Without sounding like I’ve done the town, I have actually slept in many wonderful beds – I’m talking here about five star hotel ones for the most part – abodes of the clean, crisp, 600 thread count white sheets, goose down pillows, 4 of them usually, and great big mattresses with just enough blankets or quilts or whatever to shield you from the air conditioning but don’t smother in the process. It’s amazing how they get it right. So the latest bed I’ve slept in was at the relatively new Shangri-La Bangalore. There are so many luxury hotels in India today that it’s difficult to understand what a new hotel can do to make the experience of luxury travel even more special. Well, it started here with the Shangri La rep waiting for me inside the airport as opposed to outside with a placard. That was a nice touch. The check in was as smooth as the sheets and all done in the privacy of your room. I arrived late at night so just snuck straight into bed. And a great bed it is. Shangri La is an Asian chain and is known for its comfort and lavish decor. Apart from the great bed and 600 thread count Egyptian sheets or whatever, it was nice to be back in a room with a carpet. I am getting a bit fed up of cold tile floors and ultra contemporary bedrooms with black bathrooms and chrome fittings. Not me at all. the next morning, weary from travel, I indulged in a morning at the spa….its spacious and comfortable and has the most exquisite floral glass chandelier in the entrance ….over the top, yes, but not tacky. The signature thing here are the warm, centrally heated tile benches and the heated massage beds. Difficult to get my bottom off. The jacuzzi is also very effective for aching muscles. The CHI spa uses organic products and the most divine rose oil in their blends.
To a working lunch. Now I’m feeling like a real madam. What really bowled me over at the Shangri-La was the quality of food. I have grown weary of eating in 5 star hotels – the food is often mediocre, safe but frozen and made by chefs who today have neither the passion nor the exposure or experience to produce interesting well cooked dishes. When I come to a five star, I want to be “wowed”. I can cook. I come for an experience above and beyond what I can do. I don’t need theatre but I do expect something superlative on my plate. The new Executive chef, Anuruddh Khanna is running all over the place between 19 floors and their 8 restaurants, clocking up kilometres on his Fit Bit in order to deliver something different. At Shang Palace, their Chinese with a Sichuan bent – he has three chefs from Mainland China of which one is from Chengdu. One takes care of the BBQ, one dim sum and the other is on the range. And what they produce is nothing short of 100% authentic. They import the essential ingredients of Sichuan cooking, the hot, numbing and highly addictive Sichuan pepper. I had never tasted the fresh green ones before – dynamite – like a trip to the dentist with flavour. From the cold vegetarian appetisers of okra and crispy radish to the stir fried scallops with asparagus and home-made XO sauce, the dishes kept coming, one better than the next. It was like being in Hong Kong. XO is a difficult sauce to make for any Chinese chef. Spicy, tangy, salty and umami with abalone and Yunnan ham, this is really an acid test for any chef worth his Sichuan pepper – and they passed, with flying colours.
The other great dining experience is Yataii, a beautifully designed Japanese restaurant, very Zen, very lovely, on the 18th floor of the hotel with stunning views. They offer simplicity of the highest quality – sushi, sashimi, a dedicated teppanyaki table (here the “theatre” works) and the most fabulous all encompassing bento box at an incredible price of 999/- ! For dinner!
Drinks at Hype, their roof top bar is a must. On previous trips to Bangalore, the 13th floor bar in Barton Centre would satisfy my lust for a city view, but Hype now takes over that spot.
There’s lots to discover at the new Shangri-La. Unlimited Canadian Lobster night, seafood Thursday’s, chai in the lobby and so on….I urge you to try it not only because of the superlative quality but also the prices….with five star comfort and service, you’ll be hard pressed to find food like this at these prices in any stand alone in the city.