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Hotels for Fine Palates

Luxury hotels popping up all over Asia will please,at least, some food-lovers.

Hotels for Fine Palates
Credit: Jerry Wong

There’s been a lot of news lately of luxury hotels sprouting up throughout Asia, particularly in rising metropolises like Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai. And it seems that the majority of these projects are being undertaken by foreign developers; in fact, so many that one writer for The New York Times said this week it’s resulting in Asia ‘beginning to look a lot more like America—at least when it comes to hotels.’ And the trend doesn’t seem to be waning.

Take for example the Marriot chain, which this year alone plans to open about 20 properties in the region: 4 in India and 4 in China, including a Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai.

While personally I hope that these cities will maintain their own unique cultural landscapes, instead of turning into Starbucks and Hyatt depositories, one good thing that large hotels, foreign or not, can bring to city landscapes, is flavor—in the form of high-end in-house dining spots with top chefs for (at least some privileged) locals to experience.

Such is the case with Gaurav Jain, a Mumbai-based creative director and producer at an animation studio who in his spare time enjoys dining out in the city, often with his wife, and writing about it on his blog, ‘Eating out in Bombay.’ I recently had a chance to catch up with the affable foodie on the subject of food culture in Mumbai and the growing hotel trend.

Why the blog?

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The blog started primarily because there was no resource to explain how certain restaurants are. Since I go out very often, I thought it would be interesting to keep a record for others to refer to and help them make choices. After some time, it became really popular and I got a lot of visitors to the city asking for tips and advice, so I’ve kept updating it regularly and added pictures and whatever other information I could find along the way.

On hotel developments in Mumbai…

In fact, my first dates with my wife were at the Hyatt. Two of them are supposed to go up within 10-15 min driving distance from where I live, which is a big deal as traffic in Bombay can be shocking.

However I don’t get my hopes up by much as a lot of hotels here try and pick safe concepts and only a few go out on a limb (Taj with Wasabi is a great example of risk taking. The ITC chains have created an untouchable niche in becoming the finest purveyors of Indian cuisine). So I hope the Hyatt does something interesting across venues. Their present restaurants are not too impressive.

The fine dining scene in Mumbai?

I think the fine dining scene in Bombay at present is still maturing. We don’t have enough stand alone places, nor do we have any star chefs driving hordes of people to their places for their tastes.

Hotels-Fine-PalatesMost fine dining venues and star chefs are concentrated in five star hotels. What this does is drive up the costs another 30 to 40 percent, making the audience relatively smaller.

Also, cuisine wise, since there are a lot of vegetarians around, it limits how far chefs can go with their abilities. All in all though, I think it’s getting better and I don’t even think it will take too long for an Alain Ducasse to open shop here!