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
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 coee 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