10am to 10pm: Where to Go On a Date in Mumbai

Pause, look around and make memories while out on the town

By Paper Planes

13 Feb 2024

It can be a tall order to fish out good date ideas on a whim. It is of course a good place to be — scratching your head, enjoying your time with this other person, wanting to spend more time with them. But: Where? When? What’s fun to do in this city? We’ve got you.

Paper Planes scoured the city to find and curate what we think could make for a great date in Mumbai. It’ll take you from 10am to 10pm, from Bandra to Churchgate, through quiet neighbourhoods and enduring local favourites. There’s a mix of art, performance, nature, architecture and great food — and while we do think it would be one for the books to have a full day out with a date, this is a guide that leaves room for you to stop or start wherever you like. Feel free to make it your own. Have fun!

10am — Start out slow

Meet at Steps Café, located at the bottom of Bandra’s St Stephen’s Steps. It’s a sweet spot that wraps around a 150-year-old tamarind tree. Parth Lakhani, a partner at the café, suggests seeking out a seat on the second floor. “You can look out onto the Steps from there and just people-watch. It’s peaceful and a great place to get to know someone — we see a lot of people meeting for the first time here.” 

Once you’re caffeinated, climb up the Steps — a five-storeyed pedestrian-only community space, shrouded by trees. It’s a treasured corner of the city, and was built by Bombay Greenway, led by a couple who champions open public spaces, architect Alan Abraham and interior and landscape designer Anca Abraham. Notice the sun-dappled ramps — that turned a once-derelict slope into a more accessible space — as you make your way up the concrete stairs.

Steps Café: Open 9am to 10pm, all days of the week; no reservations.

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11am — ‘Walk’ up an appetite

Now that you’ve made your way up the zig-zagging route, at the top of the stairs, you have a few options.

a) You can catch an auto rickshaw to lunch at The Lovefools in Bandra’s historic Ranwar village.

b) Take the scenic (albeit longer) route — up to the serene Mount Mary Basilica, down a tree-canopied slope to the right, where you can catch a glimpse of the shimmering sea, and then on to Ranwar village.

“There are very few spaces in Mumbai that surprise you. Ranwar is one of the old fishing and farming villages of Bandra that haven’t been gentrified yet. When you enter the hamlet, it’s a world unto itself. There’s the more formal Ranwar square, but the Agna Square — where people play carrom, have music on, etc — is where most of the action happens. On long, rambling walks through the village, you get to see the old and the new together, in some ways,” says Zameer Basrai, co-founder of The Busride Design Studio and The Busride Lab, who grew up in one such village and now has his office in Ranwar.

The streets of the village are lined with compact, stone-and-brick houses, with wooden balconies and verandahs, and make for a lovely stroll. It’s a walk that will make your meal at The Lovefools feel very well deserved.

c) Jump into a rickshaw for a quick pitstop at Art and Charlie, a contemporary art gallery in Pali, another quaint Bandra village — a little teaser for what’s to come in Ranwar! Amble through the circuitous lanes while you look at colourful facades of homes; it’s quite a sight. Then circle back southwards to Ranwar village for The Lovefools.

The Lovefools: Open 12pm to 1:30am, all days of the week. On weekends, reserve a table in advance.
Art and Charlie: Open 11am to 8pm, Wed to Sun.

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2:30pm — Pop over to a photo bookshop

All fuelled up post-lunch? Now, where you’re headed next is a bit of a detour, so if you’re tight on time, go straight to Fort instead. But if one, or both, of you likes good photography and design, drive to the Art Deco district around Shivaji Park in Dadar. Tucked away near the coastline, in the refurbished garage of a building from the ’30s, is a one-room bookshop and library run by the publishing imprint Editions JOJO, which stocks an impressive collection of books around visual culture. By this point, if conversation has run dry, you’ll have stunning visuals and tomes to take cues from.

Kaamna Patel, the visual artist and bookmaker who runs the store, says, “The collection here is community-based and is meant to make photo books more accessible.” For people on a date, Kaamna recommends browsing through I Can’t Stand to See You Cry by Rahim Fortune and Illuminance by Rinko Kawauchi while you’re there. Interestingly, the doors, benches and windows here are all made from wood upcycled from some apartments in the building itself.

Editions JOJO: Open 11am to 7pm, Thur to Sun; visitors must book a slot here.

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3:30pm — Have a look around a century-old museum

If you enjoy shared silences, a museum can be the perfect place to trail through. Take a leisurely stroll, in the company of legendary artists and some curious artefacts, through the galleries of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Fort: “A superb George Wittet building, an essay in the so-called Indo-Saracenic style that captivates the imagination over a century after it was designed,” as cultural theorist, curator and poet, Ranjit Hoskote describes it. He recommends stopping by the Buddhist Art Gallery, for the wide arc of Buddhist art on display.

