to hop the next train, plane or taxicab, and so things slip through the cracks. I consider it a test of the hotel’s diligence to see that they catch whatever it is I’ve left behind.
Here, I had ordered a shirt from a shop in the hotel arcade that was to be delivered around the time I was to leave. Of course, I forgot all about it. After I checked out, I took the lift downstairs to the carport and got in the car. The bellman came over to the car with the bag from the store saying, “Madame, I believe this is for you.” How that all happened I’ll never know. That’s why I say you’ll be looked after here at the Oberoi. It’s a smooth operation.
How to get here
1 hour by road from Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
360 rooms & suites