Until late November last year, Bangalore had practically been alien to me. On two separate occasions, I had drifted in and out of the city, never stopping for more than a few hours. Stories of its traffic were all tales of horror, but the weather, I was repeatedly told, made up for the snarls. I needed to get away desperately, and a weekend in India’s garden city did hold some promise. I was resolute and optimistic.
The staff at Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway insisted they’d send a car to pick me up from the airport. For three quarters of an hour, I was distracted by my vehicle’s Wi-Fi. When the driver announced our arrival was imminent, I looked up to find myself surrounded by buildings that were almost entirely made of glass. Standing tall, the 420-foot World Trade Centre building, the tallest commercial structure in South India, curved stylishly. The Orion Mall and Columbia Asia Hospital were a stone’s throw away. When we stopped in the foyer of the Sheraton Grand, I walked back to take a picture. Bangalore couldn’t ask for a better postcard. This was the development the IT hub likes to tout.
The hotel’s location—situated at the centre of the Brigade Gateway enclave—explains the primarily business profile of its guests. Their willingness to facilitate an early check-in was perhaps proof that their amenability was practised. With formalities cleared quickly, I found myself roaming the rooms of my surprisingly large executive suite. The ample use of wood made the rooms reminiscent of 1960s American hotels, but strangely, it also added to a luxury that was both corporate and modern. From my window, I could see Bangalore expand horizontally and vertically. Importantly, though, I spotted an infinity pool. I had, it suddenly began to seem, chosen the perfect spot for my hurried weekend escape.
I was too tired to walk down for breakfast. To judge the quality of a hotel’s F&B, I usually have the one yardstick—how good is their Eggs Benedict? Thirty minutes after I had called a particularly helpful lady in room service, I was served eggs that were delectably runny, a hollandaise sauce that had the perfect texture and a warm muffin that was thankfully soft. Sifting through some literature about the hotel, I had learnt of their ‘Go Beyond’ programme, an initiative that encourages the hotel’s staff to go a step further when engaging with customers. Hotel managers and employees were supposed to keep an eye out for lost toys and teddy bears. They were asked to make sure that the many wires travellers carried were all wrapped in velcro. Food preferences were to be respected, so in my book, they deserved a 10.
The Sheraton Grand went the extra mile in almost all aspects of its hospitality. Before my massage at the Shine Spa, my feet were bathed in the usual water and rose petals, but for good measure, the attendant had also added some milk to the bowl. Just as all the spoiling had begun to leave me a tad guilty, I dug into a calzone at Bene, the Sheraton’s Italian restaurant. Walking over to my table, Chef Allesandro Bechini wore a smile that was as generous as his food. “This is all traditional Italian fare,” he said. “I cook the way my grandmother would a hundred years ago.” Having arrived in October, Chef Bechini had only spent six weeks at the Sheraton Grand when I met him. He did, however, already have an anecdote or two to share. In early November, a British guest had walked in with an unusual request. He wanted an Indian meal cooked in an Italian style. Laughing about how he made a risotto a pulao, adding Italian spices to chicken tikka, Chef Bechini looked amused, not troubled. “This is what we do. We go beyond.”
At Feast, the hotel’s coffee shop, a crooner deftly belted out Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse the next afternoon. The lush spread of seafood justified the line I was made to wait in. The crowd did make one thing clear—the Sheraton Grand, which first opened its doors in 2011, was now popular amongst local Bangalorians. Its restaurants like the Persian Terrace allowed patrons to sit outside, thereby making most of the city’s enviable weather. On the top of the World Trade Centre was a nightclub called High. Managed by the hotel, it offered something more than just its staggering view. There was also an exhaustive menu of food and beverages to choose from.
My senses loosened a little, I returned to my suite and found the ingredients of a Bloody Mary laid out on a DIY board. As I lined the rim of my glass with salt, I realised Bangalore was still alien to me. I didn’t once feel the need to leave my hotel. My inertia was a good sign. Unlike the hotel, I did not go beyond.
www.sheratongrandbangalore.com; doubles from Rs 6,400
Shreevatsa Nevatia never travels without his headphones, coloured pens and a book. He is particularly fond of cities, the Middle East, and the conversations he has along the way. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveller India.