Registered with the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the hotel is clean and reasonable but barely meet expectations.
Hotel insider: Chrome Hotel, Kolkata
Despite the distinctiveness of the building, with its 100 or so porthole windows which are lit up at night, our taxi driver hasn't heard of the hotel and inevitably gets lost. When we do eventually find it, we are greeted at the door by a young woman in knee length black skirt, white shirt and black tie.
During check-in we are offered fruit juice but not a seat. The reception area is divided at waist height from the 24/7 cafe, Nosh, by a garish purple wall divider. A porter in a black beret takes our luggage to the room while the woman - who later tells me she is a trainee - comes with us to the room but does not know how the internet works or whether I need a password for the much publicised free Wi-Fi.
The idea behind Chrome was to create an ultra-modern, purpose-built hotel amid the crumbling old buildings of Kolkata, but I don't know what possessed them to select a site on the AJC Bose flyover. The entrance to the hotel is directly off the busy, ugly underpass. But Park Street and Chowringhee are just about within walking distance so it can justify its claim of being in the city centre.
Small and with a view so close to the flyover that I could almost read the registration numbers, the room suffered from the inevitable intrusion of engine noise and the incessant horn use. The walls were plain white aside from angular stripes of brash green and orange that started behind the bed and darted out over the ceiling. The bathroom, set into what is a basic rectangular bedroom, is tiny but cleverly designed. With a corner basin, a shower and a toilet, there's just enough room left for one person to stand.
The claim on the website is that Chrome is a luxury boutique five-star hotel. It is not, and to be fair, the prices reflect that. They have apparently applied for five-star status and I would be amazed if they got it, but aside from that it also aspires to be cool and it is not that either. I saw very few people while I was there, but they tended to be older backpackers or middle-aged businessmen. The hotel boasts an Indian design award but I found the furniture uncomfortable and the decor anything but stylish.
Again, not impressive. When we sat down at breakfast we were not asked whether we wanted tea or coffee, nor were we given any explanation about the buffet despite four waiters hanging around. The business centre - comprising one desk and a laptop - was locked and when it was, supposedly, ready, the internet was not working and the duty manager had to come and sort it out. When it did work it was very slow.
The Khana Sutra, the hotel restaurant on the first floor, was the only place with a good ambience and served standard Indian food. Starters are around 250 or 300 rupees (Dh18 to 22), a homestyle fish curry costs 400 rupees (Dh29) and the chicken biryani is 500 rupees (Dh36). At Nosh, a magherita pizza is 250 rupees (Dh18) and a smoothie costs 200 rupees (Dh14). It's open 24 hours, though when I was there the only time I saw anyone eating was at the indifferent breakfast buffet.
The powerful shower.
The location, the room and the poor service - but it is expectation that is the killer here. Not only are modern boutique hotels in Kolkata rather thin on the ground but this one is registered with the small luxury hotels of the world and so, as with all their other properties, I had expected charm, and there was none.
A clean, functional hotel that provides a central base at a reasonable price. If that is what you want, and you can bear being on a Kolkata flyover, then it is fine. But the new owners need to work on the ambience and service and drop pretensions of being five-star.
The bottom line
A standard double room costs from 5,340 rupees (Dh394) per night, including breakfast and taxes. Chrome Hotel, 226 AJC Bose Road, Kolkata, West Bengal, India (www.chromehotel.in; 00 91 983 0944 495).