When it comes to luxury hotels, it can be hard to perceive the perfect fit. I'm always on the lookout for stay-cations where privacy, discretion and hospitality is paramount, so when I was invited to Lakme Fashion Week- Mumbai, the first hotel that came to mind was Taj Mahal Palace And Tower. Sprawled over 2.6 acres, it has two buildings: Palace and Tower, historically and architecturally different from each other. Cosseting guests in timeless grandeur, generations have celebrated milestones in the palace wing, including a roster of presidents, royalty and luminaries King George V, Queen Mary, Lord Mountbatten, Bill Clinton, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Roger Moore, Joan Collins, Mick Jagger, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama.
Perfect for a luxurious seaside getaway — overlooking Gateway of India — Taj Mahal Palace And Tower enjoys the best location in Bombay. However, let me begin this review by stating that all opinions expressed here are my own. I am a member of Taj Inner Circle since a decade so I booked two Sea View Luxury Club Rooms in the Palace wing for mom and I, through them, and the experience was seamless right from reservation to airport pickup in a Jaguar. The magnificence of the hotel enveloped us as the convertible drove in and we were ceremoniously welcomed by their team and the doormen in silk kurta took our luggage. Though I've stayed here before, I'm in awe even today of the Indo-Saracenic revival architecture i.e. the arches and architraves, exterior tower wing and red-tiled Florentine gothic dome — which is still a triangulation point for ships! So it didn't comes as a surprise when the team proudly mentioned the hotel was trademarked under Trade Marks Act 1999 — joining the ranks of architectural marvels like Empire State Building and Sydney Opera House! Moving on, it appeared the management's mission is to pamper guests. From greeting us by name, smooth check-in and escorting us to our rooms, to a personal butler whose goal it seemed, to ensure all our needs were met; restaurant reservation, unpacking, spa appointment, ironing, booking a car… whatever our fancy, the butler made it happen.
Speaking of our rooms, Sea View Luxury Club Room is furnished keeping a regal aesthetic and contemporary comfort in mind. I guess it's this reverence to the past alongside a passion to ensure the hotel's relevance in the global landscape that appeals to luxury travellers. Walking in, I saw a fruit platter, chocolate cake — and a framed photograph! In a nod to business needs, there's wi-fi, power points, and notepads on an executive desk by the window overlooking the sea. I was thrilled to get a handwritten note by the general manager; the effort to make guests feel welcome didn't go unnoticed. Magnificent sea, harbour and gateway views, flat-screen television, well-stocked minibar, draped curtains on floor-to-ceiling glass windows, sofa set, closets and king bed with the softest body pillows best describes my luxury club room; the bathroom housed basic amenities, shower and tub. Wow, the hotelier had navigated the challenges of retaining old-world charm while providing travellers with the comfort they expect in a luxury stay. I was going to like it here…
Walking around the palatial property, I was fascinated by the grand stairwell at the center of the palace wing with its wrought-iron balustrades and cupola. And then took the vintage elevator up to view it from the top. Later, I checked out Harbour Bar and the four restaurants — Masala Kraft for Indian cuisine, Wasabi by Morimoto for Japanese, Souk for Mediterranean and Golden Dragon for Asian. Whoa! It was sunset and thoughts of reclining in a chaise with a martini lured me to the sculpted pool. I was glad it was quiet; I wanted to bring back the calmness that had been lost somewhere in my busy life. And it worked… perhaps because the poolside is restricted to palace guests. A thoughtful gesture. Somewhere between the sound of the water and twinkling stars, I found my happy place… sigh. Adjacent to the pool is Jiva Spa, where I indulged in a ninety-minute massage, emerging visibly refreshed. At 9 p.m., I showered and headed to The Palace Lounge for cocktails. It was quiet and relaxing, and after an hour, a friend joined me for dinner at Wasabi. The service was attentive, courteous and it's a rare culinary experience where dishes are prepared once the chef receives the order so it's always fresh and flavourful… I was back in my room at 1 a.m. and fell asleep the moment my head hit the soft pillows. This was just the first day of five…
Now, I'm the last person to rise early for breakfast. You're either a breakfast person or not — and I'm one who sleeps in. But I made an effort to wake at 5 a.m. to go for a jog at Gateway Of India, dip in the pool and then treated myself to a sumptuous breakfast at The Sea Lounge. Alas… it was time for work, so the butler booked a Jaguar and I headed to St. Regis… to critique showings at Lakme Fashion Week. My schedule was pretty much the same throughout the five days — critiquing fashion shows and coming back to some luxury shopping at Dior, Louis Vuitton or Stephano Ricci in the hotel, walking around the bylanes of Colaba, and then spending the rest of the evening at the magnificent pool and spa. After a hard day's work and mind-boggling traffic, returning to the calm waters and Jiva Spa—was heavenly. Perfect to escape the everyday… this truly is the pinnacle of luxe escapism. That, and the spectacular views of Gateway of India and the sea beyond, which I could stare at for hours, from my room.
My last thoughts: This1903, flagship property of Taj Hotels, which stands sentry over Mumbai’s harbour is one of the city's landmarks—and most memorable stays.The service is impeccable, warm and attentive, without being overbearing. There's a belief in India that a guest is God. Nowhere is this philosophy that visitors to your home should be honoured, respected and taken care of, more evident than at Taj Mahal Palace And Tower Mumbai. I was touched when their team gave mom and I a 1903 one rupee coin as a shagun of safe travels… So its no wonder that I am already looking forward to my next staycation just days after my return… can't wait to be back and saving up for it now!!
— JASMEEN DUGAL
Taj Mahal And Palace, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai