LUX­URY MADE IN IN­DIA

In­dia, with its rich her­itage, of­ten con­jures up ex­otic im­ages in the minds of trav­ellers. Hospi­tal­ity brands — home­grown and in­ter­na­tional — have done all they can to in­clude desi el­e­ments in their de­sign and ser­vice

Business Traveller (India) - - HOSPITALITY - WORDS NEHA GUPTA KAPOOR

De­spite be­ing on the fore­front of ad­vance­ment and tech­nol­ogy, the denizens haven’t for­got­ten their roots and cus­toms. Ev­ery evening, most house­holds will have a lit lamp o ered to the deities while sound­ing a hand bell. Dur­ing iconic fes­ti­vals such as Di­wali, the city comes to life in the most beau­ti­fully tra­di­tional way. Ran­goli or art­work with coloured pow­der dec­o­rate en­trances of res­i­den­tial and busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments both. Tem­ples are busier than usual and the lo­cals are seen in typ­i­cal silk saris and dho­tis.

Adopt­ing one such tra­di­tion, e RitzCarl­ton, Ban­ga­lore fol­lows some­thing known as the Mashal Light­ing cer­e­mony. At twi­light, rhyth­mic beats of brass gongs ll the air. A man dressed in tra­di­tional dress dra­mat­i­cally walks to­wards un­lit lamps with a tall am­ing torch. His move­ment is mea­sured and in tune with the beat­ing gongs. He then pro­ceeds to light the lamps on the wa­ter­body. Another evening rit­ual in Ben­galuru, well more of a habit re­ally, en­tails tea. is doesn’t go back cen­turies nor doesn't have a spir­i­tual signi cance, but it's still im­por­tant to many. Crowd­ing tea stalls on the streets is a way of life here with lo­cals end­ing their day with a hot cup and snacks.

Emu­lat­ing this cul­ture is Fair eld by Mar­riott Ben­galuru Outer Ring Road. Ev­ery evening the lobby comes to life with the “Anna ki Tapri” pop-up. It lit­er­ally trans­lates to "big brother’s tea shop." Chefs pre­pare snacks to go with the tea. ey’re

com­pli­men­tary o er­ings to the prop­erty’s guests who are usu­ally busi­ness trav­ellers. Ben­galuru’s other favourite bev­er­age — co ee — is served at the be­gin­ning of the day with break­fast at Kava the co ee shop. Me­ter Co ee is served in a tra­di­tional steel tum­bler, and is pre-sweet­ened — ex­actly how it should be had. e name comes from the method of mix­ing beaten co ee into milk and wa­ter, by pour­ing it from one tum­bler to another, keep­ing the dis­tance be­tween the two to a me­tre.

Ben­galuru is also known as the city of palaces and gar­dens.

e Leela Palace Ben­galuru is mod­elled a er the Mysore Palace. Bar­ring the colour pal­ette, e Leela Palace is made from sand­stone and mar­ble with Is­lamic in uences shown in its so green domes, a lot like the Vi­jayana­gar ar­chi­tec­ture. e doors too are com­pleted with etch­ings, and lead to cor­ri­dors with dra­matic arches and carved pil­lars. Its or­nate ceil­ings, hand-wo­ven car­pets, and brass an­tiques are re ec­tions of the by­gone Vi­jayana­gar Em­pire. e en­trance­way is lined with palms from the gate to the lobby. En route is a mar­ble foun­tain adding to the “palace’s” grandeur. Lin­ing the green path­ways, mak­ing them even more beau­ti­ful, are authen­tic yalis (life-sized gures of gods and god­desses) gi ed to the Leela Palace Ben­galuru by the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia.

His­tory, tech­nol­ogy, rit­u­als, tra­di­tion, ad­vance­ment, tra c, and gar­dens merge into each other like jig­saw pieces, to make present-day Ben­galuru. And all of this is best ob­served from the roo op bar of Shangri-La Ho­tel Ben­galuru — Hype. Lively mu­sic puts you in a happy mood, as you look over the cityscape. To en­joy the view, its menu has an in­no­va­tive line-up of cock­tails for com­pany.

e glass par­ti­tion be­tween the deck and the city en­sures you have an un­in­ter­rupted view when sit­ting on one of the plush couches.

The Leela Palace Ben­galuru takes in­spi­ra­tion from the ar­chi­tec­ture of the Vi­jayana­gar Em­pire

The Park Chen­nai is an ode to the iconic Gemini stu­dio that launched in 1941

In South In­dia, Kol­ly­wood rules the sil­ver screen. Such is its pop­u­lar­ity that the de­voted fans have helped these lms at­tain pro ts in crores. Ta­mil­ian lm stars such as Ka­mal Haasan and Ra­jnikanth have been given god­like sta­tus by fans in these parts of the world. e city has at least ve ma­jor lm stu­dios that are ac­tive to­day, but back in the day, only one ruled the in­dus­try — Gemini Stu­dio that launched in 1941. From within its precincts rose many su­per­stars of Kol­ly­wood. Un­for­tu­nately, ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion from younger stu­dios and a few ops lead to its rapid down­fall in the 70s; ul­ti­mately it shut down.

Fast for­ward to 2002 when e Park Chen­nai opened in its place. It can be sum­marised as an ode to the iconic Gemini Stu­dio. Frames of old movie posters punc­tu­ate the lobby where the re­cep­tion is dra­mat­i­cally built as a large gran­ite ark. On rst look, Pasha the night­club ap­pears like a dance set about to come to life. Its translu­cent or­ganza drapes re­mind one of the theatre’s open­ing cur­tains. Shim­mer­ing silk cush­ions crowd the di­van-style seat­ing. Adding to the the­atrics, a gi­ant ea­gle sus­pended from the ceil­ing is il­lu­mi­nated in a red glow. ere is also a “Screen­ing Room” on the prop­erty, a pri­vate theatre for gath­er­ings of up to 30 peo­ple.

Chen­nai has another side to it too — spir­i­tu­al­ity. Tem­ples in the city are known for their ex­quis­ite carv­ings, and there is at least one at ev­ery cor­ner, some­times two on a 300-me­tre strip. Some are cen­turies old and oth­ers are a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of an­cient ar­chi­tec­ture. is le­gacy can be at­trib­uted to the Chola dynasty that

once ruled over the re­gion. Their tem­ples re­flected Dra­vid­ian de­signs, im­pec­ca­bly carved out of large blocks of stone. And so it comes as no sur­prise that the Chola pe­riod also passed on its sculpt­ing skills, as well as its engi­neer­ing skills. The big­gest ex­am­ple of the lat­ter is the Grand Ani­cut dam on the river Cau­very that can ir­ri­gate 4,000 sqkms of land.

An ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of the dynasty would be ITC Grand Chola, whose lo­ca­tion in­ci­den­tally is also of an erst­while movie stu­dio. The lux­ury ho­tel’s typ­i­cal de­sign el­e­ments — ele­phants with raised tusks, wheels of life, four petalled flo­ral mo­tifs — are prom­i­nent in the in­te­ri­ors of the Grand Sangam Lobby and the re­tail lobby. The ex­te­rior is in­flu­enced by Chola tem­ple ar­chi­tec­ture. ITC Grand Chola is pala­tial, spread across eight acres, all in an ef­fort to repli­cate nu­ances of the Chola dynasty. A bronze and cop­per horse sculpture in the lobby de­notes the hero­ism of the Chola kings. Dur­ing their reign, a type of Chola bronze cast­ing be­came pop­u­lar, which is now vis­i­ble on the prop­erty’s doors, glasses, and ceil­ings.

