Zeenat Kulavoor’s Bombay

The leading image is a page from Prarthna Singh's book Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh designed by Bombay Duck Designs

The designer and co-founder of Bombay Duck Designs has spent her life in the city and can’t think of anywhere else to call home. In 2008, Zeenat’s brother Sameer Kulavoor set up Bombay Duck Designs, one of the earliest specialised design studios in India. After graduating from university, Zeenat joined the company with her knowledge of design and typography, both of which beautifully complemented her brother’s illustration style.

Based in Bombay, the influence of Zeenat’s home city is visible in all her work. She says, “We’re constantly observing the city and the way it’s changed over the last 20 to 30 years. We’ve seen it evolve and all of this comes out in our work.” We met Zeenat late last year, with a brief to create first-class illustrations for some special team members who completed 10 years at Dishoom. Through each print there are nuances of the city, its people and the Irani cafés that we all know and love.  

And as a local Bombayite herself, we had to ask for her top picks. Read on, as Zeenat shares her favourite places in the bustling city…

To indulge in a hearty, belly-filling breakfast:—

It really depends on my mood and the kind of breakfast I want. When I’m in the mood for something local, I go to Vinay Health Home near Charni Road. It’s a very small, very old, local joint and they serve delicious breakfast dishes.

To sip on the best drinks and cocktails:—

I enjoy The Bombay Canteen in Lower Parel – their cocktails are amazing, the vibe is lovely and a great place to go when you’re with friends. If I’m in the mood for beer, or a date night, I go to Woodside Inn in Colaba. Finally, for something more casual with friends, I go to Gokul.

To view local art:—

It’s hard to pick a favourite gallery. That said, I like visiting TARQ, near the Gateway of India. Going there is a different experience altogether – you enter Dhanraj Mahal, which is this beautiful building with gorgeous plants and massive trees and is truly something else. Time slows down when you visit the gallery and that’s why I love it. And of course, there are always lots of cats outside the gallery which is a big draw for me. 

 To rest your head at the end of a long day:—

There’s two hotels that I love. The first is Abode in Colaba. A very small, beautifully designed boutique hotel, and the ideal spot if you want to stay in the centre of the city. The second one, of course, is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Nothing else compares to this hotel and the view from the rooms are amazing. 

To relish in local street food:—

Mohammed Ali Road, but more specifically Haji Sheekh at Mohammed Ali Road. They only sell sheekh kababs but they’re not online and you can’t find them on delivery platforms. You have to call to place an order and then send someone to pick it up. Or just go there and eat. It’s easily the best. 

To indulge in a midnight snack:—

Midnight to me means ice cream. If you’re at Mohammed Ali Road, look out for Taj Icecream. It’s a century-old ice cream shop where they still make hand-churned ice cream. January and February is Guava season in the city, and they have a special Guava ice cream which comes with a sprinkling of masala.

To clear your mind:— 

I recommend being by the sea. At the Gateway of India, you can book a one-hour sailing trip on a little sailboat. It’s one of my favourite things to do in the city and a wonderful way to recharge. 

Outside of Bombay Duck Designs, Zeenat has her own art practice where she works with multilingual Indian script including Urdu, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati and more. A selection of her projects can be seen on her website

The leading image is a page from Prarthna Singh's book Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh designed by Bombay Duck Designs.

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