Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hotel Hopping in India

Threesixty, The Oberoi New DelhiI have been making quite a few short trips within India recently. Between congested airports and busy meetings through rains, bad roads, and traffic jams, the hotel seems welcome and tranquil. Indian business hotels are actually pretty good; with creative decor, multiple restaurants and great service, they are in many ways better than their counterparts in the US.

Last week, I found myself on yet another flight, this time to New Delhi. Jet Airways seems to have lost its glamour to Kingfisher lately; while their flight crew continues to be good, their ground staff is no match to Kingfisher. Delhi's airport looks dated and badly managed when compared to those in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and even Pune; however the roads here are as good as it can get in India. The trees lining the road in Delhi were lush green now, thanks to the recent rains. I made a detour to Haldiram's, that temple of all things sweet and savoury. A little while later I checked into my hotel, The Oberoi, armed with boxes of petha, gujiya, moong dal burfi, and variety of kalakand.

The Oberoi New Delhi
The Oberoi New Delhi
I ran into Wasim Akram at the check-in counter; he was here to coach a boy's team. To my annoyance, I couldn't locate my camera which was locked in my suitcase! It was quite late in the afternoon when I walked into Three-sixty, their all-day dining restaurant, for lunch. The Rogan Josh, a Kashmiri dish made of mutton in a fiery red sauce, was excellent. This was accompanied by home-style phulka roti - extremely rare in restaurants, moong dal and masala aloo.

The dessert sampler included a portion of chenna jalebi, rasmalai, and kheer kadam. The Oberoi blend tea provided a refreshing ending. The Oberois never cease to amaze me, and this lunch was another example of why they are considered India's premier hotel and resort chain.

The Oberoi New Delhi
The Oberoi New Delhi
The Oberoi New DelhiIn the evening, I headed towards Delhi's diplomatic district. I was here to attend a dinner at the British High Commissioner's residence. The majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan, residence of the President of India, and the Parliament building looked imposing in the fading sunlight. My first close encounter with the diplomatic corps was interesting, but wearing a suit in the hot - and unusually humid - evening wasn't fun. There were a bunch of industry leaders and diplomats along with some media and university representatives. During the dinner buffet I remember Coronation Chicken, Rice Salad, tomato & basil, and baked calcutta bhetki with herbs.

Dinner Reception at the British High Commissioner's ResidenceI was up early to catch my flight back. From my hotel window I could see the dome of Safdarjung's tomb rising through the morning mist - a reminder of Delhi's long and rich history as the capital of many powerful kings and empires. At the airport I ran into Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi - he in his simple kurta and she in a pantsuit; they are quite a couple!

Safdarrjung's tomb from The Oberoi New DelhiJust a few days earlier I was in Bangalore. I flew Kingfisher this time and again noticed how good their ground staff and guest relations people were. The low visibility due to a foggy morning in Pune caused a 30 minute delay but the traffic in Bangalore was kinder to me. I was in the Oberoi within an hour from landing. It was a busy day, and I grabbed a quick working lunch at Le Jardin, their lobby-level coffee shop. BTW, the kathi rolls at Pune's Sun N Sand is way better than the one I had here (yes, yes, I agree Kapila Kathi Kababs on Dhole Patil Road are better than both!).

36 Chowringhee Lane in Bangalore
For dinner I tried to locate 36 Chowringhee Lane, which some people told me is the place of choice for good Bengali cuisine. While Google pointed me to a wrong address, I found the restaurant at its new location on BTM Layout, 100 ft road opp the Indian Oil petrol pump. The restaurant is little more than a hole-in-the-wall, but the food was good and very affordable.

Rewind some more. During my trip to the US, I stayed at the Grand Maratha in Mumbai and dined at the Peshawar - one of its many wonderful in-house speciality restaurants. Here are pictures of the excellent kabab platter with their signature dal and phirni for dessert. If you are on your way to the airport, this hotel has some of the best restaurants this side of town.

Kabab Platter at Peshawar, Grand Maratha Mumbai
Phirni at Peshawar, Grand Maratha Mumbai
The Grand Hyatt, another large Mumbai hotel, has an interesting garden built on top of their large lobby and atrium. Here's a picture I took on a rainy morning from my hotel room before checking out to catch my flight back to Pune.

Terrace Garden, Grand Hyatt MumbaiI just realized this blog completed two years. 200+ posts in these two years and over 6000 of you visit here every month. Thank you, especially my regular readers, who have been a great source of inspiration!


Anonymous said...

oooo...! Congratulations ! 200+ posts of sheer delight :)

So many celebrities! I always wondered why restaurants don't serve phulka rotis - they are so much healthier than naan.



great post

Anonymous said...

hi shantanu am a regular reader of yr blog and find yr articles very interesting but i still feel pune has a long way to go to match the standards of Cal as far as food goes.i still havent figured out a good Bong restaurant in pune and i wonder why its taking so long for someone to open one with Pune having a sizeable bong population.For that matter I dont even find a good south indian restaurant similar to Saravana Bhavan or even Mysore Cafe (in matunga) serving authentic southy food.