If we were to speak of con­tem­po­rary Delhi, it would in­clude night­clubs, global cui­sine and the vis­it­ing in­ter­na­tional crowd. A er all, it is part of In­dia’s golden tri­an­gle, a tourist loop bridg­ing Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. While ev­ery­thing In­dian in­clud­ing its food may be per­ceived as ex­otic to the for­eigner, some­times in­dulging in a gas­tro­nomic treat can prove risky for the un­trained stom­ach.

is is where brands such as Shangri-La play a role. Shangri-La’s - Eros Ho­tel, New Delhi, has a 24-hour tea lounge, Mister Chai, which is a so­phis­ti­cated recre­ation of the tea stalls found at just about ev­ery street cor­ner. It o ers lo­cal del­i­ca­cies, some with a twist. For in­stance, the pun­jabi samosa is also avail­able in but­ter chicken and chilly cheese as ller op­tions. Plates of chaat in­clude in­gre­di­ents such as torched corn and kale. And ac­com­pa­ny­ing them are In­dian spiced teas.

Delhi is a jux­ta­po­si­tion of old and new, tra­di­tion and mod­ernism, or­der and chaos. In­dia’s cap­i­tal never did snap its strong ties with his­tory. Take the metro and you’ll see the heart of Old Delhi from its large win­dows. Walk­ing through Con­naught Place takes you past mod­ern gov­ern­ment build­ings, an 18th-cen­tury as­tro­nom­i­cal ob­ser­va­tory, fancy law rms, a bazaar, glitzy tow­ers, and aban­doned cows hus­tling for space. Delhi’s outer pe­riph­ery may have de­vel­oped with glass sky­scrapers cater­ing to its cor­po­rate crowds, but nar­row lanes vend­ing lo­cal food aren’t for­got­ten.

Ty­ing to­gether the cap­i­tal’s many shades is An­daz Delhi in Ae­roc­ity. Each room at the prop­erty has 401 Rea­sons to Fall in Love with Delhi by travel writer Fiona Caul eld. It ro­man­ti­cises the city in 12 parts — food, his­tory, cul­ture, re­tail and na­ture to name a few. All as­pects are looked in de­tail, bring­ing out their best qual­i­ties. Its vi­su­als are just as in­trigu­ing, in­vok­ing feel­ings of fond­ness in the tourist and nos­tal­gia in the lo­cal. Each An­daz Delhi room also holds a visual in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the book, bring­ing Delhi to its guests in the form of a unique art piece. A walk through the ho­tel in­tro­duces guests to “lo­cal in­spi­ra­tions”. Each of its art in­stal­la­tions plays a part in re­veal­ing some­thing about the cap­i­tal in an evoca­tive man­ner. As for tast­ing the city, the bar and restau­rants at An­daz Delhi source their in­gre­di­ents from lo­cal pro­duc­ers, and the lo­cally pre­pared snacks are served to guests at no charge.

Food re­mains an im­por­tant part of

any In­dian’s life. If an In­dian restau­rant has proved it­self, it will see crowd at its door­way, ev­ery evening.

One amongst the suc­cess sto­ries is Omya, the North In­dian restau­rant at The Oberoi, New Delhi. Its of­fer­ings in­clude clas­sics such as lehsooni palak (gar­lic in­fused spinach), tan­doori murgh, sikan­dri raan (lamb), Awadhi lamb biryani, chilli gar­lic naan, lac­cha paratha, ga­jar halwa and kulfi. Some of these are west­ern­ised, all the same keep­ing in step with In­dian sen­si­bil­i­ties. For ex­am­ple the clas­sic North In­dian saag malai kofta (spiced mus­tard leaves) is served with car­rot foam, the pa­neer tikkas come with mini-pa­pad­ums af­fixed on them and the shorba (flavour­some In­dian soup) is served in a teacup. Its decor though, is far from tra­di­tional, mir­ror­ing styles of Lu­tyens' Delhi with a neu­tral colour pal­ette. Lu­tyens’ Delhi, de­signed by Bri­tish ar­chi­tect Ed­win Lu­tyens, spreads in and around Ra­j­path — from Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van (Pres­i­dent’s res­i­dence), past In­dia Gate, all the way to Na­tional Sta­dium. His in­ten­tion was to work with plenty of open spa­ces, so as not to crowd the area that pri­mar­ily houses gov­ern­ment build­ings. This stretch is also where the Repub­lic Day Pa­rade takes place. Visit Ra­j­path to en­joy city’s seem­ingly peace­ful world in sepia, with green­ery flank­ing ei­ther side of the road.

