Soho House Mumbai has had its moments of Bollywood-style drama, but for general manager Joe Eva it’s a love story. He shares his journal of the past year as the doors open at last
I’ve just been appointed general manager of Soho House Mumbai, which is a long way from where I started, in the cloakroom of 40 Greek Street. I wouldn’t have accepted without my girlfriend, my daughter and her mum giving me their blessing, but from the minute this was suggested as a possibility I was interested. In fact I had thought about it when showing a potential investor around several years back, as UK club director. The building was started as a residential project in 2008, then turned into a hotel development before it finally landed in our hands in 2011. It’s right on Juhu beach, in a great area with incredible views of the Arabian sea.
I’ve moved to Mumbai (everyone here still calls it Bombay and I’m falling into this habit) to oversee the build and team. It’s monsoon season so a pretty wet start but settling in has been so much fun. I love the hospitality, warmth, spice, art, culture and incredible beauty in amongst the weathering and decay. It would take years to become a true Mumbaikar but I am definitely in love right now.
The House is beginning to take shape. It will have 38 Small, Medium and Large rooms, two playroom suites, a 150-seater Cecconi’s, 40-seater Allis, a 34-seater screening room and adjoining lounge and member events space that can also host parties and dinners. The club space comprises three floors, the main members’ floor includes a huge marble bar, House Kitchen and lounge area for members to hang out and socialise and the second floor will have one of the best gyms yet, with spectacular, floor-to-ceiling windows. We’ll have a mezzanine library snug as a quiet corner that can also host intimate suppers. Finally, we have a rooftop with a bijou but beautiful plunge pool and bar that seats around 90 for laidback lunches and amazing sundowner events.
There have been a few more holdups to our project so I’ve spent the past few months helping out at Soho House Istanbul. It’s frustrating but coming here has been a fantastic learning experience. The delay has also meant that most of my team are helping with the opening of White City House, giving them a taste of Soho House at its best.
We’re back on track and I’ve returned to Mumbai to get ready to open by the end of the year. It’s all systems go but I have a great core team of around 15 who are working hard to ensure a smooth lift-off. We’re working out of Cecconi’s on the ground floor of the House, and having morning briefings just as we will when we open. People & development have a crucial job to do right now: Kannan and Vishal are tasked with finding us a 340-strong talented, stylish and forward-thinking team. Communications manager Vidisha is doing a great job of putting the word out that the House is almost ready. We’re also meeting potential founder members to show them around in our House Tours.
Deciding on our food and drink has been a lot of fun. India is definitely a learning curve with regards to produce – for instance, beef is illegal to buy and eat in Maharashtra. Luckily there is so much amazing food here that can support other proteins.
We will definitely have the club classics to make visiting members feel at home; then there will be plenty of healthy, produce-driven dishes and a fully functioning tandoor to deliver the flavours of India. The same head chef will look after Cecconi’s and the Allis, our public restaurant spaces.
As for the bar, imported wines are subject to hefty import taxes and then state taxes – expect to find a glass of Lady A for around £15 ($20)! But here again we’re finding ways around: India produces its own wines and some are pretty decent, and while imported spirits are not plentiful this is balanced by the amazing array of herbs and spices.
Coffee and tea are grown here with centuries of expertise. Indian palates prefer darker roasts and with help from Daniel Thompson and David Robson we have found a great coffee supplier called Blue Tokai.
The job has become a race to co-ordinate deliveries, build, product and recruitment into the club, hotel, Cecconi’s and Allis in time for opening. This being India, we must always expect the unexpected!
The launch team has grown by five over the past few weeks, with Luca and Sharat joining as Cecconi’s head chef and GM (both have great experience). Patricia our exec housekeeper is getting the rooms in check; Sanjay our purchasing manager is worth his weight in gold at this stage and Rosh is helping to drive Founder applications. Club head chef Kunal is also starting soon – he needs to get his kitchen in shape and put together some amazing opening menus for the club. The scaffolding has gone back up round the building as we give it a full spruce-up ready to welcome our first guests.
There’s a lot of change happening in the guest spaces and back of house. It’s very exciting to see the spaces that have had art and furnishings put in place and this will just get better and better. I’m having some nerves about getting all the plumbing, gas and snagging sorted but I guess this is natural. Martin our COO has visited and we talked a lot about a Plan B in case things don’t go in our favour – make it happen! What gives me confidence is the amazing team who are doing everything to get this project off the ground. They are a little tired but we will ensure they take advantage of every opportunity to recharge when they can so that we open with a House, hotel, Cecconi’s and Allis to be very proud of.