Vivanta By Taj – President, Mumbai – A Review By Punam Mohandas
One somehow feels an almost indescribable sense of welcome and homecoming on alighting at a Taj property and so it is with the Vivanta by Taj – President. One of the oldest hotels in Mumbai, the President was started in 1972, following which the Taj Group took it over in 1973. Three years ago, it was re-branded as the Vivanta by Taj President (however, in a new re-branding exercise, the ‘Vivanta’ tag will soon be removed from all the Taj properties.)
The lobby is dominated by a circular reception counter that has a huge floral arrangement in its centre. There is comfortable sofa seating to the front, as soon as one enters the lobby, while the other side past the Reception has tables and chairs where waiting guests and visitors can be served tea, coffee or juice. Off to the side of the lobby are a couple of jewellery stores.
With a room inventory of 287-keys, the categories are divided as: Superior Charm (265-sqft) Deluxe Delight (265-sqft) Premium Indulgence (265-sqft) Deluxe Allure Suite (530-sqft) and the highest category, the Premium Temptation Suite (530-sqft)
The Taj President uses Forest Essential toiletries across all room categories. Some of the rooms have been renovated in February 2017 while the rest are scheduled phase wise. The new furnishings extend to a mustard coloured corridor carpet leading to the Premium Temptation suites on the 17th floor, which have been done up by a Japanese interior designer. A long, narrow sofa in neutral hues against nude coloured drapes graces the sitting room, while the bedroom has a delicately embossed silk paneling in cream and gold behind the headboard, which is beautifully reflected by glass hanging lamps in pale gold on either side of the bed. There are two large screen TV’s, one in each room. The bathroom here is much bigger, with twin sinks and has a bathtub as well.
The Premium Indulgence rooms have settees with long tables rather than the usual coffee table sets. Cushions in gold and crimson add a splash of vibrancy against delicate silk paneling. This room category does not offer bathtubs.
The Deluxe Delight rooms have a woven jute fabric that has been uniquely used like wallpaper, which is complemented well by a wooden laminate flooring. Sensibly, there is a control console near the bed to adjust the air conditioning, curtains and so on. This room category is still to be renovated and hence, the bathrooms are quite narrow with no bathtubs, indeed, the corner rooms can best be described as “poky” with the WC immediately in front of the washbasin; the only way to enter these bathrooms is sideways! Jet sprays have been provided in the newly done up rooms, while the older rooms provide mugs. However, in the refurbished rooms too, the WC has been placed in such a way that one’s nose is smack against the glass of the shower cubicle; the Engineering department should have paid better heed to detail!
In-room amenities include flat screen TV, two complimentary bottles of drinking water – surprisingly, from two different brands: Himalaya and Aquafina (the suites offer four bottles) – tea/coffee maker, espresso machine, minibar, iron and ironing board, electronic safe and dressing gowns. It was a welcome touch to find quite an exhaustive pillow menu, including a Baby pillow filled with Himalayan herbs to soothe and calm an infant. Having said that, the mattresses and beddings are not quite as comfortable as one would expect.
Since this is a Taj property one is talking about, the food taste and quality is par excellence. Refreshingly unusually for a city hotel, the Taj President does not serve buffets at any of its outlets – breakfast is always a la carte, served at Trattoria on weekdays and at Konkan Café on Sundays. It would be remiss of me if I did not mention what a delight the breakfast is, with masala chai served dhaba style, poured directly from ketli into glasses and an entire repast of Indian goodies such as fluffy pooris or absolutely fresh idlis, vadas and dosas; the western dishes of sausages, omelettes, etc pale in comparison!
Apart from the 80-covers, all-day dining Italian Trattoria and the 60-covers Konkan Café, with its very traditional yet stylish south Indian décor and ambience with a show kitchen, other F&B options include the city’s all-time favourite and Mumbai’s first authentic Thai restaurant, the 80-covers Thai Pavilion; La Patisserie with about 10-covers and Wink, which is a lounge bar open till 4am on the weekends and Mumbai’s most ‘IN’ watering hole at the moment, especially on Bollywood nights! The music can be heard in the lobby but does not permeate through to the rooms.
