“This is the first time I feel like I can see it coming together”. It was less than 24 hours before opening day when I overheard this conversation in the corridor of Soho House Mumbai. The place was abuzz – management were having impromptu hushed meetings about the latest obstacle, the decorators were taking a tea break in the soon-to-be Italian restaurant and construction workers were running up and down the stairs, equipment in hand and covered in dust.
Alarmingly, considering the proximity to the finish line, Soho House Mumbai was still very unfinished. “They’ll work through the night,” Vidisha Noronha, Communications Manager, assured me as she took me through the chaos and out to the terrace. An immediate wall of infamous Mumbai heat and humidity hit me on stepping out, but I was quickly distracted by the spectacular view over Juhu Beach. The sun was setting, there was a cricket game in motion right ahead, and young couples were walking hand-in-hand along the shimmering, wet sand where the tide had gone out. It was then that I could also see it all coming together - and that this would be Mumbai’s most exciting hotel opening in years.
This is Soho House’s first venture in Asia. The group – Soho House & Co – began as a private members club for the creative industries inside five connected townhouses on London’s Greek Street. Today, it has 23 clubs, ranging from city-centre hideaways to beach-front properties to remote, bucolic farmhouses in locations such as Barcelona, Istanbul, New York and Toronto.
This wasn’t so much of a strategic move, Noronha explained, but a necessity: “The members were asking for [a Mumbai club].” She told me there was demand, and so Soho House stepped up to give its members what they wanted – a beautiful, boutique property in the heart of Bollywood and one of the richest cities in south Asia.
Mumbai has changed drastically in the last decade, Noronha said. The city’s middle-class millennials are studying abroad, then coming home to run their businesses here where the economy is on their side. “This city has something,” she told me with a wistful look in her eye.
This is undoubtedly an exciting opening for Mumbai. The city has a dearth of top quality, boutique-style properties and instead is dominated by a plethora of expensive, chain-run business hotels. There’s plenty of top quality accommodation here, from the behemoth that is the Taj Mahal Palace to the elegant St Regis, but there’s nothing in the same vein as Soho House. The group plans to run events and screenings – there’s a cinema on the first floor – for members and non-members, adding an engaging, community-focused edge few hotels in the city can compete with.
Behind the scenes
Inside, it has the typical Soho House look – all colourful, ornately patterned floor tiles, dark woods, and sumptuous vintage or retro-style furniture. But there’s an Indian element too. Head designer Linda Boronkay, who has worked on all the Soho House properties as well as luxury brands like The Ivy, Nobu and Four Seasons, took inspiration from Rajasthan with the printed fabrics, and sourced Indian art and antiques for display throughout the 38 bedrooms and living spaces.
There’s an Italian restaurant on the ground floor, a rooftop pool with views over the cosmopolitan Juhu area, and a bar and restaurant in the members-only space with signature Soho House favourites as well as Indian-inspired dishes. The star attraction, though, is that view out to Juhu beach through floor-to-ceiling windows on every level. The General Manager here, Joe Eva, is a Soho House stalwart who has been with the group since 1998. He recently moved from London to run the property in Mumbai and has been working hard towards launch for well over a year. What’s next? I ask him during a brief encounter in the lobby. After launch, he says, it’ll be all about the staff and honing that inimitable style of hospitality. “Soho House are obsessed with service, so now there’ll be a big focus on education and training,” he adds.
I ask what he’d do differently if he got to hit the refresh button on this project. He says: “If I did it all over again, I’d set all my deadlines at least two or three weeks ahead – we were already conservative and allowed six weeks more than our original estimates!” It may be taking over the world, one house at a time, but it seems even Soho House isn’t immune from the unpredictabilities of opening a new hotel.
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Hero image: credit to Soho House & Co
UK-based private members club Soho House has set up its first property in Asia with a 38-room hotel to complement its members-only spaces
Located on Juhu Beach, it’s in the heart of an upper-class neighbourhood where Mumbai’s rich and famous reside, and blends the classic Soho House design with Indian inspiration
Soho House Mumbai is now one of a handful of small, boutique properties in the city, which is saturated by big, glitzy business hotels
The hotel will run events and screenings for the public as well as members, offering a creative community edge few other properties in the city can compete with