Hilton's new property in Chennai impresses with its modish décor and swift service, says Anushya Mamtora. She discovers the hotel's culinary and service secrets, even as the Met Department's predictions come true, for a change, outside

There's nothing like sipping a Sauvignon Blanc with Borsolino for company. Mild and fresh, the young cheese has just the right hints of garlic, lemon and spring onion and is the perfect accompaniment to the sparkling white. What made my wine and cheese platter even better were the quaint and elegant settings at Vintage Bank, a wine and cheese bar at the newly opened Hilton, in Chennai. The seating was plush and tables were like treasure chests. Hilton does take its restaurants seriously, and it shows.

Apart from offering travellers to the city and food enthusiasts interesting dining options, Hilton is one of the earlier entrants participating in Chennai's sudden spurt in hotel properties. With a slew of luxury and business five-star properties on the anvil, will Hilton Chennai grab a meaty share of the traveller's pie?

Heart of the city

What works in its favour for Hilton is its location. One of the closest to the international and domestic airports, its proximity to tech parks, business districts and other parts of the city make these the prime target groups. While we have always done travel reviews in other cities, reviewing Hilton's new property was like going for a day off in our own backyard. I battled my share of morning traffic to reach the hotel, which stands tall in a busy junction with Metro Rail construction adding to the chaos outside. Not the best of views to boast of, but fortunately, the sounds of the city disappear as you step into the hotel and it cocoons its guests in a comfortable, contemporary and chic set up.

Ten floors and 204 rooms revolve around interesting designs that pay homage to the Mid-Century Modern aesthetics that Hilton Hotels earlier revelled in.

The first look

Stepping in, the lobby is a welcome zone, the highlight being the lovely blue and pink shaded crystal chandelier and the golden metal moveable ‘Jaali' screen that wraps around the circular lobby.

As one walks around discovering the place, the décor props up elegant surprises like traditional and exotic stones, luscious silks, pretty water bodies, interesting doors, elegant fabric murals and panels and lots more.

Hilton Chennai also has its traditional local touches in the form of stone inlay work in the lobby floor, rich textiles from the state that double up as wall panels in the rooms and photo frames of temple architecture. The addition of the traditional ‘bharani' or stone containers, granite mortar and ‘pestal' found in South Indian homes and local spices in the restaurant's ‘Madras Table', add to the Chennai flavour.

Gourmet options

Adding some notable restaurants to the city's food scene, Hilton Chennai has opened three venues to treat the palate. The all day dining place, Vasco, was bright and cheery with an extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet to choose from. The open interactive kitchen lets you experiment with your cuisines and my personal favourites were the thyme infused mushroom and olives, a strawberry and yoghurt dessert and the Blueberry Brulé, to which the chef added a thin caramel crust just before he served it on the table. There is also an elevated private dining space with a bird's eye view of the restaurant for an exclusive gathering.

Next door to Vasco is the Vintage Bank that is inviting in its Indian safari motifs and warm in its use of wood and golden brown colours. Wine and cheese being the specialty, here, you can choose from a range of international as well as locally made cheeses and pair them with some exotic wine. The cheese list includes Camembert France, Chevre Log France, Gorgonzola La Ferme, Manchego Spain, Borsolino, Farmers and Provolone. If you want to play the connoisseur, opt for a cheese platter that the chef will put together with some delish breads, stewed apples and jams, and of course, your favourite wine.

The coffee shop Est is ideal for that midnight snack, with a yummy bakers spread. On the anvil is the hotel's Indian restaurant, Ayla. But what ‘Chennaiites' will really look forward to is the rooftop Q Bar, a poolside bar and grill under the starlit Chennai sky.

Till then, the scenic gazebos with little water niches right outside the restaurants are the perfect hangout spots. With the gentle breeze bringing in some cool rain drops, a book in hand or that special someone for company, the city dins and sights fade away.

What: Hilton Chennai

Where: Guindy, Near Kathipara clover-leaf flyover, 15 minutes from the international and domestic airports

Why: For a brisk business trip, a fun-filled holiday or a break from the city

How much: The hotel has four categories of rooms – Hilton Guest Room, Executive Room, Junior Suites and Executive Suites. Tariff begins at about Rs 10,000 per night

anushya@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 20, 2011)
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