Mumbai – hanging out in Churchgate

My employer usually puts me up in north Mumbai in areas where there isn’t a lot going on, so for the weekend I like to rent a cheap hotel downtown and spend my days off wandering around, looking at old buildings, snacking on street food and generally soaking up Mumbai street life.

I recommend the Chateau Windsor Hotel www.chateauwindsor.com at 86 Veer Nariman Road in Churchgate. It’s in a plain Art Deco building with a rickety wooden lift that takes you up a few floors to reception. I arrived very early in the morning (avoids the downtown traffic jams) but their night staff were still on the ball.

There are other hotels along this stretch of road which no doubt are similar. For work, I’ve also stayed at the five-star Oberoi www.oberoihotels.com at nearby Nariman Point which of course was great, but not somewhere I could usually afford at £150 a night.

The rooms at the Chateau Windsor are basic but clean and spacious and start from only 5000Rs (around £60) per night. Breakast costs extra and is nothing special, just masala omelette, white toast, chai and the like (C), but you can take it sitting on the roof terrace which is a pleasant place to be in the morning sun (my favourite time of day in India). Brabourne cricket stadium is over the street should you be a fan.

By the way, you may be accosted by a well-spoken middle-aged optician touting for business while you’re breakfasting. Just so you know, he’s a nice guy and gave my friend Nicky a great deal on two pairs of glasses.

The best thing about the Chateau Windsor though is it’s location. Heading east you have Churchgate Station (a major terminus) very near and the districts of Fort and Apollo Bandar within reasonable walking distance (see other posts). My map here.

Heading west, a stonesthrow away at the end of the street, you have iconic Marine Drive with its sweeping views along the waterfront and out over Back Bay.

Lots of people come here at dusk to stroll or jog along the wide promenade or or just sit on the wall chatting to catch the cool evening breeze.

Marine Drive was created as a result of a land reclaimation project in the 1920s. Originally they were going to fill in the whole of the Back Bay from Nariman Point (in the foreground above) to Malabar Hill (the promintory opposite) but this was as far as they got.

In 1996, along with many other local places, Marine Drive was renamed to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, but as ever, the old name stuck. It’s more likely you will hear its nickname ‘the Queen’s Necklace’, which comes from the appearance of the street lights along the drive when you view them from an elevated point. I’m told Malabar Hill has a great view of the necklace at sunset but I need to check that next time I go. The hotels in Nariman Point no doubt have a good view as well.

I also need to stroll up to Chowpatty Beach at the northern end of the drive and get a tray of Bhelpuri. The beach is famous for this type of chaat which is made of vegetables topped with spicy rice krispies (puffed rice) and doused tamarind sauce. So this is a post in development!

Back on Veer Nariman Road, just over the road from the Chateau Windsor, you have the dingy but very famous K.Rustoms Ice Cream Parlour at 86 Veer Nariman Road which sells delicious ices featuring local flavours. Thanks to my friend Vishaal suggesting it, I can recommend the paan flavour (betel leaf with areca nut) wafer sandwich. Rustoms should certainly feature as a refreshment stop on any local walk.

However my most favourite thing about Churchgate is the Art Deco architecture, for which see my next post…

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