Alliterations aside, while Mumbai might be blessed with stunning sea-facing views, it’s a tragedy of how this geographical feature remains shockingly underutilised as far as restaurants, lounges and cafes are concerned.
Forget about Venice, Ibiza, Singapore or Colombo. Closer home, Pondicherry and even touristy Udaipur have put up a far more applause-worthy showing in comparison to Mumbai. While the former can boast of a scenic sea facing, clean, horn-free promenade, which is a haven for walkers and cyclists, and laced with cafes and charming hotels, all of which aren’t eyesores, the latter, with Lake Pichola as its prized landmark, continues to bring in the dollars with its signature royal touch to every structure, what with romantic boat rides, loads of lakeside stay options and lake-facing restaurants, to suit every palate and budget.
It’s this last mention that continues to irk the mind. Where are aesthetically appealing sea-facing restaurants and cafes that should dot our so-called ‘island city’? Barring a few rooftop cafes and lounge bars in Apollo Bunder, the Marine Drive stretch remains the domain of the rich and famous. Unless of course, you’re idea of a relaxed evening is munching on moongphali and sipping on cutting chai as you watch the sea from the parapet along the Queen’s Necklace, a view marred by courting lovers, pesky hawkers, eve teasers and tetrapods. The other extreme — you would need to be a regular at one of the city’s five star hotels that face the Arabian Sea or the Mumbai harbour. Bandra has options but again, far and few. Where does that leave average Joe and his friends, who, after a long day in the office might want to relax, and soak in a slice of the city, by its calming shores, over a pint or two?
It’s a shame how our city planners and restaurateurs haven’t been able to do justice to this stunning stretch of seaside. The closest one can get to tripping at a sun-kissed barbecue or a seaside escape would be to embark on a trek, all the way to Manori or Gorai beyond the northern limits of the city. And sadly, even these exorbitantly-packaged spots have become pathetic versions of their earlier avatars, what with a mad influx of holidayers, rampant commericialisation and essentially, a poor advertisement of what a sea-facing city should put up on show.
One recalls a conversation with a friend who had returned after a three-year-stint in Oman. My jaw dropped as he rattled off the countless options that were on offer at some of the country’s sea facing cities and towns. From barbecue set-ups, to midnight fishing trips, water sports and other fun options, there was something for every kind of chill-seeker.
In God’s Own Country, the tourism ministry and hotels are enjoying the fruit of smart planning — floating hotels, tours along its backwaters, island hopping around Kochi, the works. One has to travel across the length and breadth of Kerala to marvel at how this tiny state has created and treasured its coast with pride and practicality.
Fiona Fernandez is Features editor, MiD DAY