What can be exciting about a city hotel? Plenty, if it’s the Vivanta by Taj in Guwahati in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam.
From a traveller’s perspective, Guwahati itself may not have too much to offer. But the city is the gateway to the North-East, one of the richest and most varied regions on the planet. A good hotel had been sorely lacking till the Vivanta came up. Whether you are going rhino spotting, or trekking across the region, or out to navigate the mighty Brahmaputra river, check into Taj before setting out – and again at the end to pamper your body after the adventure.
IT’S A FUN HOTEL
As you walk around the hotel, you get a sense it’s going to be fun. The design, the architecture, the interiors, the bars and restaurants, the pool, the spa – they all have ‘Good Time’ written across them. And they don’t promise to deceive – the hotel is an enjoyable place to be in, despite seeming like just a high end city hotel.
Spacious, very spacious. Accountants threw the luxury of space in hotels out of the window as real estate became dearer in urban areas. But the rooms at Vivanta allow you to stretch as much as you want to – and then some more. You have a very comfortable king bed (my tall frame loved it!!), a couch, a study and a lavish bath. Overlooking the lawns, the pool and the lush landscape of Assam beyond – provided you asked for room in the right direction. The welcome chocolates and fruits serve as good appetizers to your stay.
Many a hotel chain – even high end ones – stumble when it comes to meals at properties outside of big cities. But the chefs, led by executive chef Anirban Dasgupta, at Taj Guwahati are a breed apart – nothing less than a podium finish would do for them even if they are in one of the remote regions of the country.
* Seven: The all day diner is an ode to the seven sister states of north-eastern India and presents the best of regional cuisine across the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. They served me an Assamese thali that beat the supposedly more authentic fare I have had in Assam’s interiors on other occasions. Some of their signature dishes include Patot Diya Haanh Aru Koldil (braised duck with banana flower, steamed in banana leaf), Masor Tenga (Bekti crusted with hurum and sour tomato gravy), Matir Dailor Lagot Khar (Stew of black gram and banana stem), Bor & Pitika (A melange of potato bor and pitika with bilahi chutney), Liquid Gold (Dark chocolate fondant encased in gold leaf, dulche de leche sauce, rock chocolates), Glocal Salad, Mac n Cheese “Ema Dashi” and Under pressure lamb shanks. Pity I could not try much of these being a vegetarian – but my colleagues gave a double thumbs up to these.
I opted for international fare during one of the meals. They served me a tastier pasta than their counterparts in food capital of the country, New Delhi.This says something about the talent at the hotel. (Am I flagging off a pasta race here?!!! If yes, go ahead – I can play judge while Taj’s chefs compete with each other.)
* Umami: A speciality oriental restaurant offering the choicest of Japanese and Chinese fare. The name is derived a Japanese word meaning a ‘pleasant savoury taste’. This flavour was first scientifically identified in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a professor of the Tokyo Imperial University after research on the palatability of the broth from Kombu seaweed. The chef recommends DimSum baskets, Bamboo shoot carpaccio, Lotus from Umami and Katsu section – all of us could only lick our fingers, rather chopsticks and forks, at the end of the meals.
* Octave: Want to let your hair down, tap your feet to retro music, order drinks of your choice and escape to another world? Head to Octave, an eclectic bar with its playful décor. A recommended cocktail is the Red Hot Caprioska Peppers (RHCP) with fiery Bhut Jholakia chillie and the queen of citrus fruit – Kajinimu. The bartender also asks you to try house favourite, the Long Assamese Ice Team, or the Choconutty Martini which combines muddled peanuts, Hazelnut syrup, Chocolate and Bourbon.
If you want to give me a gift, send across vouchers to the Jiva spa – a chain run across Taj hotels. It is not easy to get a spa right – this includes the facilities, the mood, the staff and the treatment itself – but Jiva seems to have. The one in Guwahati pampered me no end even though I went in for only one session (I should have booked one more!!) – I did not want to leave and had to be dragged out screaming and kicking. Ok, the last part is an exaggeration but you get drift, right?
What I like about the newer properties of Taj is the emphasis on interiors. I want to be friends with their consultants who identify and develop the furniture, the bells, the lights and all other items that make these hotels a sight in themselves. I would love to own some of these – but then again, Taj must be guarding their sources like state secrets!!!
Every luxury hotel does not necessarily take care of you very well. Yes, they all maintain high standards but the differentiator are some of the finer nuances. You can make out in the body language – Vivanta in Guwahati scores highly here too. You can see the staff is eager to please without being overbearing – and take pride in their work. A smile and a positive attitude is the bedrock of the hospitality industry.
As I write this, it is pouring in the north-east – I am sure I will be back as soon as the skies clear up.
Vivanta by Taj
GS Road Khanapara
Tel: +91 361 7106710 / 11