When arriving in a new country at 3am, particularly a country with a reputation like India, I crave the familiar. I look for those touch points that can provide some sort of comfort in the uncomfortable. For us, the comfort we sought in India, came in the form of a luxury hotel in Mumbai.
We stayed 4 nights in Mumbai, with the first one being a half night after our 3 am arrival at the nearby airport. The staff of the JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, quickly escorted us to our room. In the room, we completed the registration process and received an explanation of how the room worked.
The room itself was as expected from a brand new luxury hotel in Mumbai, with a comfortable bed and huge soaking tub. For Eric, there was a view of the airport. After a quick shower, and an even quicker check of email, I was fast sleep. So fast asleep that we slept through breakfast. Mumbai would be waiting for us in the morning.
Dining at a Luxury Hotel in Mumbai – JW Cafe
We finally emerged for lunch at JW Cafe, the JW Marriott’s hotel buffet. I ate that first lunch at JW Cafe because I did not want to explore Mumbai on an empty, jet lagged stomach. I did not want to worry about trying to find something to eat once we were downtown. The JW Cafe would provide me a little familiar comfort in India, which was what I needed. I figured we would test out the food at the hotel and make a decision about where to eat that night.
No decision needed to be made. Other than our excursion for our Mumbai street food tour, we ate all of our meals at the JW Marriott Mumbai, and felt we ate very well.
We met Chef Amitesh Virdi, the executive chef of JW Cafe, whose been cooking for 14 years. Raised in Punjab, Chef Amitiesh traveled across India, eating local food. Although the JW Cafe focuses on food from Mumbai and the surrounding area, the Chef is fascinated with the cuisine from Northeast India, particularly with the regions that have inspiration from China and Bhutan.
During our talks, Chef Amitesh introduced us to a city of India we had never heard before – Lucknow. Not wanting to seem uneducated about Indian geography, I didn’t ask too many questions about Lucknow, and just listened to what the chef said about the food from the region. I learned more about Lucknow at our next destination, the JW Marriott New Delhi, but that’s a story for next week.
Despite the fascination with Lucknow, the cuisine at the JW Marriott Mumbai focuses on the local influences. Most interesting to me was chaat. Chaat is a savory, street-side snack. It’s often fried dough, mixed with potatoes or lentils, and then topped with yogurt, chutney, coriander and more. Finding a chaat station at a luxury hotel in Mumbai, was exciting. Chaat is a typical street food, and the JW Marriott Mumbai brought street food in.
I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the chaat station, but what I ate was better than some of the street food we ate on our Mumbai street food tour. Most of all, it was safe food, which was prepared in sanitary conditions, which is something you cannot always control in India. Okay, you can never really control.
I was immediately impressed with the set up at JW Cafe, which catered to an international audience with Thai, Middle Eastern, Indian, and even Japanese sushi specialties. I went straight for the Indian. Chef Amitesh set up about a dozen different Indian mains and biriyanis, along with different fresh breads made in a tandoor oven. And many of the desserts were Indian as well. I became quickly fascinated with the dosa, a thin crepe-like bread filled with potatoes and served with spicy sauce. Each was cooked fresh at the dosa station.
Chef Amitesh admitted that it is hard to run a kitchen this size, feeding hundreds of people each day with all different types of cuisine. It’s easy to lose your passion, and when that happens, all of the food starts to taste the same. His focus in on understanding the history behind the food they cook at the hotel, in order to maintain its authenticity and originality. This helps him to keep his passion inited. We spent a good amount of time talking with Chef Amitesh, and I can tell he still has his passion for local food, fresh ingredients, and authenticity.
Everything was, in fact, fabulous. Indian food is always comfort food for us, and this was no exception. It was the perfect way for us to adjust to being in India. Finding the familiar in the unfamiliar.
VIP Treatment From a Luxury Hotel in Mumbai
We used the JW Marriott Mumbai as a base to explore the city, and took a few excursions. On our first day, the concierge sat down with us and a map to explain where the hotel was in comparison to the main spots to see. The hotel is located next to the airport, like many luxury hotels in Mumbai.
The concierge arranged a driver to bring us down to South Mumbai our first afternoon. It was expensive, at $130 USD for up to 8 hours, particularly because we were only gone about 4 hours. But, it was totally worth it to not have to worry about hiring a taxi, and having them wait for us, or finding a new taxi to take us to each spot. Our driver took us to the ATM, took us to the sites we wanted to see, and explained about Mumbai on the way. It was totally worth it, even if I felt perhaps a little too fancy, exploring in an Audi A8.
Our driver took us to see Gandhi’s house, the Gateway to India, and drove us carefully through the obscene traffic of Mumbai. He dropped us off along Marine Drive, and we walked the promenade along Mumbai’s Back Bay. The difference between these two experiences is striking. The Gateway to India is a tourist destination, for Indians as well as foreigners. It was chaotic, with people everywhere, vendors, and rickshaw drivers. It was a little overwhelming.
Marine Drive, though, was lovely. Locals were sitting along the sea wall, chatting with friends, people watching. Some people were watching us. People asked to take our photo. But, it was lovely, and felt like more of a local experience than trying to catch a photo outside the Gateway to India. Our driver took us to see Victoria Station, and the other colonial buildings, which were just stunning to see. I was still adjusting to India, and to the chaotic nature of Mumbai. I was happy, though, to have our driver, our escort, our protector.
The rest of our time in Mumbai was spent in the hotel, recuperating from our crazy food tour in Italy, writing, and working. Oh, and getting a massage. Taking a bath in the huge soaking tub. Wondering what kind of chocolate we would receive on our pillow each night. Typical experiences at a luxury hotel in Mumbai.
And, as for the property itself, well I could write about the comfort of the room at the JW Marriott Mumbai. It is a property less than 9 months old. Everything was clean, modern, and sparkling new, just as you would expect from the JW Marriott properties.
What was unexpected was just how nice everyone was, down to the greeters in the lobby. The greeters were well dressed, pretty, young girls in the lobby who welcomed us in the morning, or back from an excursion. Every time we came downstairs they welcomed us with “Good Morning Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman.” I asked a manager whether she knew our name because we were “VIPs” but they are expected to learn everyone’s name. That’s some luxury service in a property with over 300 rooms.
Staying at the JW Marriott Mumbai was a perfect entry to traveling in India. The Marriott brand, and the staff, provided that comfortable touch point that we needed as we adjusted to being in Mumbai. It was a clean, safe, luxurious haven, in the circus that is Mumbai.
We were hosted by the JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar as part of our #IndiaByMarriott tour, but all opinions are my own. Rooms at the JW Marriott luxury hotel in Mumbai start around $150 USD. That’s good value luxury.