To begin with, a confession. I was not the first in. Not quite. About 500 Bollywood bigwigs got there before me. There wasn’t much in it. A matter of three or four hours. My plane from London was a bit late, which meant that I was a bit late, too, for the opening-night party at Soho House Mumbai. I tumbled out of a taxi and up the steps to the front door shortly after two in the morning, just as the Bollywood bigwigs were tumbling in the opposite direction. I felt like a slightly grubby and distinctly underdressed salmon swimming upstream against a great surging flow of brocade silk, dewy skin, glossy hair and chunky golden wristwatches.

‘Wowee,’ I said, as I finally pitched up, spectacles askew, at the check-in desk. ‘What a fragrant crush. What a crowd of outright glamour-pusses. I was worried that I might, you know, stomp on Preity Zinta’s toes by accident or something,’ plucking the name of my favourite Bollywood starlet, short of stature but long on dimples, out of thin air, purely for the sake of conversation. ‘Please don’t worry, sir,’ came the unruffled Soho House staffer’s reply. ‘There’s no danger of that happening. She left 10 minutes ago.’

Soho House Mumbai’s 11-storey townhouse in Juhu.

Which, I am pleased to report, is the only bit of bad news I have to bring you from the 23rd outpost of Nick Jones’s ever-expanding global empire – my own personal disappointment, quite mild, really, at failing to clap eyes on a smirking actress with whom I happen to share a love of cricket. Otherwise it was all sunshine and sea breezes.

At breakfast on the roof, by the pool, the following morning, I had the Arabian Sea on one side and the great honking endless tangle of the city on the other. Though always popular with locals, Juhu Beach has changed beyond recognition in recent years, thanks to a concerted and effective clean-up programme. Looking down, I could see kids playing full-scale cricket matches on the sand among the throngs of strollers and sunbathers – still no sign of Preity, alas – as well as wiry old birds cranking handles on crazy machines from the early Industrial Revolution to produce those funny crushed-ice lollies with syrup that I have never quite got the point of.

Retro radios, distressed wood and clashing prints in one of the bedrooms.

Soho House Mumbai has been a long time coming, or anyway a year or two longer than Nick Jones may have liked, though I suppose the same could be said of almost every building project in Mumbai, a city that takes the blue ribbon in red tape. It occupies a pristine 11-storey townhouse in Juhu that would not look at all out of place in Juan-les-Pins, complete with awnings and balconies and swaying palm trees. The oddity is endearing rather than jarring.


I imagine there will be those who moan about its proximity to the airport(crockery-rattlingly close) and its distance from the swishier end of Marine Drive (a good 90 minutes in bad traffic). Well. Swings and roundabouts. Instead, it’s super-convenient for the Bollywood studios and for the TV, fashion and advertising peeps who live in Bandra; and it’s a milestone in the general shift northwards that has been occurring for a while now in Mumbai.

Club in Soho House Mumbai

The familiar Soho House components are all present and correct – the members-only bits (bar, restaurant, pool and screening room); the bits that are open to everyone (the ground-floor Cecconi’s restaurant and the Allis café, and most though not quite all of the 38 rooms, many of which are, incidentally, by Soho House-standards, gigantic). So it wouldn’t be right to say that there’s anything especially shocking or revolutionary about it. But the point is that it feels fresh and sensible and consonant with its surroundings. More than consonant, in fact. It works extremely, unexpectedly, quite delightfully well here in Mumbai.

Before I saw it with my own eyes, I must admit I had my doubts. New York, fine. Berlin, sure. Amsterdam, okey-doke. But Mumbai? Really? Yet it’s the little flourishes that make all the difference, the devilish details, and nowhere else on earth does little flourishes and devilish details quite like India. Having seen the lampshades here, for instance, I now think that all the faux-Victorian lampshades, in every Soho House from Greek Street to Timbuktu, ought to be similarly covered in sari fabric. Just gorgeous. And why isn’t there more woven cane in my life? Or patterned tiles and polished teak?

Soho House Mumbai

A surface paradise. A nirvana of textures. Of all the Soho Houses I’ve seen, this is the perkiest and most playful. Apparently, 90 per cent or so of the stuff you see around you has been locally sourced, some of it vintage, some of it specially made. I was highly amused to hear from one of the interior designers about the difficulties they had had in explaining the concept of distressed furniture to Indian carpenters, for whom the act of deliberately scuffing up brand-new tables and chairs was, well, frankly distressing.

Here you can feast your eyes on Subodh Gupta’s gleaming cutlery-sculpture My Stars or Bharti Kher’s dazzling Algorithm for Living Well while stuffing your face with fresh rotis and murgh tikka – unless, of course, you’d prefer mac’n’cheese or chicken Caesar. Whatever you do, though, don’t fail to order a Tipsy Gola, which replaces the syrupy sweetness of those shaved-ice lollies that the grannies sell on Juhu Beach with something equally sweet but a little less innocent – and altogether more in the spirit of the place.