Doon With a View

Holed up happily at the Hyatt Regency Dehradun, a writer rekindles memories of boarding school life while making new ones to remember.

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The beautifully designed Hyatt Dehradun is a sight for sore eyes. Photo courtesy: Hyatt Regency Dehradun

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

On my last stay in Dehradun, I hadn’t the courage to wash my hair.

Boarding school was largely fun, but dragging aluminium buckets full of hot water from the communal tap across to the partitioned bathing area was a chore my teenage self simply dreaded.

Those darned buckets are long gone. Yet, life continues to find new ways to weigh even the best of us down. When you’re sorely in need of a perk up, a posh two-night stay with pampering can go a long way.

I think of that now, almost three decades later, standing in the luxurious bathroom at the Hyatt Regency Dehradun. Will it be a rain shower with perfect water pressure or a relaxing soak in a fragrant bath? Spoilt for choice, the winking LED clock in the mirror seems to say.

Hyatt Regency Dehradun, the hotel chain’s first foray into the hilly regions of Uttarakhand, opened in March 2022. When I first hear about it, I’m sceptical; the Dehradun I grew up in was a school town with a smattering of non-descript lodgings. Not the first place I’d head to for some serious R&R.

This hotel, however, is a revelation.

An hour’s drive from Jolly Grant Airport, the last leg of the journey to my destination is a bumpy stretch of road through the Danio Ka Danda village. Shaken and stirred, I get out of the car and find myself simply floored by the soaring majesty of the mountain that forms a backdrop to the garden-variety building. Later, over drinks, when the hotel general manager Harkaran Singh tells me he took one look at the site and saw its potential, I just know the feeling.

 

Pining for the woods

Doon With A View

Enjoy the snazziest cocktails (bottom) by some of India’s finest mixologists at the indoor bar area (top). Photos Courtesy: Hyatt Regency Dehradun

To maximise use of the awkwardly shaped, 4.25-acre plot, and accommodate 263 rooms, a ballroom and four multipurpose lounges that can cater to 600 to 800 guests, the hotel has been built upward instead of outward. With floor-to-ceiling windows and rooftops doubling up as recreational spaces, there’s a concerted attempt to bring the outdoors inside. The Regency Suite where I’m staying, for instance, has an absolutely stunning panorama of the mountain, which is part of the Malsi Reserve Forest.

Standing at the window, I soak it all in, but there’s also a part of me that longs to go out and explore. Since there is no direct access to any trails from the hotel, however, I’d have to enlist the concierge’s help to plan a walk on the wild side.

With the focus indoors, it’s up to the hotel staff to create an unforgettable experience for guests and that’s where they get a near-perfect score. There’s a serene beauty to the minimalist decor, and thoughtful accent pieces add warmth. Dehra’s pine cone is one such motif that keeps popping up, from the life-sized, hand-crafted wooden sculpture that dominates the entrance to the stone carvings on the guest room walls. A small decorative cone in my farewell goodie bag has a tag that reveals its significance. ‘As the main function of the pine cone is to keep a pine tree’s seeds safe, this pine cone exemplifies our commitment towards your well-being always.’

I’m staying in one of the hotel’s 24 suites, which at almost 800 square feet is spacious enough for a family of four. However, there are no room dividers in this suite, so privacy is limited. Along with the friendly notes that are part of my hotel welcome, there are some fetching add-ons. A bright little origami bird on my pillow. A shapely moulded chocolate shoe filled with decadent truffles. The best surprise? Ellora’s Caramel Stick Jaws. As I bite into the soft, creamy candy from a much-loved bakery from my younger days, I wonder why it feels different.

Of course! I don’t have to watch out for my braces anymore.

 

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Doon With A View

Enjoy an evening tipple at Sky Pool Bar & Deck. Photo Courtesy: Hyatt Regency Dehradun

 

Setting the bar high

On my first evening, I head to the Sky Pool Bar & Deck for a sundowner cocktail. Adjacent to the hotel’s infinity pool, this is a bar dedicated to white spirits. I ask Memu from the bar to choose for me. Her pick is Light N Stormy—vodka, apple juice, lime and almond cordial served with hickory smoke. Spicy, sweet and smoky, it’s the perfect companion to watch a mountain sunset.

