The newly opened Park Hyatt Chennai is tough to find. Drive down the busy Velachery Main Road and you’d have to look hard to find the tiny plaque that bears the hotel’s name. This reticence to show off and the subtle approach to announcing its arrival is the essence of Chennai’s newest five-star hotel – a quiet, understated luxury property.

No outward signs of luxury grace the hotel’s décor – no sparkling chandeliers or statement pieces of art. While some may be quick to dismiss the décor’s lack of interesting art or bright colours as boring, it is interesting to consider how calming and unobtrusive this use of soft colours can be. And in a city as loud and colourful as Chennai, this quiet hotel might be just what the doctor ordered.

Delicate décor

As the friendly staff led me up to my room, what struck me about the décor was that there was nothing that really strikes the eye. Muted colours all around, subtle beiges, browns and creams, the Park Hyatt seemed to be taking the subtle theme to every tiny detail. The décor idea, I am told, is to ensure that luxury is felt more than seen. With clever use of glass and well-utilised space, the hotel seems spacious and airy and sunlight streams in everywhere, during the day. The plush carpets and sofas are part of this subtle theme and as I sink in to a comfy, cushioned chair in the lobby, I begin to see what they mean.

A common motif that runs through the hotel is small pieces of art inspired by the loom. Chennai’s trade was primarily related to textiles and apparently this inspired the designer to incorporate the motif into his design elements. Colourful silken threads wound on spools and fixed together form a simple work of art on the third floor lobby. In the muted colour scheme that pervades the majority of the hotel, this little touch of brightness does catch the eye.

The neutral colour scheme makes you feel like this hotel room could be anywhere in the world, and nothing barring the view of the busy street outside or the Guindy National Park – depending on which room you’re in - will remind you that you’re in Chennai. The paisley motif on the carpets is the only remotely Indian touch the room’s décor has.

In addition to the traditional fruit basket, I am welcomed to the room with the Park Hyatt’s signature dessert – the Tarte Tatin. The scrumptious dessert of caramelised apples and perfectly baked pastry made for a delicious welcome and the fruit basket remained completely ignored, and I’m sure most guests will do the same.

The main idea of the hotel, as the interior designer tells me, is to make it seem like a home that guests return to after a day of sightseeing and shopping or work – except that this home is definitely more luxurious and has round the clock room service. The theme is based on the idea of creating a luxurious “home away from home” for the traveller and it shows in the small touches that each room has. Every bathroom, for instance, is fully equipped with the tiny things women often forget to carry with them while travelling, but inevitably end up needing. Things like a nail-cutter, nail polish remover and even a bottle of rose water were very thoughtfully provided.

Every room comes with a large work desk that’s fully equipped to meet the needs of those travelling on work. The rooms all come with the standard flat-screen TV, an instant coffee machine and plenty of storage space, scoring high on the convenience scale.

Welcome home

The hotel has 201 rooms, spread over seven floors, and divided between standard rooms, two kinds of suites and a residential-style banquet space called the Apartment. Pitched as a space that can host any kind of gathering – right from wedding functions to official meetings and conferences – the Apartment is built in the style of an old colonial bungalow and comes equipped with its own kitchen and even has a separate drawing room and dining area. I am told that guests renting out the Apartment for a private party can personalise the entire space to make their guests feel, quite literally, at home. With glass windows that extend from ceiling to floor and an open loft kitchen, this space has a sophisticated, classy feel and one can almost foresee the fancy cocktail parties and wine tasting sessions that will be hosted here.

One of the highlights of the hotel is the pool on the eighth floor. Called the ‘Edge’, the infinity pool overlooks the Guindy National Park and the green tiles of the pool seem to blend into the green forest cover next door and the view is enough to lull you into a sense of calm. A great place to catch the sunset, this point offers one of the better views than other places in the hotel. Sun deck chairs by the poolside even tempt you to lounge beside the pool, but only if the temperamental Chennai weather permits.

Breakfast or evening coffee must be enjoyed at the hotel’s main restaurant, called The Dining Room. Full-length glass windows overlook a shallow lotus pond, and one can even sit outside on the deck and enjoy some fresh air. At one end of the pool a large statue of a grey stone Ganesha in a leisurely reclining pose sets the tone for the location – this is a place to relax!

Food at the dining room covers all cuisines from Indian to Continental, but its specialty is its south-Indian home-style menu. The chef tells me that the hotel’s culinary team conducted surveys and went to actual homes to watch the authentic preparation of these dishes. Tips that they picked up from local households were incorporated into their menu to give guests a taste of genuine South Indian food. However, what I enjoyed the most on the menu was the warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream that I had for dessert. The perfectly baked cake was warm and gooey inside and was sweet enough without overpowering the chocolate’s flavour.

Located in one of the busiest areas of Chennai, the Park Hyatt offers visitors a peaceful place to relax. Delivering on the promise of understated luxury, this star hotel is a great option for those travelling to Chennai for work and looking for a luxurious home away from home.

What: Park Hyatt

Where: Velachery, Chennai

How much: Starting from Rs 8,500

(introductory offer)

(This article was published on November 26, 2012)
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