What makes a good business hotel? There’s lots of hard work that goes into pleasing the corporate traveller, since it involves delivering comfort, convenience and consistency. But little of this is rocket science. Giving that corporate traveller that little bit extra is another issue altogether. Even the best hotels can only influence it, not ensure it. But it can, and does, happen, and so within two hours of checking into Mumbai’s new Trident, Bandra Kurla, I’ve already seen enough to know that it has been getting those little extras right.
I wasn’t always a travel writer, and in one of my previous avatars, I worked in the equities industry. Within minutes of my checking in, I hear someone call out my name in the coffee shop. It’s Mohan, my ex-boss; a well-liked one, so we make plans to meet soon. Within minutes of saying goodbye, I bump into one of my closest friends from b-school years ago in Kolkata. Ashu’s a hedge fund manager in Singapore and though we haven’t physically met since 1998, we’re talking markets, life and the economy as if we’d last met the week before. A little later, I run into another hedge fund manager (yes, they still exist, and sometimes even do well, all post-recession obituary notices to the contrary notwithstanding) whom I’ve known since boarding school.
All this really isn’t about my social life or where I studied. In corporate life it helps to meet the right kind of people for your business, of ensuring that there is a good chance of meeting them, and of meeting them in an atmosphere that lends itself equally easily to an involved private business meeting as it does to a leisurely drink, conversation and dinner. This is what I’m seeing; essentially the Trident is a wonderful corporate networking platform with added benefits like luxury and fine dining.
It’s nice to dwell on that as I work out at the excellent hotel gym. It’s right next to an infinity pool, which improbably, looks eastwards, towards the seemingly limitless shantytown you’ll see from your left as you land in Mumbai. Improbably because it’s hard to design a space in this area that obscures the slums and instead conveys a sense of understated luxury that is nicely insulated from the surrounding activity —which is exactly what the architects have pulled off. In fact, considering that everything that you can see from an upper floor is either a construction site or a slum (this is Bombay, after all), the Trident’s design allows you plenty of control over what you see. The rooms have remote blinds and lower floors have gardens to look out on to, such as from the spa next to the pool. After a particularly hard run at the gym, I treat myself to a deep tissue massage therapy that’s possibly the best I’ve ever had. The spa offers a variety of Indian, Southeast Asian and Western therapies and along with the gym, is probably necessary because the Trident’s dining options have much to tempt you with.
I have one memorable carbonara washed down with an excellent Barolo that I have at the hotel’s formal Italian restaurant, Botticino, which is named after the region in northern Italy that supplies the acres of pastel-hued marble that line the hotel’s interiors. Botticino’s enoteca, or wine repository, is truly impressive, not just for its size (the wine racks go up two stories) but for a truly comprehensive collection of grappa, the potent Italian pomace brandy. I eat more often at O22, the all-day restaurant, not least because of the wood-fired oven and the sushi bar. While Nilesh the bartender tries out exotic martinis on me, I attend to some unfinished business. The pizza was excellent, if not quite at the exalted level achieved at the old Frangipani restaurant at the Oberoi Mumbai. As for the sushi, it was uniformly good, virtually at the level of another group restaurant, Threesixty, at the Oberoi Delhi; the octopus was possibly the best I’d had.
The Trident’s location as the only hotel of its level anywhere in the large Bandra Kurla business district, one that is home to some of India’s largest banks and financial firms, drug companies and IT businesses, means that its primary clientele will probably remain the business traveller.
It may seem surreal to those who haven’t visited, but apart from a couple of hole-in-the-wall eateries, dining at the Trident is the only realistic option nearby. Bandra Kurla’s lopsided urban developments means that though companies like Citibank have been here for over a decade, there is very little else, apart from glass and chrome corporate towers. The many crane-sprouting construction sites I can see from my room (the size of a small Mumbai flat, and at current real estate prices, probably better value for money — with the clean lines of its dark walnut and brushed chrome fittings, it looks a lot better, too) suggest that this won’t change soon.
The sort of people who stay at the Trident — or work in senior positions in the offices around — have first-world expectations from urban infrastructure, something that the area struggles to deliver. For instance, the only reliable way in and out of Bandra Kurla is to hire your own car, as regular public transport is a chore to get and flag-down cabs charge a significant premium. This makes it a problem if you want to shop nearby, for instance. That said, the travails of lopsided development are nothing new in India. Bandra Kurla truly needed a quality hotel, and the location is still a great advantage if you have work nearby or in the suburbs. In all the fuss over Mumbai’s showpiece Worli-Bandra sea link, what is forgotten is that the highway project that really makes a huge difference to commute times is the one on the eastern side, serving the industrial, business and residential areas of the city’s fast growing eastern suburbs and Navi Mumbai. And the Trident, Bandra Kurla is the only hotel of its class that gives you access to that entire hinterland as well as to anything along the arterial western express highway. So yes, the location. Not for everybody. But virtually unbeatable if that’s where you need to work. And network.
Where: C-56, G Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai; 8km from domestic airport/13km from international airport
Contact: 022-66727777, www.tridenthotels.com