Bengaluru blossoms

24 Feb 2010 by BusinessTraveller
Bangalore city scape
The Indian city of Bengaluru has been undergoing something of a rebrand. And while it took visitors a while to get used to Bangalore’s new name, which was introduced in 2006, it seems to have gained widespread acceptance, not least because it arrived just as various improvements to the city’s infrastructure and accommodation scene came on line. Bengaluru has always been a little special. Anand Rao, a native of the city and general manager of the newly opened five-star ITC Royal Gardenia hotel (see panel below), says it is a destination like no other. “Bangalore is the best city in India in terms of the weather. It’s very cool right through the year. It also has a fantastic atmosphere – it’s very cosmopolitan,” he says. Aly Shariff, managing director of Premier Inn India, echoes this, saying the city represents the rising middle class of India. “It’s one of the most metropolitan cities in the country and probably the most international,” he says. “They call it the Garden of India – it’s green and lush.” Bengaluru’s highly educated workforce made it one of the first boom cities of India’s renaissance, but this also created challenges. Just a few years ago those involved in outsourcing in the city complained of sky-high accommodation prices and little choice, often being forced to stay miles from their place of work, and enduring interminable traffic jams on the way in. Now, finally, the hotels are beginning to catch up, and rates have become more reasonable as a result. There is a range of accommodation available, as illustrated by the advent of the Premier Inn brand in the city, the first of nine planned hotels in India over the next five years. Appropriately enough, the hotel is situated by the International Tech Park Bangalore (ITPB), the first of its kind in the city, open since 1998 and about half an hour from the city centre. From these beginnings, the city established itself as India’s own Silicon Valley, and the park now sprawls over a 28-hectare estate integrating office, retail, residential and recreational facilities in a single location, set amid a refreshing and aesthetically appealing landscape (visit itpbangalore.com). The ITPB is also home to the new Vivanta by Taj hotel (see below), showing the growth of quality mid-market chains here – although it’s true to say that most chains are still at the luxury end. The best way to get around in Bengaluru, as in most Indian cities, is by auto-rickshaw. These yellow and green three-wheelers can be easily flagged down on the street, but be aware that drivers are notorious for overcharging people from outside the city, so make sure you agree a price before going anywhere, or go by the metre. This may take a bit of haggling, but then that’s part of the fun.


NEW TO BENGALURU ITC Royal Gardenia Open since October last year, the 292-room ITC Royal Gardenia is located in the heart of the city at 1 Residency Road. It’s the newest offering from ITC Welcomgroup, an Indian chain with hotels across the country. The property has a “forward to green, back to nature” theme, highlighting its verdant surroundings and environmental stance – it’s India’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum-rated hotel (for more on the company’s green credentials, see page 28). The Kaya Kalp spa was due to open in February, while dining options include Lotus Pavilion, serving international cuisine, all-day eatery Cubbon Pavilion, and whisky bar Highland Nectar. There is also a gym. One of the hotel’s stand-out features is its atrium lobby, which has a vertical hanging garden and doesn’t need any air conditioning as it’s open to the air. There is a dedicated wing for female travellers. - 1 Residency Road; tel +91 80 2211 9898; itcwelcomgroup.in. Rooms from Rs 10,500 (£144) Premier Inn Bangalore Whitefield The Premier Inn also opened in October and is located opposite the main entrance to the International Tech Park Bangalore. The 105 rooms come with free broadband internet and king-size beds, while in the morning, an all-you-can-eat breakfast including eggs cooked to order will set you back just over Rs 200 (about £3). Linx restaurant offers European, Oriental and Indian options, and you can end your evening at hotel bar “the 87”. The hotel also has a gym and a conference room. - 3-A1, Brookfield Main Road, Whitefield; tel +91 11 4667 6666; global.premierinn.com. Rooms from Rs 3,500 (£48) Vivanta by Taj – Whitefield Bangalore Also located at the entrance of International Tech Park, on Whitefield Road, this luxury offering from Indian hotel group Taj opened in late 2008. It was the first under the new Vivanta brand, which offers slightly more affordable luxury than its legacy properties, and more contemporary surroundings. The design in the Bangalore property makes a statement – the façade changes colour, texture and tone, while the interior has a modern, sleek feel. The 170 rooms and 29 suites have motifs that range from vibrant reds and oranges to calming shades of grey. Rooms feature wifi internet (Rs 720/£10 for 24 hours) and yoga mats. For dining, the hotel offers Latitude, a 24-hour diner, Caramel deli for a fresh lunch, and Indian