Mumbai: Bandra on the Verge

Courtesy Grand Hyatt

Mumbai is on the move, extending ever farther north and bringing glitz, energy, and newly minted wealth into its once rather quirky and bohemian suburbs. Chief among them is Bandra, a collection of small hills and old villages, with a mix of Catholic churches, stunning Portuguese villas, and Art Deco bungalows. The so-called Queen of the Suburbs, the neighborhood buzzes with activity and—since many of the stars live, work, and play here—more than a touch of Bollywood shimmer.

Shopping is boutique-based, with Linking Road as the high street. Typical of the stores is Barefoot (Anand Villa, Palimala Rd.), great for embellished styles of the thonglike, all-leather handmade sandals called chappals. Moss (15A Union Park) has colorful brocade bags and shoes, and a new Tarun Tahiliani outpost (Mi-Casa Junction of St. Teresa Rd., 28th Rd.) carries the designer’s signature gowns, daywear, and wedding dresses, plus clothes from other Indian designers. Zooni (10 Hi-Ville Rd.) is good for lace and modern sequined versions of the churidar, the traditional Indian women’s trousers worn like wrinkled leggings. Head to Ananya (3 Pluto Bldg., Turner Rd.) for silk and jeweled kurtas, updates of the plain cotton tunics once made just for men but reinvented here as women’s day- and eveningwear.

Bandra’s food scene impresses as well. From 8 a.m. on, Crepe Station Café, in Union Park (8–9 Gangangiri Society), sells fine versions of the French treat for which it’s named. At lunch and dinner, the beautiful people pack the Hotel Pali Hill’s sophisticated Mediterranean spot Olive Bar & Kitchen (dinner, $100; 14 Union Park), both inside and on the terrace. Also in Pali Hill is Out of the Blue (dinner, $16; 14 Union Park), offering inventive seasonal food and tasty fondue. On Fridays at lunch, locals and expats enjoy head or foot massages in the foyer while awaiting their meals. For great Goan seafood, try Soul Fry (dinner, $30; Silver Craft, Pali Mala Rd.), but avoid Monday karaoke nights. The fashionable Seijo and the Soul Dish (dinner, $50; 206 Patkar Marg), meanwhile, serves Pan-Asian cuisine on its candlelit rooftop, and just below it the club Poison (206 Patkar Marg) pulses with Bollywood celebs, shaking up the after-hours scene.

At 18 stories and with 368 of some of the city’s largest rooms, the Taj Lands End ($510–$5,000; Bandstand; 91-22/6668-1234; tajhotels.com) is Bandra’s biggest and best hotel. It also houses the organic restaurant Pure. Try the seven-course Pure Tour; at upwards of $110 a person it’s expensive but worthwhile.

Bandra isn’t alone in upping Mumbai’s suburban chic factor, however. In Santa Cruz, just north of Bandra, the street market is fabulous and Baavree Plus (Santa Cruz Shopping Center) has bracelets to die for.

Past Santa Cruz, Juhu is Malibu on the Arabian Sea. Three places warrant a stop along the way there: Visit the Grand Hyatt Mumbai ($440–$1,900, off Western Express Hwy.; 91-22/6676-1234; mumbai.grand.hyatt.com) and try not to get lost. As Mumbai’s biggest hotel, it truly is grand. Vie Deck & Lounge (102 Juhu Tara Rd.) is best for a sunset drink, and nearby, nightlife is blinging at Aurus (dinner, $70; Nichani Kutir, Juhu Tara Rd.), the most popular new restaurant here, where diners sit in lounge chairs on the candlelit deck.

In Juhu proper, on the same drag as Aurus, is the glamorous JW Marriott Hotel Mumbai ($350–$2,250; Juhu Tara Rd.; 91-22/6693-3000; marriott.com). Bollywood types begin their day at the Baking Company Café, on the hotel’s ground floor, and end it at the nightclub Enigma. For a touch of retro cool, visit the Sun-n-Sand Hotel ($225–$470; 39 Juhu Beach; 91-22/6693-8888; sunnsandhotel.com). The original Bollywood haunt, it’s where suburban style began—and it still has the best baked crab in Mumbai.

These northern suburbs are all quite close to Mumbai’s international airport, but depending on traffic they’re at least an hour from South Mumbai’s Colaba, where most of the city’s activity and hotels are, and about 40 minutes north of Worli, in Central Mumbai, where the new Four Seasons is. So plan with your driver to do all your Bandra business at once. It’s not feasible to go back and forth.