Nestled in the heart of bustling Colaba, is a nondescript apartment building, dirtied by pollution and squeezed unceremoniously between some local businesses. The entryway is dingy and dusty, and a rickety lift (you know the kind where you have to drag open the metal cage door) slowly creaks its way up to the first floor. If you prefer to walk, you are greeted by a bright yellow hotel sign and a decorated altar allowing locals to make their daily offerings. In short, there is nothing unusual or special about this building from the outside.
Like a Christmas present wrapped in tin foil however, sometimes the best gifts have simple packaging, and so it is with Abode.
Glass doors provide a glimpse into a bright, airy, seating/eating area as you grapple simultaneously with the narrow doorway and your luggage.
The butterfly that is Abode Bombay now emerges from its cocoon.
A Homely Feel
The reception cum dining, cum chill out area is scattered with tables and bookshelves housing brightly coloured cushions, and books and other souvenirs for sale. The whitewashed, exposed brickwork creates a cavernous, modern warehouse effect, with symbols of India’s heritage everywhere. Old black and white photos of Gandhi and other famous Indians line the walls, whilst antique clocks proudly display the time in both Bombay and Mumbai (the same time on each obviously!).
An Abode for Avid Readers
Delving further within reveals an inviting library to satisfy any avid reader. Books and magazines are piled high on shelves and bookcases, stuffed cushions in beige hues invite you to relax, and cool wicker chairs tempt you to sit a while and read. It looks more a slightly messy (in a cool kind of way) artisan’s home than a hotel in one of the most popular tourist areas of Mumbai.
A glistening, gigantic chandelier dazzles above a communal breakfast bench, and signs hand-drawn on the walls indicate the way to your room along smooth teak floorboards.
Modern and antique pieces blend to create a unique environment, a fusion of past and present in the heart of this heady metropolis, whilst antique trunks litter the room hinting of more journeys to come, or long past boat journeys.
An Abode away from home
The manager and his staff are seated in a corner (no hidden manager’s office here), and regularly wander the room chatting to guests. There’s no scripted conversations like those you hear in many five star chains;
‘Hello ma’am, how is your day?’
‘How long will you be in Mumbai?’
‘I hope you enjoy our city’
Blah blah blah.
Adobe Bombay revels in conversation which makes you feel like you are talking to a pal, rather than an hotel employee. Nilesh, Priya and the general manager Norbert all come over to introduce themselves, chatting to us about the property and its history.
The building itself is over a hundred years old, but the hotel is a mere toddler on the Bombay scene, having opened in 2013. Its quickly made a name for itself as a quirky wedding venue and boutique property, and is regularly fully booked.
Call me cynical, but I’m wondering whether the red carpet has been laid out for us because we are reviewing the hotel, but over the next few days we observe the staff unobtrusively interacting with the guests over breakfast and tea, offering to share recipes, having general chit chat, or offering tips on things to do in Mumbai. They all speak great English and have a genuine desire to welcome you into their home, and city. There is nothing contrived about this place!
After welcome drinks and pleasantries, we are lead down a bright hallway, to our Aladdin’s cave.
Our Comfy Abode
It’s a treasure indeed, and we are proudly informed that we have the best room in the house (Room 108, if you are wondering!). Behind the solid wooden door, we find ornate hand painted Italian tiles, a roll top Victorian bath, wicker seating area, and the softest bed I have graced in a long time.
Sweet touches adorn the rooms, from the eye-masks draped over the pillows, to earplugs inviting you to find peace as a reward (trust me, you will need them!), reading materials, a mobile for your use during your stay, and an IPOD dock. A fabulously thick yoga mat has also been discretely placed in the room for me to use during our stay. Service indeed!
A bathroom of grey slate has the funkiest (perhaps not the most practical) sink, and a huge shower head towers over the wooded cubicle, topped up with fresh smelling toiletries in stainless steel canisters.
Huge windows circle the room letting in plenty of light, and reminding you that you truly are in the thick of things here.
