Anyone who has lived in Bangalore in the 80s and 90s would vouch for the oft-voiced sentiment that the city has now lost its charm. No more is Bangalore the quaint ‘garden city’, that stayed in a sweet slumber until noon on weekends. Today, in this, ever-expanding IT hub, the streets are never quiet and the snarl of incessant traffic is played on a loop.
There are still, however, pockets in which the old Bangalore remains alive. And no sooner that I enter the Grand Mercure, I know I have arrived at one.
Located on the 12th main in Koramangala, the hotel is engulfed in trees and so camouflaged it is by the greenery and the surrounding residences, that one might almost miss it.
Upon entering, I am smitten by the simplicity of the warmly lit lobby furnished with modern interiors. The check-in is smooth and I am escorted to my room by a courteous and helpful steward.The comfortable living area holds a sweet surprise – there is a small plate of personalized desserts awaiting me on the table. Yummy! A basic kitchenette and a tiny balcony looks onto tall trees that surround the property. As I take in the place, I am already imagining sipping my morning cuppa to the rustle of the wind through the branches.
Welcoming me into the bedroom, a cute dog fashioned out of a towel sits on the bed. My happiness scale is surely headed north.
After freshening up, I make my way to an early lunch through corridors lined with tasteful monochrome photographs of famous monuments. The walk is like a trip through Karnataka and the interiors are light, elegant and classy – as befitting an upscale hotel.
Having heard so much about their Saturday Sangria, my expectations are naturally high. And I am not disappointed. The restaurant By the Blue is set perfectly against the turquoise-blue waters of the pool and has an attached bar. This makes it just perfect for those warm summer afternoon brunches.
I take a seat on the upper deck where the cool wind offsets the summer heat. The effect is soporific, but I am brought quickly back to my senses as I look at the lavish spread: a grilling station followed by a ‘chaat’ counter, plus an array of beverages, soup and starters, salads, mains and desserts.
The juices are served in tiny earthen cups. I opt for guava-flavoured water and make a quick pit-stop at the salad bar before loading myself with the appetizers. The paneer, broccoli, and kebabs, accompanied with potato thyme soup, are fabulous. No doubt about that: the soup and starters steal the show for me.
And now to the mains- the paneer gravy and naan hit the spot. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the desserts. I miss the moistness and fluffiness in the waffles and the brownies are rather dry.
In the evening, I make my way towards the basement that houses the popular O2 spa. The gym is located exactly opposite to the spa, and it isn’t hard to guess which of the two I choose to visit. The spa experience is like a complete rejuvenation and rather soothing to my city-numbed senses.
Having stuffed myself like a thanksgiving turkey already, I know dinner would be close to impossible. So, I settle for a small cup of lentil shorba, which is delicious and a must try. My server insists I try the Dahi-ke-Kebabs, a specialty of theirs. I must say, I am glad I agree to.
My morning cuppa at the balcony is every bit as blissful as I’d imagined it to be. Breakfast is at the hotel’s other restaurant – The 12th Main, which gets its name from the establishment’s street address. Breakfast buffets are something I look forward to on any trip.
This one has donuts and croissants and Nutella (yes, nutella is a common noun) and peanut butter and jams, fruits and cereals and what not! It is like an Enid Blyton story come to life. It’s like a small picnic as I opt for a crème donut, a muffin and Misal Pav, a local Maharashtrian dish. While my plate is a muddle, the flavours are quite the opposite.
On my check out day, By the Blue is hosting an Easter Brunch, and I decide to give it a peek. The spread looks gorgeous – if indeed food can look that way – and the restaurant is packed with patrons.
On the whole, my stay at the Grand Mercure is pleasant. The staff is friendly and the service courteous and hospitable. The hotel makes an ideal choice for short business trips or even for an extended stay.