27 September 2023

Iconic Indian hospitality anecdotes to captivate your imagination

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By Rama Gaind.

Travel is said to be the ‘only thing you buy that makes you richer’. In this instance, it’s being rich with experiences while on vacation because it’s people’s actions that have contributed to creating memories that will last forever.

Unexpected, astonished, and yes, totally overwhelmed … here are some enduring reflections of trips in India … as 2018 nears its end. Visiting tourist icons do leave an indelible mark, just like the conviviality.

Customer assistance and efficient service delivery is what hospitality is all about – or, at least, it should be. Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not a single act, but a habit”.

Hotels and experiences vary, as do the categories of accommodation available. Being on the road can also mean that in addition to carving out unequivocal adventures, you feel content in your surroundings, where a ‘welcome’ is long remembered. That’s when a hotel is your ‘home away from home’ and the room, or a suite if you are lucky, should also be your sanctuary.

If reality is the customer’s appraisal, then delivery of the flawless kind is imperative – especially if you opt for plush hotels. Conductor Zubin Mehta makes this veritable acknowledgement: “Indian hotels are doing well globally because they understand hospitality”.

To this born traveller, recognition of impeccable service is just as imperative as appreciation. It doesn’t cost much to say kind words or to be considerate, yet they achieve much, as experiences recounted from the following five hotel stays will exemplify.

Iconic sojourn

Iridescent image: shimmering reflection of The Leela Palace Udaipur in Lake Pachola. Photo: Rama Gaind

The Leela Palace Udaipur has rightly been described as the “soul of luxury”. Nestling in the tranquil waters of Lake Pachola, it is Udaipur’s only modern palace hotel.

Be enthralled from the moment you set out on the scenic boat transfer for The Leela where you receive a welcome that’s ‘fit for royalty’. The opulence, splendour and regal abode auger well as you marvel at the spectacular views across the lake to the City Palace and the Aravalli mountains beyond. The magnificence and lavishness of the land of the Mewars comes to the fore.

Traditional Rajasthani design, artistry and modern amenities blend well with attentive service and the best of technology to create an exceptional ambience in picturesque surrounds. Savour novel dining experiences overlooking the lake.

Welcoming us to a “world of grandeur and luxury,” the executive assistant manager Prateek Swarup said everyone was committed to taking guest service to reverential heights. “It is our goal to provide all guests with memorable magical stays that deliver the essence of India.” Majestic by any standards!

Delectable meals: chef Joseph Parras at The Imperial Hotel Delhi. Photo: Rama Gaind

A sanctuary of tranquility and ease equates to the modest luxury of The Imperial New Delhi that has been bestowed with the prestigious title of the ‘Best Heritage Hotel’ by a number of publications.

Staying here, you’ll re-live some of India’s glorious past. The hotel was designed to be one of the finest monuments of British architect Edwin Lutyens’ grand vision of the capital city’s original master plan presenting a unique blend of Victorian, old colonial and art deco styles.

On arrival, another world opens up as you revel in the days of the Raj, overflowing with Victorian charm and luxury. The Imperial has an engaging connection as history comes ‘alive’ while you stroll through its art-laden corridors. Be transported back in time, with a fabulous impression of iconic heritage wrapped in colonial elegance.

Front office manager Tushar Chandra pointed out this most distinguished address in the heart of the capital was connected to a fascinating part of India’s history.

“It’s a luxury hotel with an awe-inspiring heritage, interwoven in colonial elegance

that dwells in its modern delivery of old-style class and magnificence.”

Elaborate details, space and greenery over 2.8ha of manicured gardens fashion this stately destination. Before you set out exploring, let chef Joseph Parras cook you a hearty, award-winning breakfast. You’ll be so glad you did!

Diverse hospitality

Being diligent: attentive service from Anna Wewle (left) and Rohit Bhamburkar made dining an experience to remember in Tuskers at the Sofitel BKC Mumbai. Photo: Rama Gaind

Three hotels in Maharashtra offered diverse insights. India’s financial capital – Mumbai – attracts an estimated six million tourists a year, even though across the globe it’s the 16th most costliest city. In the 30th most visited metropolis in the world, which is home to Bollywood, you’ll also find the Sofitel BKC Mumbai where ‘Life is Magnifique!’

Splendid Indian tradition in signature art nouveau style is intricately blended with Parisien design, culture and gastronomy. The vitality and colour of this city by the bay is echoed in Sofitel BKC’s imposing décor with stylish French savoir faire.