Sit­u­ated in the heart of Lu­tyens’ Delhi is The Lodhi, mem­ber of The Lead­ing Ho­tels of the World. Sprawled across nearly seven acres, it has plenty of green spa­ces, much like the area where it is lo­cated. A con­tin­u­a­tion of the colours of Lu­tyens’ Delhi can be seen in the fa­cade built from rough stone, com­plete with fa­mil­iar mo­tifs of In­dian styles — the jaali or mesh screens. It would be safe to state that this ho­tel is a soft mix of an­cient and mod­ern In­dia. It is also one of the por­tals that takes you through the hub­bub of quin­tes­sen­tial Delhi. There are reg­u­lar tours to the lo­cal mar­kets and his­toric sites, all of which are pop­u­lated with those who form the core of the city.

A visit to Delhi, be it busi­ness or leisure can be an over­whelm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Dis­tance alone can be tire­some, even if the sights along the way are in­ter­est­ing. Stay­ing in Ae­roc­ity would be an op­tion worth con­sid­er­ing too as it is cen­trally lo­cated to both Gu­ru­gram and Con­naught Place; while the air­port is a short drive away. One of the first ho­tels to open here is JW Mar­riott Ho­tel New Delhi Ae­roc­ity and its spa is an oa­sis of tran­quil­ity. Be­fore de­part­ing, leave the fa­tigue be­hind with a treat­ment at Quan Spa. The Ab­hyanga Spice Bun­dle Mas­sage is an Ayurvedic treat­ment that uses herbal oils, spices and a med­i­cated steam bath — de­signed to re­ju­ve­nate you al­most in­stantly. For those short on time, the clas­sic In­dian head mas­sage trig­gers main points on the head that in­duce re­lax­ation within 30 min­utes. Quan has other treat­ments too that re­lieve the pain, all cre­ated to al­le­vi­ate the body of stress and ready you for de­par­ture.

A cold beer in hand on a sunny a er­noon by the beach, shaded un­der the thatched roof of a shack that has a clear view of the waves peck­ing the sandy shores — this im­age per­fectly en­cap­su­lates Goa for most of us. Com­plet­ing the pic­ture would be lo­cals sell­ing colour­ful beach­wear, jew­ellery cra ed from shells and home­made food items to snack on when at the beach. e econ­omy of this state runs pri­mar­ily on tourism, see­ing an in ux of Euro­peans look­ing for the sun.

Dur­ing the mon­soon, the beaches are un­der­stand­ably empty. Yet, this doesn’t de­ter In­di­ans from in­dulging in a va­ca­tion at the many lux­ury re­sorts here. An ob­vi­ous se­lec­tion that comes to mind is e LaLiT Golf & Spa Re­sort Goa. It is spread across 85 acres of land, sand­wiched be­tween the Talpone river and the kilo­me­tre-long beach­front of Raj Baga Beach. It has an im­pres­sively main­tained dou­ble ‘T’ 9-hole links golf course, in ad­di­tion to the sports com­plex with ta­ble ten­nis, squash and ten­nis courts. Another ac­tiv­ity is the morn­ing yoga class. Un­for­tu­nately, the ho­tel's jetty on Talpone for wa­ter sports with jet skis is shut dur­ing the mon­soons.

e en­tire look and feel of the re­sort is Goan, with ob­vi­ous Por­tuguese in uences. An­tique-style ceil­ing fans and beds, hand­painted two-tone tile mo­saic and tra­di­tional fur­nish­ings make up the in­te­ri­ors. Eas­ily recog­nis­able is the Baroque-Por­tuguese ar­chi­tec­ture. A er all, the state was oc­cu­pied by the Por­tuguese from 1510 to 1961.

