24 Friday June, 2016
By Lola Pasquier, India & Sri Lanka Specialist
I have just returned from spending the last six nights at three Oberoi hotels, spanning the west, east and south of India on 25 hours’ sleep. One might assume that I’d be feeling a little jaded after such a packed schedule, considering it was my first time to India. I’ll admit; I do feel out of sorts. But only because I wish I could have stayed longer and carried on discovering India through Oberoi’s matchless hospitality.
We arrived at the Oberoi Mumbai at one in the morning, greeted by immaculately dressed staff handing out cold towels in a small, but beautifully arranged lobby. We were escorted to the lift and, assuming we were being led to our rooms, we walked out into the Oberoi’s second lobby, one flight up. Breath-taking and unlike the decoy below, the space has enough room to host two check in areas, a live music bar, champagne lounge, restaurant, grand piano, central seating area and wide corridor leading to another lounge, shops and its sister hotel the Trident.
Eleven floors encircle the lobby, flooded by natural light from the ceiling above, and the balconies on each level are draped in luscious green plants which contrast with the muted tones typical of the Oberoi style. Despite how much has been packed into this space, there is an overriding sense of style, quiet and calm. There is no better feeling than to come home to a serene environment after a day of sightseeing in the hustle and bustle of Mumbai.
Consistent with this theme, each room boasts floor to ceiling windows and fantastic views across the city – either over the “Queen’s Necklace” Marine Drive or the Arabian Sea. A soak in the standalone bathtub is the perfect place to watch the sunset and revel in this luxury. The furnishings are what you would expect from a five-star establishment, and final touches like the pillow menu (available at all Oberoi hotels) and IPod dock make you feel right at home. The staff looking after you are exceptional; I came back from supper to a handwritten note from housekeeping who thought I was missing certain essential amenities (shoe bags, to name but one). Each member of staff at the Oberoi has 1,500 Rupees (£15 - a fortune) to spend unaccountably per client where they see fit. This is the perfect illustration of how Oberoi go above and beyond in the name of service and how genuine their welcome is.
During our stay in Mumbai, we visited both the Trident Nariman Point and the Trident Bandra Kurla, whose level of service was equal to that at the Oberoi. We stayed for lunch in Bandra Kurla and were taken on a comprehensive tour of the back end of the hotel; walking through immaculate kitchens, laundry rooms and staff canteen. The walls were covered with awards the hotel had received; there to engage staff rather than impress clients. Motivational posters invoking team spirit, leader boards and incentives, photos from team events – no wonder everybody we met showed such enthusiasm for their work. The general manager’s main concern was to maintain a happy workplace and once again displayed how genuine their hospitality is. Bandra is the very trendy and atmospheric suburb of Mumbai which Bollywood stars and cricket players call home and definitely worth considering as a base to explore a different facet of Mumbai (it is also conveniently close to the airport).
Whereas the Oberoi Mumbai embodies the City of Dreams’ modern and sleek feel, the Oberoi Bangalore represents enduring colonial charm in India’s Garden City. We were greeted with floral garlands and ice cold coconut water in the lobby, with a fountain and impressive windows overlooking the garden at its centrepiece. Then, ushered through the Oberoi’s beautiful three acres of rich grounds, past a very tempting swimming pool, we were treated to a lavish lunch, complete with edible personalised menu. The staff were exceptional; attentive yet unobtrusive.
The rooms all have private balconies facing the garden and its wonderful 120 year old rain tree. Although true to its colonial style, they have incorporated a modern touch by including an IPad in every room which can control the lighting, temperature, entertainment system, room service and even a camera outside the bedroom door. The showers also double up as steam rooms. The Oberoi Bangalore have succeeded in stepping up their heritage property to 21st century expectations, without compromising on that traditional luxurious style. Service was just as impeccable as in Mumbai. I was brought Masala Chai at three in the morning before a very early flight, along with my linen shirt and trousers neatly pressed. One British client was getting dressed to attend an Indian wedding and the butler noticed his shoes weren’t right for the occasion. Within 10 minutes he returned with a pair of shoes bought to match the outfit.
The third and final hotel, the Oberoi Grand, is Calcutta’s “Grand Dame” and dating from the nineteenth century, lives up to its name. Drive through the busy streets of Calcutta and cut through the market into a gated entrance where you are instantly transported to a state of calm. The lobby is just as impressive as the hotels façade, polished marble floors, teak fixtures, a 200 year old piano and original chandelier stand proud in the vast open space. Rooms surround an inner courtyard and beautiful pool, many of those inward facing boasting a private terrace. They are similarly colonial and well executed as in Bangalore.
The Grand’s historical significance is a real draw when staying here and a guided tour of the property is easily organised and worth the effort. Enjoying the authentic Bengali Grand Thali for dinner and being talked through every single intricate dish presented was my personal highlight. The restaurant manager conveyed such enthusiasm for what we were being offered and knew every story behind each dish which made the experience particularly memorable.
The food at each Oberoi was fantastic. Breakfast in all three was an unrestrained affair where you were actively encouraged to order everything imaginable a la carte as well as gorge on fresh mango from the buffet, ignoring the fact that an equally sumptuous lunch and dinner awaited. The Oberoi Mumbai’s Indian restaurant Ziya is run by the acclaimed Michelin star chef Vineet Bhatia. Vetro, the Italian restaurant, is run by Francesco Francavilla who previously worked at Rome’s three Michelin star restaurant La Pergola. Bangalore's Rim Naam has been awarded best Thai restaurant in the city 10 years running by the Times of India, its Szechwan Court has also won the accolade, as has the Grand’s Baan Thai.
In terms of location, the Oberoi hotels in Mumbai, Bangalore and Calcutta could not be better situated. Despite being so central, all three succeeded in creating a tranquil environment conducive to appreciating the chaos of daily life in India. Every room we saw was plush and comfortable, with large windows, letting in natural light and offering fantastic views. I’ve never experienced service as attentive as during this past week, it was spot on. In Mumbai and Bangalore, the spa is open 24 hours a day, and in Calcutta you can still book a treatment past ten at night. They all have fantastic steam rooms and swimming pools and offer complimentary yoga daily.
My lasting impression of the Oberoi group was its knock out locations, luxury environment and across the board, sincerely charming staff who do nothing but please. What a fabulous way to experience authentic, Indian hospitality.
For more information or to start planning your tailor-made holiday to India, please get in touch with Lola:
firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0) 207 819 9770