The Leela's brand of mixing luxury and leisure is unique. Standout design that attempts to truly capture the flavour of the land and luxury décor that elevates the quality of its hotels and suites in to a new height are Leela's standards.
The Leela Goa is right up the list of its properties that captures this quality. Laid out on a leisurely stretch of beach with powder white sand, this property has been extremely popular for its unique, secluded location ensconced as it is between the Arabian Sea and the Sal River.
Earlier this year, the Leela Goa completed a refurbishment project costing over $ 20 million. An aesthetic and calming confluence of Portuguese and Indian design spread across 75 acres of greenery and fresh water lagoons, this beachside resort in south Goa beckoned and I trooped up to Cavelossim to check out the new rooms.
The exclusive resort now shines with a range of 206 new and refurbished rooms equipped with modern amenities to choose from, along with a new restaurant. Built to resemble the classic lagoon and beach resort, the rooms are laid on the banks of the water body. In addition to the courteous staff, I was also welcomed by garter birds and egrets that have made the lagoon their temporary home.
The renovation has focused on improving the quality and comfort of the rooms, in time to lure the holiday traveller. The exterior façade of the rooms is influenced by Portuguese design and blends well with the newly refurbished contemporary interiors. Featuring a spacious bedroom and a living room, each Lagoon Suite includes a private balcony overlooking the lagoon and a choice of one or two marble bathrooms. The new Lagoon Suites can accommodate two adults and two children under the age of 12.
The modernised rooms also feature dark wood floors throughout, Indian textiles and Dedon balcony furniture. The Lagoon Terrace Rooms reflect elegance through thoughtful styling. Each of these spacious rooms has a private balcony overlooking the lagoon and its greenery, as well as a garden entrance.
Also part of the overhaul is the resort's new dining experience, The Restaurant, designed by Jeffrey Wilkes of Malaysian firm Design Wilkes. It now features interactive live kitchens serving Indian, Western and Asian cuisines. Offering all-day dining with both alfresco and indoor seating, The Restaurant offers stunning views of the pool, the resort's executive golf course as well as the azure expanse of the Arabian Sea.
I joined The Leela Goa's General Manager Morton Johnston for dinner at the new restaurant. He has been here all of 17 months, but already has a good grasp of the people and hospitality market in India. Widely travelled and having worked at many hotel properties in London, Taipei and even North Korea, Johnston has brought in a unique personal touch to the way he interacts with the guests at this property.
It is this brand's close association with the guests that has also influenced its choice of equipment and amenities in the rooms. We chose to go with the buffet at The Restaurant and managed to take in the flavours of both Indian and continental cuisine. Johnston's regaled me with some amazing tales of his work of the past.
The best part of the new restaurant is the massive dessert counter set in an adjacent room. Having a big sweet tooth, I was delighted to see over 20 different desserts including three exotic ice-cream flavours.
In addition to The Restaurant, Jamavar, The Leela's signature fine dining Indian restaurant has also been introduced at the Goa property to complement the existing range of culinary offerings currently available. These include Riverside, an Italian restaurant on the banks of the River Sal; Susegado, the beachfront grill restaurant which serves local fresh seafood; the Pool Bar which serves refreshing cocktails, juices and a selection of cold drinks and light snacks and the Yali Lounge which serves beverages and appetisers.
The rest of the property, especially the lobby area is the same familiar and warm place that I had experienced on a couple of previous visits too. The hand picked statuettes, art and wall décor stay in your memory long after you have left the Leela.
The renovation that the Leela Goa has been through this year is just half the story. I am given to think that another round of refurbishment is due to begin, this time for its Club suites, Royal Villas and the Presidential Suite.
The gossip mill has it that one particularly popular ex-President of the United States was a guest. I would tend to think after the next round of renovation, more will want to stretch out their legs at this special Leela property and experience its own brand of the laidback Goan lifestyle.