I vaguely remember the first time I travelled to Bombay. I was still in my first year of college, visiting my cousin who was studying in the city. The only places I had known until then were Dehradun, Delhi and Singapore… and Bombay felt so different from each of them. I immediately fell in love with the way people hung out on the streets, the late night drives along the brightly lit Marine Drive, the quaint little restos we dined and drank at, and just the relaxed, laid back vibe of the city.
But things were different when I went back many years later. Or maybe I was. The traffic had grown, the weather was more sultry, people seemed more frustrated. It took several reluctant visits for Mumbai to grow on me again. For me to look beyond the traffic and pollution, and find green corners, breezy hideouts and cosy cafes. To find a method in the madness, connect with the wild Arabian Sea and seek the warmth of new friendships.
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So when I had to pick a big city in India to explore during my collaboration with Radisson Rewards, it had to be Mumbai. Behold, all my favorite hangouts in the city to chill, ‘work from home’, use free wifi and enjoy vegan food:
Where: Bandra Kurla Complex
Best for: Organic, farm to table food
I couldn’t contain my delight when I heard that Santa Spa Cuisine – a popular, organic, farm-to-table resto in Pune – had opened shop in BKC, Mumbai. I adored the cosy, dimly lit, cafe-style interiors with large glass windows and the diverse, healthy food options with ingredients mostly sourced from their own farm. So far, I’ve tried the chocolate granola smoothie bowl, the tofu quinoa scramble and the spinach and beetroot hummus – all vegan (or customisable) and delightful. I can’t wait to try the cruelty-free dark buckwheat chocolate slab and dark french chocolate pie!
Also read: Why I Turned Vegan – and What it Means for My Travel Lifestyle
Where: Carter Road, Bandra
Best for: Shisha and the sea breeze
After a day of manoeuvring the chaotic streets of Bombay, there’s no respite like a laid-back night, with the sea breeze in your hair and the aroma of rose and mint flavored shisha in the air. Located across the Arabian Sea on Carter Road, Corniche doesn’t look like much from outside, but is quite an oasis – complete with charging points and a vegan hazelnut dessert (hopefully more vegan options will be added)! As good to hangout with friends as to work late into the night.
Where: Santa Cruz West
Best for: Initiation into Mumbai’s vegan scene
Slowing down from time to time in Bombay, I’ve made some wonderful friends through the many Airbnbs I’ve stayed in and the growing vegan community in the city. So when my friend who runs Down2Hearth and offers vegan retreats, health consultations and cooking classes, decided to list a room in her beautiful, cosy, spacious, green home on Airbnb, I knew it would become my refuge some day. After all, it’s not every day that vegan travellers can wake up to almond milk coffee, plant-based nutella and enriching conversations!
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Best for: Cat lovers, shakes and snacks
Cafe Cafe Studio is a special place – a refuge for rescued cats, cat lovers, vegans and those on the lookout for a quiet space with books or a laptop. Years ago, when I visited for the first time, vegan options were limited to bagels, but much has changed since. They offer a dedicated vegan menu now, featuring shakes and coffee with soya, almond or coconut milk; smoked tofu hummus sandwiches; finger foods and good old maggi!
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Where: Bandra West
Best for: Free wifi in an outdoor green space
When I started to look beyond the traffic, pollution, chaotic construction and crowded streets of Mumbai, Village Shop was my first refuge. The first place that made me feel like I could love this city again. Off a busy street in Bandra, surrounded by bamboos and greenery, this small outdoor space offers the kind of ambience you need every once in a while to clear your head, and a menu with an exciting selection of vegan options – of which the chocolate almond shake, the tofu scramble and the southern sunrise are some of my favs.
Where: Marol (Andheri East)
Best for: A fusion meal with an inspiring story
I first visited Bombay to Barcelona to meet Amin, the owner, for his journey had left me both heartbroken and inspired. What began as a struggle for a child on the unforgiving streets of Bombay culminated into a beautiful cafe (read the full story), full of meaningful knick-knacks and books, its own little space for growing organic herbs and an eclectic menu that mixes Spanish tapas with Indian street food.
Where: Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC)
Best for: Organic salads and sandwiches
I’m not the kind of vegan who could settle for a salad in the name of a meal, but Kitchen Garden by Suzette changed that perception! Their ‘make your own salads’ – with choices ranging from quinoa and barley to falafel and avocados – are largely organic and as much a delight for the tastebuds as for the body. I also dig their sourdough sandwiches; I like mine with red hummus, avocados, herb-roasted mushrooms, spinach and micro greens. In a parallel universe, if I worked in one of the corporate offices in BKC, Kitchen Garden would be my hangout of choice (outside of corporate lunch hours when it gets totally packed).