Great Value Rooms For All Budgets
After tearing myself away from our sweet haven, I go to explore some of the other rooms, and am pleasantly surprised to discover a selection of rooms to suit a variety of budgets. You can choose from basic rooms with en-suite shower and sink (but communal toilets – don’t worry they don’t look anything like toilet blocks in a hostel) from around £45 plus tax.
Simple rooms start at around £90 plus tax, and have the same comfortable beds, teak flooring and furniture. Don’t be deceived by ‘simple’ as none of the rooms in this hotel are really simple. They all benefit from the same, modern bathrooms, comfy bedding and little touches. Some rooms just happen to be a little more bijou.
You could opt for the other luxury room, adjacent to ours with a wicker seating area, and cool bathroom (minus the roll top bath) for around £100 plus tax, or splash the cash and go for room 108 (do it, as you will not be disappointed!) for around £140.
For a city centre location such as this, with a hearty breakfast included, and the personalised service of Adobe, these rooms really are a steal!
The Adobe Bombay Cafe
Breakfast is served daily until twelve. Yes, finally a hotel that recognises that you don’t want an early breakfast if you were out partying until 3am (ok so it might be a while since I stayed up until that time but I still remember those days!). Take your pick from cereals and pastries, and order eggs at the cafe bar area. You certainly won’t go away hungry!
It’s all very friendly with guests chatting to one another at the long dining table, exchanging travel stories and tips.
The Cafe also serves a light cafe menu all day including sandwiches, teas and street snacks.
Indulge in a Massage or Yoga
If the noise and chaos of Mumbai is making you weary, book yourself a massage in the dedicated spa room. Massages are delivered by therapists from the Mumbai based school for the blind, and you can take your pick from Asian and Western styles.
Should you wish to head to a yoga class, the hotel can guide you to a local establishment just a few minutes away, but be warned, it has an early start. If you don’t fancy a dawn call, you can ask the staff to put a yoga mat in your room for use, and instead indulge at a time to suit you.
You may have already established that the location of this hotel is excellent. It is smack, bang in the middle of Colaba, just minutes from the Gateway of India, trendy wine bars, pubs, and restaurants.
Steps in the other direction brings you to the Colaba Causeway where you can put your haggling skills to the test with local stall owners.
The location does come at a cost as the Indian Highway Code seems to emphasise the need for copious amounts of horn honking. Honking to warn pedestrians of their presence, honking to express annoyance, honking to express impatience, and honking for the sake of honking. Thankfully those earplugs are to hand, and unless you are raging drunk, or sleep like the dead, you will need them.
Beyond location, and aesthetics, Adobe’s biggest asset is its staff. This is a hotel that strives to offer guests a service that is personal, friendly and unlike anything found in large chain hotels. In the evening, a turn-down service treats you not only to sweets, but a little note inviting you to have ‘sweet dreams,’ and accompanying colourful flowers. One day a bright orange gerbera arrives (yay my wedding flowers!), the next a garland of small, white flowers.
I overhear conversations at breakfast where the manager is explaining Indian cuisine to an Australian lady, which concludes with him promising to send her some recipes. This relaxed, chit-chat welcomes guests into Abode’s folds like a mother cuddling a child.
On check out, not only do the staff carry your bags down the flight of stairs (how do people so slight, carry our two weighty cases?!), but then find you a cab and make sure your driver knows exactly where you are going before bidding you goodbye. I’m only sorry that we had no change to tip the young man (honestly we weren’t being tight!).
Don’t be surprised if you come to stay here and leave with some new friends, whether it be a member of staff or other guests. The relaxed, friendly vibe of Abode Bombay will leave you feeling cherished from the moment you arrive until you leave. It’s just a shame they have no other hotels yet so I could go explore those too!
Have your say. Have you stayed at Abode Bombay, or other hotels which may you feel at home? If so, please share below.
Also feel free to sign up for updates (no more than a few a month, sometimes less…so little time!) because lots of expert travel hackers hang out here!
We stayed courtesy of Abode Bombay but all views are our own and unedited.