At W Goa, the de­sign el­e­ments cap­ture typ­i­cal Goan shades from its colour­ful mar­kets in the day to elec­tric party vibe at night. Mod­ernism re­mains a com­mon theme through­out the prop­erty, as W stands for ev­ery­thing young and the stylish. At the Spice Traders restau­rant, brass lamps have cutouts in the shape of scal­lops, as an ode

W Goa cap­tures the colour­ful mar­kets and elec­tric party vibe of Goa in its decor

to the Ara­bian Sea. The ho­tel’s main door is built in iron in ac­knowl­edge­ment of the neigh­bour­ing Cha­pora Fort, a 500-year-old Por­tuguese struc­ture. Seashells on the door are sourced from the lo­cal beaches. They also cover the re­cep­tion desk whose de­sign is in­spired by the lo­cal flea mar­kets. The mu­ral be­hind the re­cep­tion desk has a fes­tive vibe to it. In that sense, it per­fectly cap­tures the spirit of Goa.

Food is an im­por­tant as­pect of cul­ture, es­pe­cially seafood. Pom­fret, tuna, mack­erel, prawn, crab, squid and lob­ster pop­u­late menus. Their prepa­ra­tions usu­ally pair well with rice — Goa’s main agri­cul­tural crop. Por­tuguese in­flu­ences show in the form of pota­toes and cashews used in some recipes. But the high­light is the chilli that was in­tro­duced to Goa dur­ing the spice trade, as is beef and pork. The meats were once a taboo in this part of the world as it was dom­i­nated by Hin­dus. Over cen­turies, Goa’s com­mu­ni­ties have come to ac­cept, and even en­joy each other’s food.

The best way to en­joy Goan food is in a typ­i­cal Goan set­ting. Casa Sarita at Park Hy­att Goa Re­sort and Spa is one such rec­om­men­da­tion. A wooden roof, pat­terned wall tiles, black-and-white mo­saic floor­ing, old-style chairs, and win­dows with coloured glass and mother-of-pearl shells give the space a homely feel. Pickle jars and hang­ing spices add to the charm. The kitchen that stirs up authen­tic Goan of­fer­ings is man­aged by Sous Chef Lyn­ton Mo­rais who grew up in Goa’s Chan­dor, learnt the ba­sics of cook­ing from his mother and added the nec­es­sary fi­nesse to his skills at the state’s culi­nary school. The must-try items at Casa Sarita in­clude chouris pao (lo­cal spiced pork sausages in Goan bread), beef chilli fry with pao or lo­cal bread, and prawn in a co­conut and dried red chilli curry.

The best way to en­joy Goan food is in a typ­i­cal Goan set­ting. Casa Sarita at Park Hy­att Goa Re­sort and Spa is one such rec­om­men­da­tion

PRE­VI­OUS SPREAD: The Leela Palace Ben­galuru's strik­ing fea­ture in­cludes its ma­jes­tic airy porte-cochere at the en­trance CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: The Ritz-Carl­ton Ban­ga­lore's con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors are punc­tu­ated with bright lo­cal ac­cents and com­pleted with hard­wood floor­ing; Kava, is the all-day restau­rant and coee shop at Fair­field by Mar­riott Ben­galuru Outer Ring Road; and The Vid­hana Soudha in Ben­galuru

ABOVE: Sangam lobby, ITC Grand Chola TOP RIGHT: Chen­nai Cen­tral Rail­way sta­tion

LEFT: Horizon Club Lounge at Shangri-La’s - Eros Ho­tel, New Delhi RIGHT:The Qu­tub Mi­nar

LEFT: The Lodhi, New Delhi;RIGHT: The out­door swim­ming pool at The LaLit Golf & Spa Re­sort Goa

CLOCK­WISE FROM RIGHT: Spice Traders restau­rant at W Goa; Park Hy­att Goa; and a beach in Goa

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