Bookings are being accepted online, the Jon Krawczyk sculpture in the lobby has arrived and flower consultant Ampol Jiramahapoka just flew in with a stunning orchids sampler from Bangkok. All clear signs that India’s first Four Seasons property, located slightly off the chaos of Worli Naka in central Mumbai, is finally set to open on 1 March.
The rooms: (above) Tariffs start at Rs20,500; the three-bedroom Presidential Suite (top left) occupies the entire 32nd floor; (right) the Worli hotel celebrates the spirit of New India.
The past two years have been action-packed for the hotel staff. Different teams have plucked tea on leading estates, waded through 28,000 job applicants, stayed (and worked) in vineyards in and around Nashik, researched/sourced India’s natural bounty (ayurvedic oils from Kerala, cymbidiums from Sikkim, cheese from the Himalayas), started an in-house book club (Mumbai best-sellers Shantaram and Maximum City are favourites)—they’ve even made a presentation to the slum across the road.
For general manager Armando Kraenzlin, Mumbai is a “total change of scene”. He spent six years before he came to Mumbai in the Maldives where, as he puts it, it was a five-minute walk around the island. But he’s learning Hindi, drives a fire-engine red Ambassador Avigo and enjoys Indian wine.
Kraenzlin, who met the 11,000 applicants who made it through the first four interviews, has had a first-hand taste of the New Indian Employee: “There’s a tremendous hunger for growth, their number one priority is ‘how can I grow?’” The average age of the 460 employees here is 23-24, and salaries start at Rs12,000.
The first Four Seasons launch is always an important landmark in any hospitality industry. The company has been on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for some 10 years now. The hotel chain has the science of sleep down pat—they even sell 500 or so beds (with their legendary made-to-measure Sealy mattress) to guests every year (yes, you’ll be able to order yours from the Mumbai property). Last year, the Canadian company was bought by one of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates, and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz. So it’s fun when Luisa Lencastre, director of public relations, gives Lounge the first official grand tour, complete with backstory.
The hotel’s showpiece restaurant San-Qi was supposed to be called East, before another restaurant launched with that name. Cult design firm Superpotato was signed up, and soon two city hotels had restaurants designed by the same company. But multi-level restaurant San-Qi’s open kitchens (for Indian, Chinese and Thai food), wine bar, resident DJ and open upper-level Japanese-only setting will ensure it’s one of the hippest spots in town. We can’t wait to hop in for a quick Bento lunch or to buy French AOC cheeses.
The restaurant is located in a structure adjacent to the hotel, with the swimming pool on its terrace. The white-pebbled walkway that leads up to it is very zen, with palms and sculptures by the veteran Himmat Shah (the hotel will have a sculpture garden too).
Four Seasons may have the biggest rooms in town, but they probably have the smallest lobby too. Four chairs make up the seating arrangement in the Anegre wood-panelled space that has two large works by painter Akilesh. “We don’t encourage lobby life. It’s used mainly for concierge services,” says Lencastre. Those who can’t be weaned away can hang out at the lobby bar.
Sushi spot: Japanese chef Toshikazu Kato (left) is a Blowfish expert. Seen here with his colleague Yoshizawa Shunsuke.
Mediterranean cuisine restaurant Prato (executive chef Giancarlo Di Francesco is Italian) overlooks landscaped lawns and offers alfresco dining. Walls of green creepers block the view of the neighbour’s washing (this is Mumbai after all). The hotel has about 20 foreign chefs, who have moved here mostly from other Four Seasons properties.
Other highlights: A two-storey spa with a resident Ayurveda doctor for those genuine treatments and Christy Turlington’s Sundari products for those who just want to take it easy; Asia’s largest fleet of BMW 27 series; deep sink-in bathtubs in the rooms; a vitality pool with ice; helicopter transfers to and from the airport; a Metodo Rossano Ferretti Hair Salon; a resident yoga guru; an apprentice programme that will pick underprivileged teenagers and train them for a year; and, get this, mountain bike city tours to the nearby Worli sea face. “We have a different approach to Mumbai. We’re not about the old Raj India, we’re going to be much more cool and trendy and about the new, emerging India,” says Lencastre.
Worli might actually end up being the new hip spot.