The ITC Royal Gardenia blends modern decor and an eco-friendly theme, but would do well to pay more attention to the finer details.
ITC Royal Gardenia, Bangalore
At the airport I slid into the waiting car, expecting to be whisked off to the luxury of the five-star hotel. Forty-five minutes on Bangalore's teeming, congested roads later, I finally presented myself at the reception while my bags were transferred to my room. Check-in was smooth, fuss-free and exceptionally attentive - the ratio of five staff to one guest was actually a little unnerving. Still, the hotel had opened its doors only two months earlier and I can't criticise their eagerness to please. They presented me with a silk scarf as a welcome gift, a symbol of the neighbouring city of Mysore's royal past.
Situated on Residency Road in the heart of Bangalore, the hotel is neighbour to the 125-year-old Bangalore Club, which has its roots in colonial India and once counted Winston Churchill as a member. Nearby, Lavelle Road and Vittal Mallya Road feature intimate coffee shops and boutiques selling the wares of some of India's finest designers, while The Collection at the UB City mall at the end of Lavelle Road is the place to head to for European designers and cuisine alike. From restaurants to nightclubs and retail therapy, it's all a taxi ride away from the property. Guests have access to the hotel cars, which makes negotiating through the winding lanes that much easier.
Oddly enough for a hotel that's not even running at half its capacity (only 100 of the 292 rooms and suites are currently open to guests) and hasn't had a formal launch yet, the lobby and its Raj Pavilion coffee shop seem perennially full, from guests taking in the vertical gardens - little pockets of foliage sewed into walls three floors high and watered by drip irrigation - to lounging on the traditional Indian divans that dot the entrance. There's a mixed crowd of families and businessmen and the hotel is already a popular wedding venue, which means there's almost always a flock of brightly clad men and women sweeping across the marble floors in embellished kurtas and lehengas.
My room was located on the Eva Floor, which is home to five suites that are aimed at and serviced exclusively by women. The only time you'll see a man up there, my butler told me, is when the electrician comes by.
The spacious suite had a large walk-in wardrobe and living and study areas that were separated from the bed by a wall that had TVs on each side, so guests can choose to watch sitting or supine. A large balcony looked out onto the swimming pool and the lobby below. The bathroom featured both a spacious bath with a mini TV and a separate section with a rain shower. Guests can control the room's lighting through a touchpad phone alongside the bed - a nice touch. Floral decorations abounded - there were dried flowers, fake flowers and even pictures of flowers on the wall, leaving little doubt as to the room's target audience.
Attentive almost to a fault, each room is assigned a butler who accompanies guests throughout the hotel, even going so far as to escort them to the elevators and out the hotel's glass doors. Guests staying on the Eva Floor have access to all of the hotel's services through the butler, who is on call day and night. This handy feature was put to the test when a craving for waffles presented itself at 2am. The waffles were wheeled in by a nonplussed butler 10 minutes later with a glass of warm milk.
The hotel has two restaurants, a bar and two 24-hour coffee shops, serving Indian, Japanese and western-style food. The quality of food at Cubbon Pavilion, the buffet restaurant and 24-hour coffee shop, was disappointing and incongruent with the plush feel of the hotel. A meal for two cost $40 (Dh147) and featured soggy sushi, lukewarm pasta and a mix of indistinguishable Indian food all cooked in the same bland gravy. I didn't try any of the other restaurants during my stay, choosing instead to order from the extensive room service menu, which didn't prove to be the wiser choice. The penne Aglio e Olio for $10 (Dh37) was more olio and less aglio, swimming as it was in oil with only a solitary clump or two of mashed garlic to be found at the bottom of the plate. Breakfast, however, was a different affair, with hot scones, muffins, toast and a cheesy omelette presented on the dining tray with freshly squeezed, if slightly bitter, orange juice.
The hotel's "green" credentials. Using a host of energy-saving measures like recycling its waste and water and installing energy-efficient lighting through the property, the hotel claims that guests spending a night here emit 40 per cent less carbon than they would by staying at any other hotel in Bangalore. The decor marries the environment-friendly theme with the modernist one perfectly, with minimalist touches offset by the greenery found throughout the space. It's also surprisingly quiet at all times, no mean feat given that it's situated on one of the city's busiest main roads.
The inconsistent service. The chauffeur who picked me up at the start of my stay was loud; negotiating Bangalore's traffic can be trying for most, but the drive to the hotel was peppered by his curses at every turn. On the other hand, service within the hotel was almost overwhelming: I'm not sure that guests need to be chaperoned through lift rides. The food was consistent in quality - lacklustre and giving one the impression that it was whipped together by an understaffed, overworked team; hardly the case, given the hotel's aforementioned operation at half capacity.
Spacious with luxurious rooms, the hotel makes a great first impression but would do well to pay more attention to the finer details that make up the overall experience.
A standard double room costs from $257 (Dh944) per night, including taxes. A suite on the Eva Floor costs from $300 (Dh1,102) per night, including taxes. The ITC Royal Gardenia, Bangalore (www.itcwelcomgroup.in/itcroyalgardenia; 0091 80 221 19898).