This gorgeous peacock, entirely made from flowers, is just one of the many decorations at the entrance to the ballroom of Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai. The reason? The luxury hotel is hosting just one of the many functions that is part of a major wedding. This is major wedding time in India. Whereas in Delhi there are big indoor venues, places like Ambience Kempinski that can hold up to 6,000 in one pillarless room, in Mumbai the main, final ceremony is held outside, particularly along the coastal road leading to The Oberoi Mumbai. Each adjacent venue, says the gal, seems more gaudy than its neighbours. But before the finale there are days of festivities, and Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai was the venue for a wedding lunch being hosted by Mr Jain. Hence the flowers.
A good luxury hotel has to give its customers everything they want. The typical stay-over guest at this hotel is a top business person, a CEO or similar. What do they want? They want the right reading material. Apparently the International New York Times, the sad descendent of the much-missed International Herald Tribune, is no longer printed and distributed in India, but the Wall Street Journal is alive, kicking and more global than ever (it must be killing the INYT in other countries). And the Financial Times is supposedly here but I only saw two copies of it during this last ten-day trip. For some reason I was inundated every day with at least 12 thick newspapers, all of them with similar content, 99 percent of which is Indian, and I felt starved.
A top business person needs a jolly good breakfast to start the day. Here, at the hotel, your toast comes in a proper rack, and the preserves are Beerenberg, the Aussie concoction that is actually pretty good – I first came across it on Cathay many years ago. All the food at this hotel is good and I love the way you can design your own. San-Qi, a separate two-floor glass box just outside the main hotel, offers basically any kind of Asian cuisine you want but they do not turn a hair if you compose your own meal. Last time I ordered a 15-minute tiffin box, as delivered by Mumbai’s 5,000 dabbawallas to 200,000 regular clients every day. My meal sure enough arrived in 15 minutes. This time I wanted a plate of cheese. No problem – even though they may have had to rush out to the equivalent of Harrods Food Hall, if there is such a thing, to buy the necessary.
More on the needs of the top business person. He or she needs somewhere to relax. Here they have spent half a million (US) in putting up a windproof German awning above the 15th floor rooftop bar so it can be used year round. It withstands monsoons and, apparently, winds of up to 185 km per hour. Aer is its name, it opens from 5.30 p.m, just in time for finish work, through to 3 a.m. just in time to go to bed for a couple of hours before facing another day – helped by that jolly good breakfast before you face at least an hour in traffic. Every journey in Mumbai, even what looks like 60 yards on the map, seems to take at least 60 minutes, and, god bless Four Seasons Mumbai, its BMWs have instant WiFi, and free (other hotels, please note). Its WiFi is also free in bedrooms, as has been company policy since January 1st, 2014.
What else does our business person want? A good gym, 24/7 and with a view. Tick that box. A pool that is big enough for serious laps. Tick that box too. A spa that is well run and accommodating. Tick. We might even have invented a new Four Seasons norm. Spa director Martin Hilton, whom I had first met in Shanghai when he opened the spa at Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai Pudong, did not turn a hair when I asked if someone could do a 30-minute facial? No problem, I was Sodashi-ed and out in 25 minutes (I still did not look like Miss World but miracles could not be expected in half an hour). We talked about the rise, led by New York operators, of salons where you book 30 minutes, and have your hair blow-dried or nails done or whatever. Great business idea.
This list could go on for ever but basically every good luxury hotel needs a superb boss, and Andrew Harrison is the GM here. As I leave, he tells me to come back on Sunday so I can take a regular 7 a.m. bike ride downtown with local lawyers who know the ins and outs of Mumbai. Now that is yet another compelling reason to return…