Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grand Kakatiya Hyderabad- A stay at ITC's luxury collection

Dates of stay: May 4-5, 2009
Rating: 4/5

The ITC Grand Kakatiya in Hyderabad is a part of the chain’s luxury collection. Well it is grand no doubt.

It has rooms at three levels- ITC One, Tower Rooms and Club/Executive. I was allocated a room in the hotel’s Eva (women only section). The room is spacious and ITC pampers you with a number of small touches and personal amenities. The best of course is the small aromatherapy kit they provide with roll-on oils for easy sleep and stress relief. A complimentary cup of hot chocolate/milk at night, an extensive pillow menu and a filter coffee maker are the other add-ons.

The bath is equally well equipped. A fantastic idea here is the food tray they have provided which fits onto the tub. Does some wine and cheese with a soak appeals to you my friend? I bet it does!
I decided to lunch at Dakshin- the south Indian restaurant, which was a fantastic meal. Dinner at Kebab’s and Curries was even better. The service outstanding. They could spruce up the menu at the 24*7 coffee shop though. If you have the time and want to enjoy a buffet breakfast/lunch, visit the Mariott at Tank Bund and have a meal at the Okra.

Back to the ITC. The business facilities and service staff are great throughout. I did not get the time to check out the pool or the health club facilities. I did want to take a brisk walk though, but the hotel compound was too small for that! A stay at the ITC is all about being pampered. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Falak-Numa: Of Kebabs and Biryani

Rating: 4/5
Price points: Rs 1500 for two (including drinks)
Date of visit: June 2, 2009

The hunt for some good food in Lucknow was on! I would have personally liked to try some street-side eating joint; but for the moment it was out of question. So we headed to falak-numa, at the Clarks. Located on the top floor of the hotel, it has top-to-bottom glass on two sides instead of walls. And for a very good reason. The view of the city from this site is amazing.

You look down at Lucknow, looking like the beautiful and aristocratic city which history says it once was. Well, it still is beautiful. At least from here.

I feel like a tourist even though I am in the city for work. All set near a table next to the glass wall we order food. It is same as the previous night (at Oudhyana, Taj). Kebab platters, dals and rotis. As we scoop up pickles and chutneys with papads (poppadoms) the conversation tilts towards history and politics. Past and present. Future-uncertain and speculative as always.

All speculations are cut short as the food arrives. We decide to dig in. The kebabs-both vegetarian and meat (my colleagues tell me) are good. The spices are just right. I start with my roti soon. Aloo and mixed vegetable alternates between bites. The flavors are rich. Not too spicy. The dal tadka is well cooked and topped with ghee. We halt all conversation and decide to concentrate on our meal.

It is good and there are happy faces all round the table as we polish the last bits!

Dining Awadhi Style- Oudhyana

Rating: 3/5
Price points: Rs 2500 for two (including drinks)
Date of visit: June 1, 2009

The "Oudhyana" is the Awadh cuisine restaurant at the Taj Residency, Lucknow. And what is Awadh cuisine? Good question. Well Wikipedia says that " it is the cuisine from Lucknow". Similar to Mughlai and Hyderabadi food, it includes kebabs and biryani. Cooked using the "dum style" (on slow fire) it has generous helpings of spices and cardamom and saffron.

Ah ha! so are we set for a feast? I thought I was when I headed to the Oudhyana. We ordered mixed vegetable and meat kebab platters, dals and mul mul rotis (supposed to be very very soft).

The food was average. The vegetables etc. could have been marinated better. The dal was OK too and the rotis not that soft. We finished of with a kulfi which was good. So what was exactly wrong with the meal? There are times you head off for a meal, expecting it to be finger licking. And when it is not, you cannot help but be a tad disappointed. Well, that's how I felt about the place.

The service was good, if a bit intruding at times. All in all, I would not repeat a visit here. Unless I was staying at the Taj and it was simply convenient. Instead, I would head to Falak-Numa at the Clarks.

Fit for a Nawab- Taj Lucknow

Dates of visit: June 1-2, 2009
Rating: 4/5

Driving from the airport I notice the large dome atop a white building from a distance. As I come closer, the structure seems even grander. Built colonial style, the property is only three storeys high but sprawling. Spread are landscaped gardens with palm(?) trees and a pool shaped like a lotus.

As I enter the lobby, I am struck with the feeling of spaciousness. Tucked into corners are cane chairs with plump cushions, portraits of nawabs, water colors of war scenes and bric-a-brac. I move to the lobby requesting for my room. Of course it is ready and waiting!

Done up in a combination of pastel green and pink it is appealing at once. It has everything for a comfortable stay, yet, the feeling of space follows. Hmmm...I like this place.

But, it is late and dinner is a calling and head to the "Oudhyana" the in-house restaurant serving Awadh cuisine which was nice but not exactly in line with my expectations. Before heading for work the next day, I managed a quick breakfast at its coffee shop. Again; nice but not great.

The Taj Lucknow is a beautiful property and a good choice for a relaxed stay. The staff and the service were great throughout- be it the travel desk, reception or the restaurant. I look forward to my next visit!