For three days straight in early September, every cocktail menu I got a look at, featured a drink which has chillies, coriander, and lime in it. Picante de la Casa is cool, it’s piquant, it’s bright, it perks you up, and there’s no mistaking this: it’s chatpata. I would have thought the tipple has been created in Mumbai, not in Soho House West Hollywood. This all-weather drink is one of Soho House’s four signature cocktails, and a bestseller at all Houses worldwide. Visitors to the new Soho House Mumbai – which finally opened its doors in early November after over six years in the making – can now sample it.
Networking in the city
Here’s a primer for folks as unfamiliar with Soho House as I was a few months ago: the worldwide members’ club for people in creative fields – has 23 ‘Houses; across the world, the latest being in Mumbai, which is also the first House in Asia. Houses are places where members can work, stay, workout, network, swim, attend events, watch movies, read, and dine. In the lead up to Soho House Mumbai opening, I, along with a few journalists, visited Soho Houses in and around London, to see how the club came to be, and to experience what it means to be part of it.
My first taste of Picante then, was during our first meal, in a farmhouse set in 100 acres of Oxfordshire countryside. To accompany this jet-lag-slaying tonic, we had a lunch of cauliflower fritters, a charred sweet potato with sour cream, and pizzas topped with zucchini from the sprawling House garden. We sat in the Main Barn, the heart of the Farmhouse, an all-day restaurant which has a couple of mezzanines. This among many dining options on the property.
Soho House might sound terribly swanky, but most spaces at the Houses are in fact, very casual. Yes, there are rules – communal spaces are phone free, photography is not allowed, members must respect each others’ privacy – but the dress code, and the mood, is very relaxed. If people aren’t at the Farmhouse for a day trip, or a weekend, they come to stay for longer. There’s enough to ignore the real world for at least a week. There’s a plush, very red movie theatre, the Electric Barn Cinema; there are rides around the property on cycles, horses, or carriages; a boathouse, swimming pools, a deli, a children’s play area.
We spent a night in the main seven-bedroom farmhouse, with a massive fireplace, a dining room, a fully functional kitchen. Most bedrooms have bathtubs, each with a collection of the in-house brand of cheekily named Cowshed spa products. Basins have hand soaps labelled Dirty Cow, the sensual bath oil is called Horny Cow, and the men’s range is Bollocks. There are also 40 cabins with hot tubs on porches, a four-bedroom cottage, and luxury tents. It’s all very idyllic – a British countryside playground for creative adults and their friends – somewhat escapist even, which makes re-entering the real world not exactly easy.
We re-entered civilisation, and industry, via White City House. This is the former BBC headquarters in West London, and even though it’s Soho House’s newest London House, there’s 1960s television culture, and mid-century design all over it. Rooms have vintage phones, fluted wardrobes, green room-style mirrors – it’s enough to make you want to settle in and binge on Monty Python. To get you off the couch, this House has what is probably London’s biggest gym occupying 24,000 square feet, an entire floor of the doughnut shaped building. Walking through its various studios across areas (Pilates, Vinyasa, combat, hammam) would constitute as a workout for the less inclined. Easier to escape to The Allis, the open-to-all lounge and cafe for a bottle of the Hard Green, a verdant veggie-loaded pour from the in-house juice brand House Press. There are ways to feel virtuous without lifting weights.
Designed for comfort
Soho House was born in 1995 on 40 Greek Street, when founder Nick Jones opened the club’s first outpost above his restaurant Cafe Boheme. It’s here that I connect the dots about the Soho House aesthetic. Indeed, every house is informed by the neighbourhood it occupies, but arrive blindfolded into any House and open your eyes, and you know instantly that you’re in one of the clubs. It’s not quite shabby chic, as it’s a willingly well-worn but distinct design language. There’s a sense of familiarity built in – the Houses feel like an old-moneyed friend’s homes around the world. A member in Istanbul or in Mumbai will know they’re in the city, but they’ll also know they can loosen up, feel liked, accepted and instantly at home.
At Greek Street, the menu at the multi-room dining area features 40 favourite dishes from Houses world over, including ubiquitous avocado on toast with a poached egg from “everyhouse”, tuna poke from Malibu, schnitzel from Berlin, and a macrobiotic bowl from Amsterdam. I’m curious to see what shows up from Mumbai at Greek Street.
I’m equally curious about what shows up at the new 10-story Juhu beachfront Soho House Mumbai as well. Allis and Cecconi’s are here already. Soho House’s all-day north Italian eatery with nine outposts across the world, has its tenth one overlooking Juhu beach. If the plates here are similar to the ones we sampled in Cecconi’s Shoreditch – spaghetti lobster, parmigiana, apple and amaretto cake – big Italian meals might become big in Mumbai once again. Good thing (for members and hotel guests, at least) that the House also, houses, a House gym.
A Local House membership for Soho House Mumbai includes access to all the facilities: spaces for eating and drinking, a screening room, bedrooms, house gym with a workout studio, and a rooftop pool and bar. Hotel rooms can even be booked by people who are not members but would like to experience the House.
For more details see www. sohohousemumbai.com
Nick Jones, Soho House’s founder, on his plans for the Mumbai House.
How did you pick Mumbai for Asia’s first Soho House?
We’ve had a plan to move into Asia for a while now, and Mumbai is somewhere members have been asking for a House. Everyone is very excited for it to join the family, we’ve already had a lot of the bedrooms booked for the rest of the year. It’s great that people are travelling from around the world to the House.
In what ways do you think Soho House Mumbai will be different from other Houses?
Each House is designed for the place that it’s in. From the design, to the membership, events, food and drink, everything has been tailored to the community in Mumbai. Our events programme has been designed around members, and for people visiting from other places.
The art collection in the House is made up over 80% of artists from or based in South Asia, the menu will have a mix of Soho House favourites with dishes inspired by the local street food regional Indian food.
Considering its Juhu location – home to most of Bollywood – how will Soho House Mumbai avoid a skew and stay eclectic?
We’ve built a committee of people across the creative industries in Mumbai: art, design, film, fashion, tech. They have shaped the House and the membership here. Our location means we’re close to the film industry, but our community is made up of musicians, artists, sculptors, illustrators, architects, jewellery designers, fashion designers and restaurateurs already, and we’ll keep growing that with the House.
(The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)