Intercontinental’s first Indian resort property is unconventional and excellent
Sometimes, it’s nice to have your expectations belied. I would not be far off the mark if I told you that the Intercontinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort was unlike anything I had expected it to be. But we’ll get to that in a second.
As my chauffeur-driven BMW swung out of Chennai airport, I settled down for the comfortable 45-minute ride and scoped out the resort’s offerings on the tablet I had been provided. There was wi-fi too, were I to need it, but I was riveted already. Just ahead of Crocodile Bank, we drove into the resort. Tall, granite walls shaded the property from the prying eyes of the East Coast Road. So, it was not until my car had come to a halt at the soaring portico, that I got my first sense of the resort’s rather unconventional barracks-like layout. Given its location, so near the hallowed Shore Temple, where I had expected a more traditional nod to heritage, here was a bold reimagining instead. The temple square, the temple tank, the pillared hall, were all present as inspirations but they had been reinvented and now belonged squarely with the future. The athangudi tiles exhibited uncharacteristic restraint and, in its startling rawness, the resort was reminiscent of the Brutalist architecture movement. So much the better—when the resort is not a distraction, the traveller can truly rest. A welcome counterpoint to this were the ridiculously luxurious rooms and I instantly fell in love with mine: with its spaciousness, with the view of the sea across the new landscaping, with the black onsen-like tub occupying pride of place in the bathroom.
By evening, the architecture seemed softened by brass urlis, frangipani bushes, and subdued lighting. Art from the venerable Apparao Galleries was strewn all over the corridors. The lobby wall displayed an artwork chiselled into the wall itself, and evoked an architectural temple plan. I walked down to the beach and watched the translucent crabs scuttle for cover. The robust evening breeze smelt of salt. The waves had a distinctly muscular quality to them. After Timmy, my expert masseuse, had teased away the knots in my very tired body, I returned to the beach, to Dine by Design.
F&B is a key part of the experience at the Intercontinental Mahabalipuram, and Dine by Design has to be top dog. As I sat by the beach, the sky filled with stars, and the chef brought on course after course of cutting-edge eats (think molecular gastronomy, foam, etc). They also offer a Wine by Design option, but I (reluctantly) saved it for another day. The other F&B venues are the formal and theatrical Tao of Peng, a Chinese restaurant that only opens for dinner. The food here is yet to find its feet but it’s early days and I’m sure it’ll get there sooner rather than later. The Melting Pot, the all-day diner, offers sumptuous buffets as well as splendid a la carte offerings. Their South Indian thali, served in traditional utensils, is a minor work of art. The offerings change daily and, on the day I dined, these included a standout gongura mamasam.
Service can make or break a hotel. While I can’t claim to have the average punter’s experience, everyone at the Intercontinental seemed so deliriously happy to see me, that it was plain restorative. So there was a spring in my step when I ventured out next morning for an immersive experience of Mahabalipuram’s built heritage (tearing myself away from the allurements of the resort was hard, though). Intercontinental’s first Indian resort property is lovely and holds much promise. And I’m going to have a hard time waiting for the next one.
Where: 212 East Coast Rd, Nemelli Village, Perur Post Office, Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu 603104. 45-60 min from Chennai airport
Accommodation: 106 spacious guestrooms and suites
Tariff: From Rs 8,500
Contact: +91-44-71720101, www.ihg.com