On the Bay of Bengal’s Coromandel Coast lies Chennai, a vibrant city on the east coast of India that is a thriving cultural and tourism hub. If the culture, temples and architecture fail to draw you, ITC Grand Chola won’t. If you’re looking for opulent luxury, ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, with its palatial exteriors, grand interiors and unbeatable service, is the perfect place to stay. Here, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you have gone back in time to a traditional Tamilian palace, only equipped with all the modern amenities you could think of.
As the third largest hotel in India, Grand Chola does complete justice to the space it occupies. Built in the traditional South Indian Temple style architecture, the place radiates richness. And if the Chennai heat gets to you and you’re not in a mood to venture out, you won’t find a better place to be fortressed in. (Oh, and if you do want to head out, here are 8 Things to Do on a Laid-Back Trip to Chennai).
Like a traditional temple, the hotel has 4 entrances – North, East, South & West. We were ushered in at the Vallavan (North) entrance and at the very first sight, I was bowled over by the grandness of it all.
The Grand Vibe at ITC Grand Chola
The milky marble all around creates a serene ambience which is combined with intricate inlaid and enameled consoles and brass lamps. A magnificent staircase with horses at the top redefines grand. As you walk around the hotel, it strikes you that the hotel is not connected by corridors but lounge after lounge after lounge, each with unique decor and character. It is only the rooms that are connected through wide corridors, and even then, the elevator lobbies are spacious with waiting areas that are appointed with stately chairs.
The Rooms at Grand Chola
ITC Grand Chola has a whopping 600 rooms and suites. We chose a Tower Room and it was huge. Grandly appointed with a king-sized bed, a lounger, a small sitting and a stately writing desk and chair, the room lacked nothing. From everyday amenities that were lavishly spread out for easy access, to fine teas and coffees, to a range of pillows that you could call for to sleep the way you love to sleep, just everything was thought of down to the last detail. Top that off with 24-hour butler service, to ensure that every whim and fancy can be attended to promptly.
Dining at Grand Chola
With 10 restaurants and just 2 nights, we couldn’t really do justice to all the fabulous food that ITC Grand Chola offers. With a buffet breakfast and evening tea at a lounge included in our stay, there wasn’t room for much else.
Saying that the breakfast buffet spread was amazing would be an understatement. A fabulous range of bakes, beverages, fresh cut fruit, South Indian, North Indian, Continental and much more awaited us every morning. The dosas were the best I’ve had and the accompanying chutneys were unbelievably fresh and flavourful, with fragrant earthy aromas. In the same vein, the upma, idlis, vadas and the pongal were all delightful!
The centerpiece of the entire display (I could be biased, I have to confess I do love my cuppa) was the Chai Cart; yes an entire cart dedicated to varied kinds of tea – Masala Tea, Cutting Chai and specialty teas. I loved winding up the breakfast with the delicious Almond Shake with slivers of blanched almonds. Though a bit on the sweeter side, it was the perfect dessert-y ending to my breakfasts.
To top it all, the legendary ITC hospitality made sure that if we were craving a breakfast dish that wasn’t on the day’s menu, it would still be specially made and served, at no extra cost. I have to say that the kids completely took advantage of this but the staff were like genies, getting them whatever they asked for.
The evenings at the Residency Lounge were idyllic. Warm and classic, the ambience was that of an old-school club, complete with a piano and a magnificent array of cocktails, mocktails, shakes and drinks. In the two days there, we had Indian appetisers like Kheesa Paneer (a melt in the mouth cottage cheese tikka), Matar kebab (minced pea patties), Mushroom Arcini, Chilly Garlic Babycorn; cocktail snacks like Watermelon & Feta, Pumpkin & Brie (served in a shot glass), Pineapple Feta, Sweet Potato with Gorgonzola (served in a shot glass); and heavenly desserts like Mud Chocolate cake, Coconut Cake, English Tea Cake and Mud Crumble Cake. While we enjoyed cocktails with our snacks, kids got their sugar-high from Chocolate Shake after Chocolate Shake.
Of the other restaurants, worth checking out is the vegetarian restaurant Royal Vega, that offers a delightful range of delectable vegetarian cuisine that explores the blend of condiments, vegetables and lentils.
Experiencing the Grand Chola Facilities
There are 3 gyms, one for each block. There is an in-house trainer and you can exercise with a view as the gyms overlook the 5 swimming pools of the hotel. There is a separate pool for children and a jacuzzi. Surrounded by verdant greenery and lined with sun beds and cabanas, you tend to forget you are on the terrace. And after your swin, if you’re looking for some unparalleled pampering to de-stress and forget all your worries, retreat to Kaya Kalap, The Royal Spa.
The only thing missing in the whole Grand Chola experience were lawns. While I did take my morning walk around the hotel, there was no way I could step out of the premises as the traffic was already pouring in on the flyovers. The vertical gardens created all around the inside periphery do calm most of your qualms though.
Wait, there’s more…
As the hotel is an ITC property, there is a Wills Lifestyle, also owned by ITC, on the premises. If you are not venturing outside and haven’t shopped on the trip, you can still head here to keep your withdrawal symptoms at bay. For the chocoholic, the Fabelle Chocolate Boutique and Coffee Shop is a great place.
Or simply, sit back and relax at one of the many lounges all over the hotel; read or simply admire the attention to detail in everything from the lighting fixtures to the consoles, doorways and ornate curios. Spread over 1,600,000 square feet, the hotel will impress you with its grandeur.
ITC Grand Chola: No. 63, Mount Road, Guindy, Chennai- 600032, Tamil Nadu, India.
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