Comfort and wellbeing is assured with refined room designs, plush furnishings, state-of-the-art amenities and modern sophistication.

General manager Biswajit Chakraborty is eloquent in his praise.

“A perfect mélange of French ‘art de vivre’ and warm Indian hospitality, the grandeur of Sofitel Mumbai BKC is reflected in its unrivalled facilities and personalised service from the heart. Strategically located in the central business district of the city, Sofitel Mumbai BKC is designed specifically for the global traveller, offering multifaceted experiences in cuisine, entertainment and relaxation.”

“Welcome to this stunning address, blending art and French flair, situated in the heart of the vibrant city of Mumbai. Discover a home away from home, where luxury is the key essence.”

It’s difficult not to be swept away with prime reflections and convivial experiences.

“Food is not just eating energy, it’s an experience.” Executive chef Neeraj Rawoot endorsed such sentiments. I indulged in feasts at four restaurants at the Sofitel BKC. The never-ending culinary banquet at the Artisan, Jyran, Pondichery Cafe and Tuskers was a tastebud sensation!

Imposing view: impressive first sight of the Novotel Imagica Khopoli, 73km from Mumbai, which is adjacent to India’s first theme park – Adlabs Imagica.
Photo: Rama Gaind

Not only your imagination, but your excitement level skyrockets when you visit Novotel Imagica Khopoli, which is just under a two-hour drive from Mumbai. Adjacent to India’s first theme park – Adlabs Imagica – Novotel is a one-of-a-kind resort with five-star facilities.

The fun starts even before you check-in. Was that Pinocchio I saw greeting guests in the lobby? You’ll meet many more colourful cartoon characters in the hotel’s exclusive breakfast-time frolic parade, including the hotel mascot, Tubbby, the elephant. Why not be greeted in style and get a character wake-up call!

Young and old

Thrills, spills and excitement are aplenty not just at the amusement park, but within Novotel as well. If you’re an adult, then for many, nostalgia will reign supreme as you recall the many fables and iconic film heroes. As for the children, well, many of their dreams will come true as they take the time to meet the larger-than-life animated characters and then discover more attractions next door at Adlabs Imagica.

While at the Novotel, you’ll enjoy the comforts of the accommodation and in-house amenities. Dining is a treat as assistant executive chef Lokesh Jarodia prepares local delicacies, while assistant restaurant manager Vinayak Mohite ensures they are heartily savoured.

General manager Srinivas Srirangam knows well the successful recipe to ensure there are no unhappy customers. “We treat every guest to the holiday of a lifetime. Come see for yourself how the fun never ends at the Novotel Imagica Khopoli.”

It doesn’t take long to re-discover we are all young at heart. Dr Seuss was so right about adults being obsolete children!

Considerate action: Chermawii (‘Moii’) is one housekeeper who pays extra attention to detail at The Oberoi Mumbai. Photo: Rama Gaind

In the business district in the heart of Nariman Point, The Oberoi Mumbai is an iconic hotel that certainly lived up to its reputation. In fact, it went over-and-above its call to duty, one could say.

It had been a frustration – disruptive television broadcasts on four occasions – as the unit kept switching off. The TV was fixed the next day and I’d forgotten all about the inconvenience, just happy to watch the news and catch-up on some favourite serials.

Surprisingly, management had not. That evening, the hotel manager Natasha Mehta personally rang to apologise.

“We pride ourselves in making sure our guests have a comfortable stay. We do not want to give them an opportunity for a complaint.” Even housekeeping staff was told not to charge for the room service dinner I’d ordered. Impeccable experience!

The expansive views over the Mumbai skyline and the Arabian Sea are breathtaking. No wonder The Oberoi Mumbai is ranked number two as the ‘Best City Hotel in Asia’.

There is no finer quote about hospitality than this from India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru:

“Welcome a guest to send back a friend.” It’s a winning formula!


The Leela Udaipur

Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

E: [email protected]

The Imperial New Delhi

Janpath Ln, Janpath, Connaught Place, New Delhi, India

E: [email protected]

Sofitel BKC Mumbai

C-57, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East), Mumbai, India

E-mail: [email protected]

Novotel Imagica Khopoli

30/31, Sangdewadi, off Mumbai-Pune Express Highway, Khopoli- Pali Road, Khalapur, Maharashtra, India

E: [email protected]

The Oberoi, Mumbai

Nariman Point, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

E: [email protected]

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