BACKGROUND One of the country’s largest hotels, with 600 rooms and serviced residences, the Grand Chola opened in September and continues Indian hotel group ITC’s mission to combine luxury with impressive green credentials – the Chennai property has achieved
the top LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum certificate.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? From the moment you pass through the security gate and do a long lap of the palatial building, to the expansive marble lobby, complete with sweeping staircase and giant floral displays, there is no doubt that this is a vast, five-star property. I found it hard to get my bearings and often had to ask how to get from one part of the hotel to the other. The architecture is inspired by Chola-era temples, with the stone exterior covered in hand-carved elephants, and the interiors clad floor-to-ceiling in coffee-coloured marble.
With the exception of meal times, it was very quiet when I stayed in November – this was partly down to its size and partly because it had only just opened. Service was professional and welcoming, and I was almost always greeted by name – this, I discovered, was aided by a system whereby discreet RFID scanners read your room key as you walk by and then alert the phones of nearby staff of your name, photo and dietary requirements (I found this idea a little creepy but was assured it was to help improve the guest experience, not for tracking).
WHERE IS IT? In the business district of Guindy, on Mount Road, 8km from the domestic and international airport and a 20-minute drive from the city centre, depending on traffic.
ROOM FACILITIES Entry-level Executive Club rooms are 38 sqm. All have iPod docks, workdesks, 40-inch flatscreen TVs, separate baths and showers, robes, minibars, 24-hour room service, free bottled water, air conditioning, motion-sensing anti-stumble lights, turndown service and iPads that control the lighting and link to a security camera outside your door. Wifi is Rps 700 (£8) a day.
The décor is modern, with a colour palette of soft earthy tones, cream and white. My 57 sqm Tower room had enough floor space for me to do an in-room workout DVD. It also provided the added benefit of a charming “lady butler” (men have male butlers) who bought me a jug of hot chocolate every night, arranged my wake-up calls and offered to do my packing. Breakfast is included, as are four garments of laundry, use of a boardroom for three hours and access to the Residents’ Lounge.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The dining options are faultless. I had a delicious South Indian buffet breakfast at the all-day Madras Pavilion and lunch at the 24-hour Café Mercara Express. My two favourites, though, were Ottimo, for superb Italian cuisine in a pristine setting, and the relaxed Peshawri for Tandoori fare that you eat with your hands (aprons are provided) – the smoky, creamy dal Bukhara was moreish beyond belief. There’s also Nutmeg for pastries, Pan-Asian restaurant, the Cheroot Malt and Cigar Lounge, and Tranquebar.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES This is an outstanding property for staging events. The pillarless Rajendra ballroom holds 3,000 people and divides into eight. There is also a boardroom with video-conferencing technology, four small meeting rooms and an auditorium for film screenings.
LEISURE FACILITIES There are three outdoor rooftop swimming pools (open 7am-7pm) and three gyms (8am-11pm). The 2,137 sqm Kaya Kalp Royal spa has 12 treatment rooms, hammams, saunas and a yoga studio. An art gallery will open this month.
VERDICT A superb luxury business hotel with top-notch technology, restaurants and service.
- HOW MANY ROOMS? 522 – 295 Executive Club, 31 Eva (for women), 132 Towers, 48 ITC One-Pure (allergen-free), 14 Chola suites and two Presidential suites. There are also 78 serviced residences (not all open yet).
- HIGHLIGHTS The innovative in-room technology, amazing restaurants and fantastic “lady butlers”.
- PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in April started from £107 for an Executive Club room.
- CONTACT ITC Grand Chola, 63 Mount Road, Guindy; tel +91 442 2200 000; itchotels.in