On day two, I attend Bar Paathshala, a cocktail class set up at the whiskey-only Malt Bar. Shanky, our enthusiastic instructor, shows us a Kashmir-inspired spin on an Old-Fashioned with walnut-infused bourbon whiskey and hazelnut cordial. It’s fierce; I prefer the refreshing Minty Monty Mighty Mule, an unusual pairing of blended scotch with kaffir lime leaves, ginger ale and mint cordial.

The drinks are superlative, and one of the high points of the stay here. The bar menu has been designed by Yangdup Lama of Delhi’s Sidecar, India’s best mixologists who also happens to be a one-time Hyatt bartender.

I’m told there’s a third bar in the works at the hotel, this one dedicated to rum. Getting into the spirit of things, I put in a request for a wine bar too.

 

Doon With A View

Inside its posh five-star interiors (top), comfort meals such as the pahadi chutney with paranthas (bottom) offer guests a homely sojourn. Photos Courtesy: Hyatt Regency Dehradun

Flavours, old and new

Now, I should mention that us boarding school girls love to reminisce about our dining hall meals. Kadhi Chawal! Jam Tarts! Cutlets! Even tales of NutriNugget Curry have been savoured years after we left town.

Food memories are powerful, and the Hyatt’s executive chef Sahil Arora understands that. His team has worked hard to incorporate familiar tastes on the menu, along with global cuisines that may not be locally available.

The weekday spread at the hotel’s all-day restaurant lives up to its name. At Range, you’ll find California roll and chaat, Pahadi Wadi and pizza, Hunan lamb and handi biryani. The menu has been thoughtfully curated; I loved the healthy cut fruit section for dinner and the live masala chai and Maggi counters at breakfast. I tried my first Banta, the lemony drink sold on thelas across north India, and thoroughly enjoyed the authentic Agra chaat.

My trip coincided with the launch of Range’s Sunday brunch, where all this fabulous food times three was laid out. A far cry from the butter chicken/sizzler/chowmein routine of my 16-year-old self’s Sunday outings. The impressive dessert counter deserves a special mention. The cake modelling was exquisite; almost everything looked too fancy to eat. The Deconstructed Apple Pie and Contemporary Black Forest were both cleverly done and delicious, and the incredibly fluffy Old-style Chiffon Buttercream Cake just melted in my mouth.

For a change, you can also head to the rooftop restaurant Beyul where I had my last meal with a picturesque view.

 

Misty Water-Coloured Memories

What makes a hotel a great destination? I’d say it’s the people.

No, I’m not talking about the guests, some of whom are fully-dressed swimmers splashing around in the pool, or the corporate groups and band baaja baraatis roaming the lawns, forcing you to cower in your rooms.

I mean the backbone of the hotel, its staff.

On my first night, I was really tired after the long journey. The buffet at Range, though tempting, seemed a bit overwhelming for my weary soul. I asked one the chefs if they could make me a simple roti to go with the Dal Palak that tasted just like we make at home. He brought out the perfect phulka, my first at a five-star hotel.

School was a joyful time in my life, and Dehradun will forever be linked to that. To make new memories even as the old ones come flooding back necessitates making quite an impression. Happily, this escape in the heart of the hills has me smitten.

 

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Essentials

Hyatt Regency Dehradun in located on the Dehradun-Mussoorie Road, along the NH-7. The hotel is 40 kilometres from Jolly Grant Airport and 35 kilometres from Dehradun railway station. If you’re travelling from Delhi-NCR, I suggest the six-hour drive down is the best option because you can explore the surroundings on your own. Rooms (single occupancy in season) start at Rs 24,000. (hyatt.com)

Responsible travellers should note that this is a hotel that ticks all the boxes. Recyclable coffee pouches instead of plastic pods, vegan toiletries and glass-bottled water tell me their sustainability initiatives are on point. Families with kids can enjoy Camp Hyatt, an indoor play area with toys, table tennis and a Playstation 4. For adults, there’s the Sammoda spa where you absolutely must ask for masseuse Reeya.

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  • Sonal Nerurkar is a writer, editor and occasional traveller based out of Delhi-NCR.

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