Thanks to a burgeoning arts scene and new creative initiatives, Kala Ghoda, the old cultural enclave just north of Colaba, has cemented itself as one of the coolest quarters in town.
After much of the city’s buzz moved to its quickly gentrifying northern suburbs in the early 2000s, south Mumbai quietly started to slide into oblivion as an entertainment district. But thanks to a burgeoning arts scene and new creative initiatives, Kala Ghoda, the old cultural enclave just north of Colaba, has cemented itself as one of the coolest quarters in town.
Flanked by Mumbai’s principal museum and art galleries (not to mention some of the best-preserved buildings from the Raj era), the area is well worth a day’s exploration, with its sleek concept stores, contemporary galleries, and hip hangouts all easily navigable by foot.
9 a.m. Start the morning with a house-blend coffee and a fruit-topped “desi” waffle at Kala Ghoda Café, one of the first spots to put Kala Ghoda on the map for young, in-the-know Mumbaikars. The whitewashed brick walls are hung with work by international photographers.
10:30 a.m. Discover that “bespoke leisurewear” is a thing at the atelier of Tokyo-meets-Mumbai clothing brand Obataimu, where a selection of incredibly soft, mostly unisex garments can be tailored from scratch by a team of in-house artisans. A few doors away, hit up the equally cool Bombay Shirt Company (bombayshirts.com) for something more office-appropriate.
12:30 p.m. For a leisurely lunch, hop over to The Pantry, located just across the street from Obataimu. With its high ceilings, industrial lighting, and subway-tiled walls, the café attracts a fashionable crowd; the croque monsieur with wholegrain mustard is not to be missed.
2:30 p.m. Release your inner art critic at Jehangir Art Gallery, a Mumbai institution showcasing the work of well-known contemporary artists from all over India. Seven different exhibition halls means there’s plenty to explore.
4:30 p.m. With a rustic interior that has barely changed since its founding in 1953, Yazdani Bakery (11 Cawasji Patel St.) is one of Mumbai’s most iconic Iranian cafés. Do as the locals do and order a heavily buttered bun maska with a hot cup of chai to dunk it in.
6 p.m. Head back to the area around the bright blue Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue for a bit of shop-hopping before dinner.
Filter stocks indie magazines and stylish accessories; Nicobar sells contemporary Indian fashion; and Kulture Shop offers limited-edition prints by local artists.
7:30 p.m. It may be a bit cramped and dowdy, but none of that matters at Trishna, because the South Indian seafood here is widely regarded as the best in town. Call ahead to book a table and be sure to order the Hyderabadi pomfret and butter pepper garlic crab.
10 p.m. Before heading back to your hotel, check out Woodside Inn for a locally brewed craft beer or two. Set inside the historic Indian Mercantile Mansion, the neighborhood’s favorite watering hole will have you chatting with local creative types in no time.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Mumbai to the Max”).