Sangfroid said...

Hi, read bout your blog in TOI.

Being a foodie myself, I like this space. Keep the posts coming!

Anonymous said...

@priyank: Thank you! Yup, unusually high number of celebrity sightings during the Delhi trip.

@harekrishnaji: Thank you.

@anon: I guess good food is very subjective. FYI, Oh Calcutta, an upscale restaurant specializing in Bengali cuisine is opening this month. For South Indian food, Vaishali on FC Road and the Coffee House on Moledina Road are the best bets for now.

@sangfroid: Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment.

Anonymous said...

yes i agree with you shantanu being born n brought up in Cal i am a foodie as well..thanks for the update that Oh Cal is opening in Pune any idea where? I thought Machaan was opening in Pune?I hv been to cofee house n vaishali but i guess you must visit saravana Bhava in Chennai to taste authentic south indian food.I really enjoy reading yr blog keep it up..

Anonymous said...

yes i agree with you shantanu being born n brought up in Cal i am a foodie as well..thanks for the update that Oh Cal is opening in Pune any idea where? I thought Machaan was opening in Pune?I hv been to cofee house n vaishali but i guess you must visit saravana Bhava in Chennai to taste authentic south indian food.I really enjoy reading yr blog keep it up..

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Vijayendra Darode said...

I'd love to know where 'Oh Calcutta' is opening in Pune. Thanks for this information. Please keep writing.


Anonymous said...

@anu: Oh! Calcutta is opening at the junction of Boat Club Road and Dhole Patil Road (where Bombay Brasserie used to be located), behind Mainland China. Re: Saravana Bhavan, I am in Chennai right now so will try it today itself!

@richa: Thanks for the invitation. I will send you an email on this.

@vijayendra: It's opening behind Mainland China on Dhole Patil Road.

Anonymous said...

hey thanks for the MC Sigree and now Oh Calcutta are all neighbours.Sarvana Bhavan is in T Nagar,pondy bazaar,usman road.if u visit T nagar there is one more restaurant called Rangoli which serves excellent Gujju food worth trying.There is one more eat out one of my personal fav is Tangerine near alwarpet which serves awesome continental food Sizzlers are their speciality n u also get amazing DBC(death by chocolate)dessert.

Lakshmi said...

wow..congrats..what an inspiration, ..Im amazed at the way you stay in touch despite your busy schedule and create some delicious posts on food and hotels

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention about krishna sweets where u get the best mysore pak sweet in chenai if u hv a sweet tooth n a snack called (now this is a tongue twister KURZHIPANIYARAM) served with chutney-one of the outlets is in adyar.krishna sweets hv their outlets in Mumbai-i hv been to their Vashi outlet but its not as good as chennai :)


congrats for completing 2 years of blogging. I missed it earlier.

I think I have been your loyal reader since then.

indicaspecies said...

I like Wasim Akram. I met Anil Kumble and his wife in Mangalore airport last year, and chatted briefly with both.

Congratulations on the blogoversary and the 200th post. To celebrate let's have some petha, gujiya, moong dal burfi, and variety of kalakand.;)

Mahesh Narkar said...

Hi Shantanu,
Congratulations on your 200th post and your blogoversary (as someone so nicely put it).
Please continue with the delightful writing and traveling.. I vicariously travel through your posts and sample the lovely cuisine

Keep it coming. :-)

Anonymous said...

@anu: Goodness, a Bong with such expertise in Chennai who's now in Pune! Thanks for all the tips. I did try Saravana Bhavan and will post soon; also got the Mysore Pak, thanks to a friend. :-)

@lakshmi: Thank you!

@harekrishnaji: Thanks for your wishes.

@indicaspecies: Heh! In the virtual world, even the sweets we share can only be virtual. :-)

@mahesh: Thanks, pal!

Anonymous said...

Shantanu am glad u enjoyed it well well am a tamilian iyer but born n brought up in Kolkata so that practically makes me a bong shotti taay and that explains the foodie part as well :))and ya I am now in gujrat but hv our home in pune i know it sounds very confusing-Pujo chole elo and am damn excited btw i will be in pune next week n I hope Oh! Calcutta opens by then :)Parle dekha hobe

beaverboosh said...

Given the disruption in the capital markets, I think I'll pop to India and see if I can pick up some consultancy work... and improve my diet!

Anonymous said...

uncle, there is a question for you on my site.

Anonymous said...

The hotels look nice. I'm used to hostels and bunk beds when I travel! :D

The food looks delicious too. Small portions which is healthy, yet looks awesome!

Anonymous said...

@anu: Have a great Durga Puja.

@beaverboosh: Haha! You are always welcome here.

@priyank: Uncle?! I will catch up with with my backlog this weekend, hopefully!

@zhu: I guess it's been a while since I have done bunk beds and hostels... :)

Unknown said...

A little bit of correction the ITC Maratha hotel's restaurant is named Peshawari