MAHABALIPURAM: As showcases go, it’s a considerable statement by a hospitality major in a fast growing market. The recently opened InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort hits all the sweet spots. It is global hospitality major IHG’s first resort in India, it’s location on the coast just south of emerging manufacturing and services hub Chennai means it has a ready market right next door, and its modern aesthetics make it a destination by itself. Of course, for guests from further afield, the impressive historical credentials of Mahabalipuram are an icing.
Getting to the hotel from the Chennai Airport is a breeze, especially when you get transported by the hotel’s chauffeur driven BMW, complete with wifi, there for airport transfers. Passing through the suburbs of Chennai, snatches of the sea are visible, only whetting the appetite.
The 105-room resort, owned by Adyar Gate Hotels, who also own the landmark Park Sheraton (now Crowne Plaza) in Chennai, catches you almost unawares. It is striking. No, not in the way coastal resorts usually are with pretty cottages and wooden benches and striped umbrellas. Instead what we have here is a modern, almost Spartan, subdued low rise.
Easily the most notable aspect of the resort is its design and layout. Given the current restrictions of building away from the coastline, most of the rooms in the resort actually look inwards – facing two immense water bodies divided by a long walkway. While a swimming pool occupies one side, the other side has a vast water body resembling those found in temples in the region. Palms in round anchored islands, lotus blooms in outsized sunken flower pots, a performance stage which resonate with live notes in the evenings, and a striking sculpture of metal flowers make this at once a place of solitude and pleasure.
Architects CV Sydney have taken inspiration from the classic temples of the region, transforming them into a contemporary idiom. Local elements, such as the ubiquitous dark stone of the region, is omnipresent, even gracing a wall mural in the stunning reception area. Ox-blood coloured Chettinad athangudi tiles enliven the floors, with ample scope for daily kolams, or traditional floral patterns.
Given that a lot of the leisure guests are from the neighbouring region, the hotel has conjured up innovative experiences. F&B offerings include The Melting Pot: Market Cafe, with three live kitchens while a Chinese Specialty Restaurant, Tao of Peng, presided over chef Avinash Naha, brings new level of the cuisine to the city, and is emerging as a destination restaurant. The Gatsby Lounge, befitting its name, is straight out of the roaring ‘20s.
The resort also offers a range of activities to keep you busy. Admirable aesthetics apart, there are yoga classes, a gym and a spa within the hotel. Foraying outside could mean going to the crocodile farm almost next door, or water sports further up the beach. A trip to the famous Pallava temples of Mahabalipuram 12 kilometres is an option, or Puducherry, a two-hour drive. Avail of the genial had concierge Vignesh’s amazing knowledge of the area to figure out what suits you best.
The resort’s 92 rooms open to a world of luxurious comfort. In contrast to the minimalist exterior, these rooms exemplify understated opulence, weaving in local touches with cutting edge design. A large daybed is a highlight, as are the ergonomic features. All mattresses sit on a terrazzo plinth, while the black granite combines beautifully with the white lacquered timber generously used all over. The 12 East Coast Suites and the singular Vilasa Suite, which overlook the Bay of Bengal, take these elements and more to another level, making it harder for guests to leave!
The vast beach, unsurprisingly, is another highlight. Whether it is an early morning stroll, or a very special evening dinner experience, as the gently roaring sea sends in a deliciously cool breeze, time at the beach. It would be hard to top the Dine by Design, the private beachside dining concept. Or a stay at this beachside oasis.