restaurant, Terracotta. Enjoy late-night cocktails at Tease bar, and for the morning after, there is a gym to clear away the cobwebs. - ITPB, Whitefield; tel +91 80 6693 3333; tajhotels.com. Rooms from Rs 9,240 (£127) STILL GREAT Park Bangalore The first true boutique hotel to open in Bengaluru, in 2000, the Park Bangalore is on MG Road, which is really where you want to be – it has lots of shops and restaurants. As you would expect from a member of Design Hotels, the 109 Terence Conran-designed rooms have eye-popping colours and sharp interior décor, with each of the four floors depicting a vibrant Indian landscape. The rooms have wired internet access, which costs Rs 750 (£10) for 24 hours. To relax, it has one of Bengaluru’s few all-season heated lap pools, while in-room massages can be arranged in the evenings. Dining options include Monsoon, a 24-hour international restaurant; Aqua, a night-time poolside bar; Italia, a highly rated Italian eatery; and I-Bar, a lounge offering quality spirits. The Park Hotels also has properties in Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. - 14/7 Mahatma Gandhi Road; tel +91 80 2559 4666; theparkhotels.com; designhotels.com. Rooms from Rs 7,947 (£109) Leela Palace Kempinski Bangalore Located 5km from the city centre at 23 Airport Road, near the city’s old airport, the Leela opened in 2001. Its 357 rooms and suites feature traditional ornate décor and wifi internet access (Rs 1,200/£16 for 24 hours). Facilities include a gym, spa and 24-hour diner Citrus, which offers pizza and pasta along with Asian cuisine. Other options include Jamavar, an Indian restaurant; and the Library bar, an English-style lounge. - 23 Airport Road; tel +91 80 2521 1234; theleela.com. Rooms from Rs 12,870 (£177) Taj West End Bangalore Among the first hotels to open in Bengaluru, in 1887, the Taj West End on Race Course Road is still one of the city’s best addresses. Located in the middle of eight hectares of beautiful gardens, in the western part of the city, the gothic and colonial villas house 117 rooms, including 26 suites. All come with free wifi. Eating and drinking options include Mynt, a 24-hour coffee shop; the Masala Klub, offering local cuisine; and Blue Ginger, which serves Vietnamese food and is adjacent to the Blue bar – by day overlooking tanned swimmers and by night one of the city’s hippest hangouts. - Race Course Road; tel +91 80 6660 5660; tajhotels.com. Rooms from Rs 11,000 (£151) Oberoi Bangalore Surrounded by gardens, the 160-room Oberoi Bangalore opened in 1992 on the lively MG Road. Even the most basic room comes with a balcony and a luxurious interior with an LCD TV, DVD player, satellite television and free wifi. Le Jardin is open 24 hours and offers both Indian and Western cuisine, while the Oberoi also offers Chinese food at Szechwan Court, Thai dishes at Rim Naam, and after-dinner drinks at the Polo Club. There is also a spa and a state-of-the-art fitness centre, as well as an outdoor pool supremely situated in the hotel’s one-hectare garden. - 37-39 Mahatma Gandhi Road; tel +91 80 2558 5858; oberoihotels.com. Rooms from Rs 12,100 (£166) The Lalit Ashok Bangalore Next to Bangalore Golf Course, to the north of the city, is the Lalit Ashok Bangalore, a good option if you want easy access to the airport (30km away). Set within four hectares of manicured lawns, the five-star property was built in 1973. There are 184 rooms and suites spread over eight floors, plus seven banqueting and conference rooms totalling 3,000 sqm, all equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. Guests can dine on fresh sushi at the Pan-Asian rooftop restaurant Oko, world cuisine at 24/7 or Indian delicacies at Baluchi, while for night owls there is Sutra, the hotel’s vibrant lounge bar. There is also a spa, pool and tennis court. The Lalit group has several luxury properties across India with more in the pipeline. - Kumara Krupa High Grounds; +91 80 3052 7777; thelalit.com. Rooms from Rs 8,415 (£116)

Golfing around

Got some downtime? Minty Clinch tries out some courses in the area EAGLETON GOLF VILLAGE Where is it? 30km south-west of Bengaluru What’s it like? An Australian design on the road to Mysore that represents the future of golf in vibrant middle-class India. Unlike most good courses on the subcontinent, Eagleton, which opened in 1998, post-dates colonial values. The clubhouse is grandiose and echoing, the pro shop a display of boxes full of goods for future sale, the locker rooms so incomplete as to barely exist. Yet the course has all the ingredients for a great round of golf. It is set on a 250-hectare site with the Ramnagar Hills in the background. On several holes, the Aditya, a 20-metre golden statue of a Hindu god, is the best place to aim. Gentle terrain with palms and banyan trees create an illusion of cool and the greenkeeping is highly professional. Water comes into play on seven holes, most dramatically at the picturesque 17th. Bunker ping-pong is as much of a hazard, especially on a back nine featuring large contoured greens ringed with sand. Caddies insist on their rightful pitstops, usually at the sixth and 12th greens, so early-bird golfers may find themselves washing down chicken noodles with Kingfisher beer by 9am.
