WHAT'S IT LIKE? Based on the royal Mysore Palace, the Leela Palace Kempinski Bangalore appears majestically out of the dust at the end of a palm-fringed driveway off the main road from the airport. The open spaces, long corridors, handmade carpets and ornate ceilings make you feel very aware of the grandeur of the place but it's not intimidating, just impressive. The hotel, which opened a new wing in February this year, is surrounded by nine acres of green gardens and tropical plants, making for a huge contrast with the dusty congested city beyond its gates. It is also connected to a large shopping mall, which has designer shops from Hugo Boss to smaller outlets selling pashminas. Leela (named after the charismatic chairman's wife) currently has four hotels, in Mumbai, Bangalore, Kovalam and Goa. There are big plans for expansion, with an investment of US$300 million and five new openings scheduled: New Delhi in September 2007, Udaipur at the end of 2008, and Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune in 2009.
WHERE IS IT? One of the biggest benefits of the hotel is its location. It is on Airport Road and is a ten-minute drive to Bangalore airport and a half-hour drive into town (traffic not included).
HOW MANY ROOMS? 361 now the new wing has opened. There were 256 in the original part of the hotel and a further 105 rooms have just been added. The Royal Club on the fifth floor of the hotel is for guests staying in Executive Suites and above. The Royal Club Lounge serves complimentary food and drink throughout the day, there are meeting rooms, a cigar lounge and billiards room, and a private dining room.
ROOM FACILITIES All rooms are spacious, ranging from 43.2 sqm up to 269 sqm and all have balconies. The décor is modern with polished wooden floors, hand-tufted rugs and Italian marble bathrooms (10.2sqm). All rooms have high-speed internet access, two telephone lines, DVD, TV, electronic safe and minibar, as well as tea and coffee-making facilities. I was in a conservatory room on the third floor in the new wing. The room was very impressive with dark wood and beige décor, a sofa and two chairs around a coffee table, as well as a large desk with plug adaptors.
There was a 25-inch flat-screen TV on the wall opposite the bed with speakers piped into the bathroom. Each day a fresh rose and a treat, such as mini strawberry tarts or chocolates, appeared on the desk. Although my room had a balcony it was not accessible as apparently it is too noisy (the hotel is directly under the flight path). The bathroom had a separate toilet, a walk-in shower with two heads and a separate bath with a window looking into the main room with electric blinds. There is a button to press for privacy or service so there is no need to hang cards on the door. The downside of being in the new wing was the distance from the lobby, which was a good five-minute walk away.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS In Bangalore alcohol cannot be sold after 10.50pm much like in England, so the bars close at 11.30pm. The Library Bar off the lobby (pictured), modelled on a gentleman's club, spreads outside under a covered section with a stream running through it and comfortable sofas and a cocktail bar. The Zen restaurant specialises in teppanyaki and sushi, but also offers Chinese, Korean, and Thai fare with seating inside and outside, and is open for lunch and dinner. Jamavar is the Indian fine-dining restaurant, which serves exceptional food – it's worth trying several dishes – and again you can sit both inside and out. It is open for dinner. Citrus serves a magnificent buffet of international cuisine round the clock, and is the venue for breakfast.
MEETING AND BUSINESS FACILITIES The business centre is one level down from the lobby and has four meeting rooms (with no natural daylight). Secretarial services, photocopying and four computers with printers and internet access are also available. It is open 24 hours. Internet access costs 125 rupees (£1.50) for 15 minutes, 188 rupees (£2.20) for 30 minutes and 350 rupees (£4.15) for one hour. The Grand Ballroom holds 1,000 people (250 banqueting-style), the Royal Ballroom can seat 80 banqueting-style, and there are eight other meeting rooms holding up to 30 people boardroom-style. There is also the Royal Club boardroom and three banqueting rooms available.
LEISURE FACILITIES The spa covers 1,858 sqm and two floors of the hotel. There is a steam room, sauna, spa bath and changing rooms downstairs, and upstairs are the treatment rooms. I had an ayurvedic massage, a wonderful, hour-long, powerful and oily experience. The gym is downstairs with a separate cardiovascular and free-weight area. The outdoor pool is for guests only and is surrounded by tropical plants and sun-loungers.
VERDICT Everything a business traveller needs on the doorstep (and leisure too, although there are more central hotels). The staff are incredibly polite, the service is top class and the spa is a real treat.
PRICES Fully flexible rates for a midweek stay start at US$403.
CONTACT The Leela Palace Kempinski Bangalore, 23 Airport Road, Bangalore, India, tel +91 80 2521 1234, theleela.com.