Abedin Sham, co-founder of Mumbai’s first luxury boutique hotel, the Abode, reflects on his favourite things to do and see in his home city
How long have you lived in Mumbai?
I was born here in 1982, then went away to live in the US for many years, but have been back here permanently since 2004.
If you had a free day in the city, where would you go?
I’d go to the Breach Candy Club, which is a social club with a huge outdoor pool and amazing views out over the Arabian Sea. Or I’d start the morning at the flower market in Dadar for an early morning excursion, or at the Oval Maiden to watch the cricket. Then for lunch I'd possibly head to somewhere like the Sassoon Dock seafood market in Colaba, or Mamagoto in Kalaghoda, which has great Indo-Asian food. All the markets are great, especially on holidays, when they're much quieter than they are on working days. Basically, I'd spend as much time as possible outside because there's so much to see.
Do you have a piece of advice for tourists?
It's safer than you think, it's fine to take cabs, and they're the cheapest in the world, whether you're on or off the meter. And it's OK to drink ice in the city!
If you were mayor for a day, what changes would you make?
Oh man, that's tough. I'd make sure people were a little less noisy, or at least make sure they didn’t litter for one day. Maybe I'd impose a fine for both to dissuade people from doing them!
What’s your favourite sight in the city?
The Gateway of India. Especially in the morning at sunrise, when the harbour’s quiet, the streets are quiet and for that moment you can really enjoy the serenity. The sun rises over the water to light up the Gateway and it’s magical.
Where’s the best view in the city?
The Hanging Gardens (also known as the Pherozeshah Mehta Garden) high up on the Malabar Hills. Getting up there and just looking down at south Bombay, taking it all in, is one of the best things to do in the city. And watching the sunset over the Arabian Sea is unforgettable.
What's the best place for a dinner?
The Royal China. It's probably one of the best Chinese restaurants I've ever been to, and I've been to Chinese places all over the world. It's not very expensive either. For Indian food, I’d head to Khyber and Peshawri at the ITC Maratha hotel.
Where’s the best place for lunch/brunch?
For lunch I'd say the Indigo Deli at the old mill district of Lower Parel, and for brunch the main Indigo, which serves a fantastic European-Asian cuisine. Both are phenomenal. The ambience at Indigo is unique and the food is world class; it’s been one of the finest restaurants in the country for a while.
Best place for street food/snacks?
There are a few places for good street food, but I like the ones around Fort, where there are a ton of street-food vendors supplying all the office workers in this busy area. The lane perpendicular to the Colaba branch of Fabindia [137, Jeroo Building, M.G. Road, Kala Ghoda, Colaba, also a must-visit for its traditionally made Indian garments of every conceivable colour and pattern] that leads toward the Stock Exchange has a lot of street-food vendors, so that’s a good place to head.
What local drink/dish should every visitor try?
A spicy buttermilk chai is always good, and the vada pav (spicy, battered deep-fried potato garnished with various chutneys, such as sweet, dry garlic, and green chutneys, served in little white buns) is always a good bet.
Where would you take a friend from out of town that the tourists wouldn’t usually see?
I would take them to the back area by the dockyards, where all the old mills and old warehouses are being transformed. It’s a very interesting area.
What is everyone talking about in the bars/cafés right now?
Well, the T20 World Cup is on right now so people are all talking about that. During major cricket tournaments, like this one, everyone becomes a critic, coach, a captain and a strategist. India made it to the semi-finals, where they lost to the West Indies, who went on to beat England in the final.
What’s your favourite time of year in the city?
Wintertime. I love December, it's the best.
How has the city changed in the past 20 years?
The skyline has undergone a massive, massive change. Things are becoming a lot more vertical in the city, from the infamous Antilia, the 27-storey, billion-dollar home of India’s richest man, to the Imperial Towers, twin condominiums 60 floors high, and the tallest buildings in India.
The Abode Boutique Hotel is at Lansdowne House Building, M.B. Marg, Near Regal Cinema, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001. Rooms start from US$60 for double occupancy.