Step into the refurbished Taj Connemara, Chennai, for a date with history.
History lessons often come from unexpected quarters and when you check into a hotel you certainly don’t expect to come out on the other side with wisdom about the city or the space that you have stayed in. The Taj Connemara stands off a busy road in central Chennai, and the milky white façade belies the churn it has witnessed over the last century, given that it is the oldest hotel in southern India. With over 125 years of check ins and check outs under its belt, the hotel, which has reopened after a twoyear-long refurbishment wears its heritage with pride but doesn’t shy away from providing modern luxuries.
Tales of the scandalous Lord Connemara (he was governor of Madras between 1886-90) and his irate wife Lady Connemara occupy centre stage as you tour the hotel. With the introduction of a Colonial wing to add to the existing Heritage wing and the Tower wing which house the rooms, a Chettinad restaurant Raintree, which is true to the region’s food dialect, the Taj Connemara is a historian’s dream destination.
English Tea Party
The afternoon tea ritual dates back to 1865 when the Duchess of Bedford is said to have enjoyed her cuppa at the appointed hour. While bread and butter initially accompanied the tea, over the years, the ritual got more elaborate. When at the hotel, take time out to enjoy this ritual. With star teas like the lapsang souchong which is from the Fujian province in China to genmaicha which is a blend of green sencha and toasted rice, to single estate coffees that are delicious, this is a musttry experience. In true British style, your tea or coffee is served with a selection of fine pastries, delicate sandwiches, cakes, and scones with berry compote and clotted cream.
Cost The afternoon tea is priced between `3,500 and 5,000
Lady Connemara Bar
The newly minted Lady Connemara bar and lounge bar is cosy and intimate. It was the city’s first licensed bar when the hotel first opened in the nineteenth century and even today, the music, lighting and signature cocktails are reminiscent of a time gone by. Order the ‘Madras no 1’ which is a gin-based cocktail served with a ball of cucumberbasil infused ice that slowly melts into your glass, giving it its distinct flavours. ‘Since 1891’ is another popular signature drink that you can enjoy while listening to jazz or the blues.
What really seals the trip is a walking tour of the city offered by the hotel in collaboration with Storytrails. No matter what tour you pick, you are likely to be pelted with fabulous stories that bring these locations to life. The two-hour private tour includes specials such as the Peacock Trail which focuses on Mylapore, the area from where the city of Madras is said to have been born and takes you through old homes, temples, walks you through ancient rituals and ends at the Santhome Cathedral Casicila which is an important spot for Catholic pilgrims. The tour of old world Madras on the other hand takes you past many beautiful British-era buildings, highlighting those that continue to dot and dominate the city’s changing landscape with pride. With stellar guides or rather storytellers guiding you through these well-thought out travels that often begin with a history of the hotel, this has got to be one of the high points of your stay at Taj Connemara.
Cost A private 2-hour tour costs `6,000 per person; storytrails.in