#FirstClassFriday: The St. Regis Mumbai
More than a clutch of stars
For a property that prides itself on excellence and personalisation, The St. Regis Mumbai certainly practices what they preach. Upon touching down at the airport, guest services picks me up at the gate, whisks me through immigration, directs porters to pick up my bags, and ushers me straight into a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, no less. My driver — an affable man who works in the city so that he can feed his family in Goa — passes me a cream coloured notecard. It's a handwritten welcome note from my butler, the invisible presence who has already gone two steps ahead of me to prepare everything I might need.
I arrived two days before the grand launch of hotel, one that saw the glitterati of Mumbai fill a grand ballroom with bedazzled swathes of saris and men in Berluti shoes. The property is the St. Regis Hotels & Resorts' inaugural foray into the South Asian market, and its opening was billed by Mumbaikars as one of the grandest the city had seen in recent years. Even the Bollywood stars came out to play.
Hoteliers spend a lot of time perfecting each cog in the wheel to ensure that each guest luxuriates in the perfect stay. Between check-in and check-out, many things can go wrong. The more stars you have on your lapel, the more exponential the increase in guest expectations. After four nights at The St. Regis Mumbai, I was suitably charmed. Let's count the ways the hotel brought a five-star experience from good to great.
I once encountered a butler who drew me the most elaborate petal-strewn bubble bath — but with a tub full of cold water. His intentions were certainly good, but he had missed the mark by a mile. Since then, I've been apprehensive about the notion of 'Butler Service', but the property's white-gloved butlers did not disappoint. They packed and unpacked my bags, pressed my clothes within the hour, fluffed all my pillows, and even wiped down the fingerprints on my make-up compacts.
Insider access to the city
Delhi might overshadow Mumbai as the historic heart of India, but there's still plenty to discover if you dig a little deeper. Instead of trawling TripAdvisor and Google for insider tips, I opted to join the St. Regis' Aficionado tours, where I met Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, Hindustan Times food critic and Contributing Editor at Vogue India. From a visit to masala grinders in Chivda Galli to a meal in the home of a fisherman in Koliwada, Roshni gave us an intimate look at the communities that exists alongside the growing affluence of this sprawling megalopolis. If you're looking for experiences that sit beyond the well-trodden tourist map, these tours curated by the property should sit high on your to-do list.
The Mumbai Mary
Also known as the spiciest Bloody Mary I've ever had. Featuring an unapologetic mix of spices and herbs like cinnamon, curry leaves and coriander, this bracing cocktail deftly captures the fiery soul of the city. Created by mixologist Bhagwan Bodke of The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar, this bold tipple is finished with a rim of chutney dust.
Yes, the rooms are fitted with all the luxuries you might expect to find in a five-star property (think spotless marble bathrooms, iPhone docks and curtains that part at the push of a button), but tradition still comes to the fore with rituals unique to the hotel. As dusk settles on Mumbai, butlers descend from the top of the grand stairway in the lobby before placing traditional diyas (Indian oil lamps) on each table. The lighting ceremony ends with the head butler uncorking a bottle of champagne by sweeping a sword across the bottle's neck.
Afternoon tea here follows the British tradition of tiered nibbles, but local touches find their way to the plate in the form of Jaggery macarons, saffron eclairs and Mumbai Scotch eggs — essentially quail eggs filled with spiced tomato-mustard relish. Needles to say, the selection of loose teas includes the finest Darjeelings from the land.
Unwind with traditional Indian know-how
From four-hand rub downs to massage oils enriched with gold particles, the hotel's well appointed Iridium Spa is poised to heal and invigorate the weary traveller. I chose to go the traditional route with the Angashantam massage, a full-body overhaul based on Ayurvedic practices. Here, pure Ayurvedic oils — massaged in with long strokes — are used to detoxify the body and relax the muscles. If you prefer to unwind by the pool, book yourself in for a session at the poolside cabana.
The St. Regis Mumbai. 462, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai Maharashtra, 400013, India.