Bombay Guides: Kala Ghoda

There are few neighbourhoods in Bombay as winsome as Kala Ghoda. Literally translating to Black Horse, this crescent-shaped pocket is an attractive destination on an idyl afternoon, drawing in locals and visitors alike for its mercurial mix of cultural activity, beguiling boutiques and hopelessly-charming cafes!

Speaking as someone who is regularly found pottering around these colourful by-lanes, here are my top picks for things to do, see, shop and eat in this most alluring part of town…

Art, Culture & Heritage

… Starting with Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, which was built in 1884 to serve the large Baghdadi Jewish community of the city. A painstaking 20-month restoration has chipped away at its famous turquoise-toned façade to reveal the original natural pigment of blue, framed by white shutters imbued with clean Porbandar stone. The distinctive structure is just as impressive on the inside, with whimsical interiors overlaid with intricately embellished pillars and Victorian stained glass arches!

Art enthusiasts will find much to keep themselves occupied too. A visit to Jehangir Art Gallery is always richly rewarding for its enthralling line-up of modern and contemporary art exhibitions which sometimes spill out onto the surrounding streets. Other captivating corners include DAG Modern, a four-storey gallery/ auction-space helmed by Ashish Anand, the world’s largest collector of Indian pieces… The cultural curiosity fostered in the area reaches a crescendo during a week-long art extravaganza in February each year, when the entire neighbourhood plays host to the eponymous Kala Ghoda Festival! More on Art in Mumbai, here

Retail Therapy

The quirky and offbeat spirit of the neighbourhood reflects in its unique mix of shops too, featuring the likes of Obaitamu.

Translating to overtime in Japanese, this bespoke boutique is distinguished by its philosophy of driving a deliberate thought process behind each product and purchase. From structured jackets to t-shirts marrying Japanese and Indian styles, each of the alluring clothing items on display are for representational purposes only. Individual orders are made to specifications from behind the glass-walled workshop commanding pride of place within the boutique… It’s not unlike the fashion equivalent of an open kitchen, championing a farm-to-body movement!

Cosmopolitan additions continue with Vrisa from Jaipur, which lends a boho-chic lift to the traditional aesthetics and textiles of Rajasthan; and Ogaan the bright and airy multi-designer studio from Delhi curating a covetable collection of occasion-wear by the country’s most prolific designers, including Anamika Khanna, Rococo, Kavita Bhartia and Payal Khandwala to name but a few.

Designer draws also feature Rahul Mishra‘s boutique, showcasing his ethereal elevation to Indian haute couture (he’s one of the only Indian designers to show at Paris Fashion Week each year); while embroidery, lace and voluminous draping come together at Gaurav Guptas store to seamlessly manifest in head-turning gowns.

The epitome of sumptuous splendour, Sabysachi‘s boutique is tucked away in the by-lanes of Kala Ghoda too, evoking an old-world charm matched by timeless gowns and lehengas. His more contemporary collection of accessories (from high-waist belts emboldened by his tiger motif, to bejewelled clutches) is an inviting reason to visit too…

There are also more low-key options for overhauling your wardrobe, with Tulsi your go-to for low-key and elegantly-billowing tops and tunics apt for Bombay’s balmy summer.

Speaking of which, you can hop across to Nicobar if you’re looking to channel a tropical aesthetic into your home. From elephants to palm trees, the boutique’s expansive homeware range (spanning from plates and mugs to pillows and bed linen) exudes a rather breezy aesthetic. You can even find bottles of Hendrick’s gin and copies of Kinfolk magazine to complete the jaunty picture!

Nicobar; IO, Ropewalk Lane, Above Kala Ghoda Cafe

… And Relax!

As for where to retreat to when you need to cool your heels, Kala Ghoda’s compelling cafe culture lends a cosy setting for an afternoon blissfully (and unhurriedly) well-spent.

The effortlessly-inviting Kala Ghoda Cafe (situated within a reconverted barn!) is always my first choice for sustainably-sourced coffee and comfort-laden carbs. I can never get past their boisterously-buttery chilli cheese toast, nor their waffles decadently drizzled with dark chocolate…

Kala Ghoda Cafe, 10 Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda Fort

If coffee isn’t your cuppa tea, you could always indulge in a tea tasting at Sancha Tea Boutique next door, which has a wildly-enticing selection of herbal and flower-based varieties of tea and infusions on offer.

Then just across the street, there’s that darling of Bombay’s dessert scene, La Folie du Chocolate. Pop in for some bon bons, but be sure to snaffle Chef Sanjana’s exquisite macarons and French pastries, while you’re in there too! Treats in the neighbourhood extend to cookies and ice cream at Oh Dough, where flavours run the gamut from cookie dough and salted caramel brownie ice cream, to black sesame!

La Folie du Chocolat; No. 16, Commerce House, Rope Walk Lane, Next to Trishna Restaurant, Kala Ghoda, Fort

For those on a more virtuous path, there’s always Sequels vegan, dairy-free and refined sugar-free bistro for detox matcha bowls, organic raw cacao truffles, Mexican dark chocolate brownies and the like…

Sequel; Ground Floor, Upadrastha House, Dr. VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort

The steady string of new openings has added to the dining scene in this thriving neighbourhood too. Top picks include Chef Alex Sanchez’ new neighbourhood hangout, Americano, for the ultimate comfort-food menu (full review, here).

Then there’s the chic setting of Rue du Libaan for your next Lebanese feast ; but if you fancy something more old-school, Trishna is something of an institution for its coastal, seafood-heavy menu. As with most of the city’s best eateries, it’s a simple and fuss-free space delivering a cheek-by-jowl experience.

Last but not least, is The Nutcracker, an all-day, all-vegetarian cafe that epitomises a true Bombay bistro. A smoothie and Parsi-style eggs akuri (scrambled and tinged with masala!) always makes for a steadying start to your day here, while a seven layered brownie is definitely the way to end it!

Modern House, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Fort, VB Gandhi Marg

For more cafes off the beaten path in Bombay, have a read here

You can also find more reviews & recommendations compiled here

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