‘Lajawaab’ delectable feast. Ritualistic royal baths a la hammams. ‘Shahi’ pampering. Anushya Mamtora gets a flavour of true-blue Indian hospitality in the heart of Manhattan at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel

Royal properties in India exude a charm of their own. The opulence is not just in the grand décor, magnificent landscape and elaborate feasts but also in their impeccable personalised service. Hospitality that goes beyond courtesies. Gestures that elevate experiences. Yes, the royal butlers are no ordinary staff. They metamorphose from personal assistants into confidants, packing supervisors into travel planners, and in many a case, Man Friday. And offering an efficient and dedicated butler to hotel guests is perhaps hospitality at its very best.

Taking the popular service to a whole new and luxurious level, The Pierre, a Taj Hotel has recently introduced the Taj Royal Attache to indulge its crème de la crème guests at 11 of its gorgeous Grand Suites. Three handpicked attaches from the group’s palace properties in India give heads of states, corporate bigwigs and well-heeled globe trotters a taste of Indian hospitality and what it feels like to be royalty.

And there I was feeling no less than a queen at The Charles Pierre Suite, with attaché Rishabh Jain gracious enough to help me bask in the new found glory. As if the elegant décor of the large suite with its private terrace overlooking the lush Central Park wasn’t enough, the personalised service and minute attention to my tastes and preferences added a stately touch to my stay.

“For generations, our royal palace hotels have been offering a highly personalised butler experience for guests and we wanted to showcase this unique brand heritage in our most exclusive Grand Suites. This was a very tangible way for our guests to experience the genuine hospitality that characterises the Taj brand,” explains Heiko Kuenstle, GM of the exclusive AAA Five Diamond hotel.

Bespoke dining extravaganza

When the head chef himself whips up some of your favourites in the suite’s pantry, you know you have landed right in the lap of luxury dining. The Pierre gets it bang on when it comes to winning over its guests’ palate. The Taj Royal Attache service offers guests the option of enjoying a gourmet meal or entertaining guests in the comforts of their own dining space, private terrace or any other elegant niche in the hotel, with an indulgent chef for good company.

Executive Chef Ashfer Biju and team have crafted three gourmet menus for an interactive culinary experience: New York, New York (from neighbourhood restaurants to street food favourites, an epicurean experience of all things quintessentially Manhattan), Riviera (French and Italian cuisine recreated to form a decadent five-course menu) and Royal Indian Extravaganza (Finest recipes from Indian royal homes for a Nizami or Rajputana twist to your New York stay.)

Sous Chef Manjit Manohar treated me to an innovative blend of New York and Indian gourmet experiences after duly enquiring about by preferences. The caprese shots merged beautifully with the lip-smacking aloo tikki with goat cheese and the classic paneer kathi roll. Also deserving special mention are the gulab jamun cheese cake, chocolate dipped curry cone with lime and raspberry sorbet and the all-time hit Mango lassi with edible silver ‘vark’ for a fitting end.

It was not just the well thought out spread that made it a five star dining extravaganza but personalised attention from the chef that took it up a few notches.

Executive Chef Ashfer Biju adds, “We envisioned that the dining experience should be superlative while at the same time serving comfort cuisine, which is an integral element in In-room Dining. We have a kitchen team that can create cuisines from over 20 different ethnicities.” Some must-haves for guests according to him are the ‘Indian appetizer trio’ from the Indian Menu, ‘Strip Steak’ from New York New York and ‘Seabass a l’etouffee’ from Riviera.

In-suite pampering

After indulging the palate, the royal attaches up the Grand Suite stay by drawing royal baths for their guests; bubbles, candles, rose petals, fragrances, et al. Guests can choose A Royal Relaxation or Ginger Rejuvenation, Taj Detox or Royal Indulgence, or simply let the attaché surprise you with one. Rishabh drew a ‘Revive’ bath for me with an enlivening Toko Yuzu bath and shower gel, warming eucalyptus and ginger body scrub, bracing silver birch thermal muscle soak, and cedrus temple soother and a deep facial cleanser for later. After a midnight soak enjoying one of the many books the Charles Pierre suite is mind bogglingly stocked with, I looked forward to my massage appointment the next day.

Yes, the attaché even arranges for an in-suite massage therapist from Taj Jiva Spa for some heightened relaxation. Marilyn, my cheerful therapist personalised a relaxing massage for me with a blend of Frankenstein, lime and kewra essential oil and a jasmine signature facial blend.

The Grand Suites range from $4,800 to $20,000, with The Charles Pierre Suite at $10,000 per night.

Pierre does well in transcending the white glove-donning image of the typical butler by styling it up with exciting, attentive and well planned inclusions.

And as they bade me goodbye with a bag of Chef Morgan’s homemade cookie selection to munch enroute, they fulfilled the final lesson in Indian ‘meheman nawazi’. A royal farewell.

Thoughtful gestures

What makes the attaché a delight to have around are the little gestures that go a long way. Whether it’s your favourite orchids or bottle of bubbly, chocolate truffles or acai berries, down pillows or country music, the attaché makes a note of all your preferences even before you set foot on the property. Here are some interesting services the Taj Royal Attache provides:

Royal Packing service where the attaches assist with unpacking and packing, laundry, pressing, mending, shoe care and repair

Provide complimentary morning tea and coffee service

Assistance with travel plans, hotel reservations and other concierge related services

Royal dining in an exclusive venue, complete with lavish floral displays, musical accompaniment, candles and more.

Royal Farewell menu to see the guests off on their journey with a snack and beverage of their choice

(This article was published on November 26, 2012)
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