Tag Archives: hospitality

Grand(eur) all the way

Visiting any place in Gujarat always excites me as the State is so rich in art and culture and the prospect of getting a glimpse of that, in itself is an attraction.

So when Vadodara, beckoned, as Surya Palace, the iconic hotel in the city of Vadodara was being rebranded to Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace, it was reason enough to pay a visit.

Chukh chukh chakh chakh Bombay se Baroda tak. Rishi Kapoor’s famous song from the film ‘Rafoo Chakkar’ was playing in my head as I travelled by train to Vadodora, albeit from Surat.

Surya Palace is synonymous with Vadodara and boasts of warm hospitality, great food and impeccable service. But of course I needed to experience it for myself. Add to that the involvement of the world famous AccorHotels now, so the expectations were really high.

The warm welcome and smooth check in won my heart instantly. But it was the lobby with a display of a plethora of art works that caught my attention. I was mesmerized.

From the sculptures by Nagji Patel in the porch and the ceramic works of P. R. Daroz, Jyoti Bhatt, along with display of Padma Vibhushan Prof. K G. Subramanium’s paintings, it was like walking into a beautiful art gallery. That itself gave me an insight into the rich heritage of this hotel and its connect with the city of Vadodara.

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My well-appointed room with warm earthy colours, beautiful paintings and replete with amenities, appealed to me instantly. The attention to detail struck me as outstanding. Bharat Kumar Gupta, the Front Office Manager and his team were omnipresent, always ready to assist and help at any time of the day or night.

Deluxe King Room - Gand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels rightly said, “Grand Mercure is a cultural touchstone in each destination, capturing guests’ imagination and bringing local stories to life.” It certainly held true for Grand Mercure Surya Palace Vadodara.

Piyush Shah, Managing Director, Jindal Hotels Ltd with Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels at the launch of Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

The food, which is always the pivot of my existence, in more ways than one, surpassed my expectations. I expected to eat only Vegetarian food in Gujarat and perhaps only local delicacies, but Executive Chef Sudhakar Angre’s prowess in Non-vegetarian food at each meal surprised me at Azure, the all-day dining restaurant.  The quality of ingredients, the presentation and cooking methods used were impressive. No where was there an instance of spices overpowering the flavours. The ingredients were the hero. The sheer variety offered at each meal was amazing. From chicken quesadillas to lamb rogan josh and from panki to undhiyo, there was everything on offer. The Mediterranean offerings were equally lip-smacking. The local food was of course a treat for our taste buds- khaman, fafda, jalebis, sev tameta nu shaak etc

Vanilla the delicatessen, was hard to resist each time we stood in the lobby as the display of freshly made desserts, cookies, cakes, was alluring.

Just when I thought, I had sampled it all, the traditional Gujarati thali served to us for dinner on our last night there, swept me off my feet. The spread in the thali was expectedly varied, but the authenticity of the dishes and the manner in which it was served, left me awe struck. The local breads of Gujarat served were outstanding as were the aamras, kadhi, dal, undhyo, bhindi. It was a feast fit for royalty.

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The cultural function organsied by the Hotel giving us a peek into Gujarat’s rich cultural heritage was a treat as was the visit to places of interest like the Laxmi Vilas Palace and Fateh Singh Museum.

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Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, General Manager, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace said, “Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace will provide a unique dimension for guests staying at the property. With a distinctive portfolio of accommodation, dining destinations and MICE facilities, we are set to define new standards of hospitality and look forward to cater to the city’s growing tourism and business activities.”

Well, if the launch and my personal experience was anything to go by, the 146 room, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace certainly was all set to achieve this and more.

Not My Cuppa Tea!

Today, Atithi Devo Bhava (The guest is equivalent to God), a code of conduct in the Indian society, acquired a new meaning. Wagh Bakri Tea, the Ahmedabad headquartered, brew giant, redefined it.

I was invited to the opening of their new Tea lounge in Juhu at 11 am. Punctual by nature, I landed up at 11 am sharp, as I never like to keep any one waiting and abhor the same too. There was no one at the gate and a guard rudely accosted me asking me where I was heading. Upon mentioning media, he just nodded. I made my way into the lounge. No one there too, to guide or welcome us. A gentleman was seated at the table talking to a lady, I introduced myself. They were apparently from the company, but nonchalant, immersed in themselves.

Tired of standing for a long time, I took a seat. There was no sign of the young ladies from the PR agency and at Wagh Bakhri  of course, no one knew what was happening. I kept observing, bloggers, media persons coming in, feeling unwelcome, as the company personnel continued to look confused. No tea was offered. So what if we had braved the Friday morning showers and made our way to the Juhu venue? Nothing till “Sir” comes, was being murmured in hushed tones.

Half an hour elapsed, but there was no sign of anything starting. Meanwhile, eunuchs came, demanded money, the Wagh Bakri person replied, “nothing can be given till the Seth arrives and the inauguration is done.” Where then was the Seth aka Parag Desai, CEO Wagh Bakri, for whom, we were all supposedly waiting. Of course nothing was communicated to us, lesser mortals about His Highness’ arrival and the consequent delay.

Balloons were being put, the floor being swept, fans switched off. So what if we guests were sweating it out? We were inconsequential. We mattered the least to Wagh Bakri. The preparations of the event were well underway after  the invitees were there. Huh?

Minutes later we were unceremoniously shunted to the lobby of a small hotel next door and made to huddle up in the stinky lobby. If the company staff and others could be inside, on the other side of the red ribbon, why couldn’t we? Why were we invited in the first instance, if it was meant to be a company/ internal affair. Inaugurate it, settle down and then invite media some other day. You can’t have the best of both worlds and that too when you have no idea about hospitality ?

I was at the end of my tether. Called the PR lady who had just arrived. I stood out in the sun waiting. She tried to cajole me assuring me, saying it would start soon. His Highness had not yet arrived, after all, so how could it begin. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, were what we were being told repeatedly. Till 12 noon, nothing happened. Of course my patience wore off and I left, with a promise never to return again. Thank you, but no thank you, this is not Indian hospitality and if this is what Wagh Bakri stands for, I’d rather have nothing to do with their ilk future. Not my cup of tea, this!