The Taj Group as an entity offers free wifi across all its properties. A separate elevator done up in elegant, wrought iron grillwork and with a spiral staircase to either side, leads to the convention area at the Taj President. Facilities include four boardrooms – Agenda I, Agenda II, Strategy I and Strategy II – that can accommodate between 10-20 pax. Apart from this, there are three computer workstations for individual use, priced at Rs 150++ per 30-minutes. (However, ten minutes for a basic email/itinerary check are complimentary.) The Presidential Ballroom is a rectangular hall that can be partitioned. It has long, French windows that afford a natural lighting option as well. This space can accommodate 400pax theatre style, with a stage set-up. The Forum and Capitol halls are pillared spaces and can seat 100pax each, theatre style, while the Assembly room, which has its own private pre-function space, can take 40pax in a cluster seating.
Additionally, facing the swimming pool is the Glass House, which can be covered by blinds for privacy and can take 40-50 in a cluster seating. The hotel also offers a roof space for small private gatherings or corporate functions that can accommodate 300pax cocktail style.
Recreation facilities include an open-air pool where red-striped sun loungers add a touch of colour and gaiety but which unfortunately, as with most city hotels, has residential buildings overlooking it. The Fitness Centre, with all the basic, requisite equipment, is adjacent to the pool and is open 24/7. Beside it is a salon offering hair and beauty treatments, managed in-house by the Taj.
The Jiva Spa, located within the same area, is, most sensibly, a mobile-free zone and is open from 9am-9pm. There are three (single) massage rooms: Akash, Prithvi and Vayu. While the Gents’ section has a sauna, the Ladies’ has a hammam and “hot chairs” (pleasantly heated loungers) in the relaxing area. The signature treatments at the Jiva Spa here are the Trupti (120-minutes massage of the head/neck/shoulders/back/feet) the Jeevanya (a 45-minutes masala scrub followed by a one-hour massage) the Pehelwaan Maalish (a 90-minutes treatment involving stretching and strong pressure massage) and the Shudhikara (90-minutes therapy of papaya scrub followed by a banana leaf wrap and detoxifying massage.)
Unavoidably, being a city hotel, the traffic noise does permeate through to the rooms, nonetheless, the President compensates in other ways. The general manager, Ashrafi Matcheswala, has been with the Taj Group nigh on three decades and the old-world mannerisms of graciousness and warmth that the Taj inculcated in all its employees has filtered through from her to her team ably. Full marks are awarded to F&B, Housekeeping and Front Office service, which surpass any international hotel chain! In spite of the harried breakfast hour, the staff with whom you placed your initial order and which was delivered by someone else to your table, will still have the presence of mind to ask you if you got what you had asked for and if everything was fine. The Front Office team handle your queries in fluent English and are helpful and courteous, while Housekeeping is quick to note what has been used and replenish the items accordingly.
Given the trying times that we live in, all five star hotels now have security screening of its patrons. It must be said that even the security personnel at the President embody the Taj spirit of courtesy, where the screening is unobtrusive rather than intrusive.
Another bane the Taj President is currently facing is the laying of the metro line right in front of the hotel which greatly obstructs entry to the hotel. Given India’s penchant for delay tactics, it could well be 4-5 years before the work is completed! Notwithstanding this, the hotel has not let this affect its services nor its deeply ingrained Taj sense of hospitality. Taxis and cars now stop at the side of the hotel rather than roar in through the gates and there is always a valet and security person standing outside, so that one alights from the taxi with an immediate sense of reassurance.
The hotel is located in the posh Cuffe Parade area. Colaba, the famous shopping district with tried-and-tested, favourite eateries (Trishna, Bade Miyan, Leopold Cafe and suchlike) is within the neighbourhood, as is Nariman Point and the splendid Marine Drive overlooking the Arabian Sea. By taking the Worli sealink at a minimal cost (Rs 50) one can reach Haji Ali and thence on to Bandra in 45-minutes and a further 15-minutes will get you to Juhu. However, if you are planning to take a flight rather than go shopping or visiting friends, it is wiser to leave yourself with time in hand, given the erratic traffic situation.
All major airlines fly into Mumbai. From the international airport, it will take over an hour to reach the hotel (depending on the time of day) while the domestic airport is an hour away. Note: You cannot take an auto rickshaw all the way as there are zone limits. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (VT train station) is about half an hour away and Dadar (if you are planning to take a taxi to/from Pune) is about 40-minutes away. Taxis operate on meters, so there should be no problem. If in doubt, ask the hotel to arrange a pick/drop.
VIVANTA BY TAJ – PRESIDENT, MUMBAI
TEL: +91 22 66650808
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.