Sameer Kulavoor, visual artist and co-founder of Bombay Duck Designs, who has been visiting the museum since he was a child, adds, “The charm of the museum is to walk through it and stumble upon something you’ve not known about before. But the Chinese ceramics collection is particularly intriguing, and the Children’s Museum is a very interesting new addition.”

CSMVS: Open 10:15am to 6pm, all days of the week. The galleries on the second floor are currently shut for renovation work.

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5pm — Clink your glasses at the local bar

After a successful hour or so of learning new things, or frowning thoughtfully at ancient sculptures, cool off with a drink at the KGC Wine Bar, a stone’s throw away from the museum. There’s dim lighting, good music, silent chatter, and funky wallpaper. “We wanted to create an experience that felt intimate and encouraged interaction,” says Farhad Bomanjee, owner of the 15-year-old Kala Ghoda Café (KGC), which houses the bar.

After, how about a short walk around the narrow lanes of the precinct? “Kala Ghoda is steeped in history; you’ve got the Sassoon Library from the 1800s, the Jehangir Art Gallery, the under-wraps Watson’s Hotel that was the first place where motion pictures were shown in India,” Bomanjee tells us. “It’s said that BR Ambedkar used to hang out at Wayside Inn, which was a café next to Rhythm House, and wrote some of the Constitution there. But I’m very drawn to the old retail shops on the ground floors that have not been rented out and redone — they’re disappearing, but a few are still remaining, like a rope shop right next to the synagogue, which I think has the most beautiful frontage in the area.” On your way to the bar, try and see if you can spot these shops!

KGC Wine Bar: Open from 12pm to 12am, all days of the week, and till 1am on Sat and Sun.

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5:45pm — Catch the sunset on a park bench

It’s golden hour, and we know the perfect place to soak in a view. Hail a cab to Sagar Upvan, a sea-facing garden in Colaba, and a pocket of peace and quiet amidst the bustle of South Mumbai. There are rare botanical species, green mounds, and little alcoves with benches along the edge overlooking the sea. It’s perfect for watching the sky change colours as the sun sets.

Sagar Upvan: Open from 6am to 10am and from 4:30pm to 8:30pm, all days of the week.

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6:30pm — An evening at the theatre

A 15-minute ride from the garden, and you’re at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), one of the city’s most iconic performance spaces. Most evenings, it’s abuzz with events — theatre, live music concerts, stand-up shows, or special readings. And the gardens that intersperse the theatres add to the magic. Theatre-maker Quasar Thakore-Padamsee says, “You need that breathing room to reflect on the work you’ve seen — whether it’s the Sunken Garden or the open-air plaza that looks on to Marine Drive — especially when you’ve just stepped out of an experience that’s been stimulating.”

Quasar recommends visiting the Tata Theatre, for its grand yet intimate feel. “There’s something about that front staircase and the incredible purple carpet — you know you’re going to watch something special. The semi-amphitheatre shape lets you look at every single other audience member, and the sense of commune is quite amazing. And you must try the cold coffee — there’s some secret formula that nobody else can recreate.”

NCPA: Open from 9:15am to 10–10:30pm, Mon to Sun. Twice a month, technical tours of the campus are arranged for students of architecture, design, etc. If that’s you, book a tour here.

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8:30pm — Unwind with a hearty meal

Walk onwards from NCPA, passing by Marine Drive’s glorious Art Deco gems, to dinner at Mezcalita Cantina y Tequila Bar, a vibrant Mexican cantina transplanted in Mumbai. With sharp cocktails, a lively ambience and foot-tapping music, it’s a good place to wind down after a packed day. Chef Juan Pablo Flores Benitez of Mezcalita says, “We draw our inspiration from daily life in Mexico City. In many ways, Mumbai feels like home to me, reminiscent of Mexico in its vibrant energy and spirit. Mezcalita transports diners to a different world, sparking their curiosity and igniting a desire to explore further.” Be sure to reserve a booth for a more intimate setting. This could be the perfect place to say “Buenos noches!” — unless, of course, the night is still young!

For a nightcap, make your way to Cloud 9 Café on the rooftop at Hotel Godwin in Colaba. It offers a stunning view of South Mumbai’s densely packed cityscape, generously dotted with skyscrapers that loom large, and stand in sharp contrast with the calm, undulating Arabian sea.

Mezcalita: Open from 12pm to 1:30am, Mon to Sun.
Cloud 9 Café: Open from 5:30pm to 12am, on all days of the week, except when the café is hosting private events. Make a reservation to visit.

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Words by Meghna Nair
Illustrations by Dharini Verma

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