  • Address Shyanamangala Cross, Bidadi
  • Contact Tel +91 80 2263 2222; eagletonindia.com
  • Price £11 (Mon-Fri), £21 (Sat/Sun), senior caddie £3 (plus tip)
  • Club hire £6.75 (Taylormade/Cleveland)
  • Club hours 6am-6pm
  • Minimum handicap Men 28, women 36
  • Facilities Championship course, 18 holes (7,100 yds, par 72), floodlit driving range, practice area and putting green, golf academy.
  • After the golf Fairways restaurant serves breakfast and a buffet lunch, and there is a 131-room hotel, tennis courts, pool and giant chess.
BANGALORE GOLF CLUB Where is it? City centre What’s it like? India’s second-oldest golf club (after the Royal Calcutta) was founded in 1876. In the past few years, it has become a victim of Bengaluru’s reinvention as an IT capital. The pay-off for a road-widening scheme is a four-storey complex comprising a clubhouse, tennis and squash courts, pool, spa and gym (opening next year), but in golfing terms the price has been exorbitant. Adapting to the reduced 26-hectare site required a radical rethink, with most holes on the revised front nine sharing fairways – typically, several four balls, each with four caddies, play in opposite directions and aim for different flags. The result is chaos – slow and noisy with the gridlocked highway 20 yards from some of the greens. The back nine, all original holes, are a poignant reminder of the historic past, intelligently designed and inviting. Fortunately, they’re also floodlit until 6.30pm as games starting at 1pm can last until after dark.
  • Address 2 Sankey Road, High Grounds
  • Contact Tel +91 80 2228 1876/1758
  • Price £10.75 weekdays, £27 weekends, caddie £2.25 (plus tip)
  • Club hire £6.75 (Taylormade, Callaway)
  • Club hours 5.15am-6pm, first tee-off 5.30am, last tee-off 2pm. Four balls only until 11pm.
  • Minimum handicap 36
  • Facilities 18 holes (6,118 yds, par 70), floodlit range (on a fairway after play stops), practice area, putting green, Touché golf academy.
  • After the golf Kingfisher 360 bar and Kirlosaka Hut serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The clubhouse is known for seafood from Mangalore. The five-star ITC Windsor Hotel (tel + 91 80 2226 9898; itcwelcomgroup.in) opposite makes seamless arrangements for this and the other Bengaluru courses, as does the ITC Royal Gardenia.
KARNATAKA GOLF ASSOCIATION Where is it? 3km west of city centre What’s it like? This course opened near Bellandur Lake in 1986. Laid out by Peter Thomson on a tight urban site, it is dominated by sandy lakes and huge fountains. The banks are colonised by white geese and by eagles with a liking for golf balls – when yours lands in the middle of a fairway rather than a lake, be prepared for a swoosh of wings. Shouts of outrage add to the decibel levels on a very busy course, echoing the excited chatter on the terrace, where players enjoy the compulsory 20-minute break between the front and back nines.
  • Address 1 Golf Avenue, Kodihalli, off Airport Road
  • Contact +91 80 4009 0000; kga.in
  • Price 18 holes £27, caddie £1.35 (plus tip)
  • Club hire £4-£6.75
  • Club hours 5.30am-6pm
  • Minimum handicap 36
  • Facilities 18 holes (7,227 yds, par 72). Floodlit 260-yard driving range, putting green.
  • After the golf Huge clubhouse serving Indian, Chinese and international cuisine. Pool and spa.
OOTACAMUND GYMKHANA GOLF CLUB Where is it? Five hours south-west of Bengaluru What’s it like? Snooty Ooty, as it was known in the Raj, is southern India’s premier hill station, an oasis of cool at 2,000-metres in the Nilgiris District. It is a popular weekend break from Bengaluru, with the option to visit Mysore en route. The course, created in 1896, is a quirky classic with views of the thickly wooded Avalanche Range. A tough walk at altitude, it is also a test of resolve in the face of nine blind drives. The fairways are narrow, but avoiding the trees is no guarantee of safety as there are bushes everywhere. The ability to chip crisply out of dense wet turf is helpful, but this is a hit-and-hope experience, enjoyable for being there rather than keeping a tight score card. Take plenty of balls.
  • Address Finger Post, Ootacamund, the Nilgiris
  • Contact +91 423 244 2254/8497; ootygolfclub.org
  • Price 18 holes £14, caddie £1.35 (plus tip)
  • Club hire £1.35
  • Club hours 7.30am-6pm
  • Minimum handicap 36
  • Facilities 18-hole course (6,235 yds, par 70), putting green. On-site accommodation for members and their guests.
  • After the golf Clubhouse with bar, terrace and restaurant serving lunch and dinner. Card room, billiards, table tennis. The neighbouring Ooty Club is the formal cradle of snooker, invented as an alternative to billiards by bored army officers in 19th-century India – the first set of rules for the game was drafted here in 1882.
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