Also read: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Quit My Job to Travel
Where: MIDC Andheri
Best for: New age business travel
On shorter transits through Mumbai, when I don’t have the time to settle into an Airbnb and catch up with my host, I prefer to stay in a well-located modern hotel that doesn’t break my wallet. I’ve sampled a fair number of hotels in Bandra and close to the airport, but on my recent collaboration with Radisson, I was glad to have the chance to stay at the newly built Radisson in Andheri East – wooden flooring, cruelty-free Biotique products for complimentary use and a convenient location near the international airport. At 15,000 reward points a night, quite a steal in this otherwise expensive city!
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Where: Bandra West
Best for: A ‘work from home’ day
If I were to have only one base to work as a digital nomad in Bombay, it would be Birdsong. I still see myself sitting on the corner table, people-watching through the big window, writing furiously on my laptop, sipping a coconut water-rose-chia seeds cooler! A thin crust cashew cheese-based pizza will soon make its way to my table, as all kinds of creative conversations flow around me. Free wifi and plenty of inspiration – what more could you ask for while working from home?
Also read: How I’m Financially Sustaining My Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Best for: Local theatre
As someone who’d always pick a play, film or workshop over a night of drinking, I love Prithvi Theatre in Juhu. Among the plays I’ve caught, I distinctly remember two exceptional ones: 9 Parts of Desire – a one woman show by Ira Dubey about the lives of eight women in Iraq – and The Father – by Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak about a father suffering from Alzheimer’s. No matter the time of year, Prithvi Theatre is always bustling with interesting events (the best way to find them is sites like bookmyshow) and has a relaxed garden cafe to hang out before or after, though vegan options are mostly limited to hummus with mushrooms.
Where: Ville Parle
Best for: A bite before a flight
A local friend swears that Garde Manger stirred up the cafe scene in Ville Parle and it’s easy to see why. This small cosy space takes cafe food to another level, especially with a special vegan menu (created by Down2Hearth) featuring interesting fusion fare like green pea hummus crostini (sounds strange but is absolutely amazing), thin crust pesto cashew cheese pizza, quinoa chocolate smoothie and tofu bhurji. Be sure to ask for the separate vegan menu – the staff don’t offer it by default, almost as though they want to hide the best stuff in the kitchen!
Also read: Where to Find the Best Vegan / Vegetarian Food in Singapore
Best for: Beer and wifi
Sometimes you just need a drink or three to get you through an ‘unable to work from home’ day – and Doolally, Bombay’s first craft brewery, is just the place to hole up at. There are charging points, wifi and plenty of good beer to choose from; I like the Belgian Wit, but opt for a beer sampler to try them all and pick your favorite. Vegan options were once limited to fries, but fortunately they’ve added pita, zatar and hummus to the menu!
Where: Bandra West
Best for: Yoga and working from home
When I first started falling in love with Bombay again, Yoga House quickly became part of my ‘holy trinity’ in Bandra – along with Birdsong and Village Shop. And it still remains a favourite for its daily yoga classes by talented instructors, a cosy upstairs space with floor seating to work from or read a book, and an interesting menu – of which my favorite dishes are the oven roasted vegetables sandwich with homemade almond pesto, the quinoa pesto salad, the seasonal strawberry almond milk smoothie and the heavenly vegan chocolate mousse.
Also read: The Joy of Slow Travel
Best for: A hip cafe space
I can hardly bear to tear myself away from Bandra or brace the long journey to South Bombay, but The Pantry, clubbed with a meeting or event in town is pretty good motivation. This hip space features a tempting range of vegan fare – including smoothie bowls and a vegan ‘cheese’ bowl; so far, I’ve only tried the homemade (chocolate) almond milk shake and vegan pudding, but hope to go back one of these days with my laptop or book and sample more of the vegan-friendly menu.
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Where: Bandra West
Best for: Organic vegan splurge!
We have a long standing joke about Sequel – you splurge on food there, then come home and have a proper meal Case in point – the food is incredible, right from the Sequel tartine (hass avocado and cashew cheese on a nuts and seeds toast) and the açai berry smoothie bowl to the rustic garden (a melange of sundried tomato, quinoa, pesto and Himalayan black rice). But the portions are insanely small and it pinches the wallet pretty bad. Still, I keep going back and blowing my money, sometimes even spend the day working from there, because no one else in Bombay has ingredients even close to Sequel!
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