What is it? A business hotel in a business city. The 143-room Ista is situated close to the centre of Bangalore and is thus favoured by those who are visiting 'the Silicon Valley of India' for work. The rooms are smart and functional (and bathrooms contain toiletries from sister property Ananda, a destination spa in the Himalayas), but - with the exception of the four suites, which come with an outdoor patio and views over the low-rise city and towards Ulsoor Lake - are not especially noteworthy.
What's so special about the hotel, then? It is on the fourth floor that the Ista really comes into its own. All food and beverage outlets are on this floor, to better enable a business meeting to slip seamlessly from conference room (one floor below) to restaurant, and from restaurant to bar. And these are no ordinary food and beverage outlets. The al-fresco Liquid (near right) has been voted 'best lounge bar in India' for three years running by The Times of India while Lido - named after the theatre that once stood on the hotel site - is a pleasant, airy all-day dining venue that overlooks the hotel's infinity pool. The Ista's pride and joy, though, is the Pink Poppadom (above far right). Open only in the evenings, it has been acknowledged by The Times as the purveyor of the 'best modern Indian cuisine' in the land.
What on earth is 'modern Indian cuisine'? The top chefs - locals who earned their chops in Beverly Hills and London - are keen to stress that 'modern Indian' is not fusion food, rather traditional fare (with that all-important twist, of course) presented in a non-traditional way - i.e. in single portions. In the PP, four Ps - plating, pairing, passion and (a hint of) pink - are all imPortant. Here you'll find pumpkin masala lasagna; Coorg chicken, a customer favourite; sea bass cooked with Amritsari spices in pita bread; and, for dessert, a chocolate souffle with malai pista kulfi and candied pecan nut. Along the way, the kitchen has cooked up a few surprises; an amusing amuse bouche (a complimentary two-tone cold mulligatawny presented in the bowl as the yin-yang symbol), for example, and poppadoms that really are pink.
'This is where your new love affair with creative Indian cuisine begins,' promises the website - and, do you know what? As marketing blurb goes, that is not particularly far-fetched.
Anything else we should know? It is 38 kilometres from the city's smart, new airport to the Ista. Dragonair's flights to/from Bangalore arrive/leave in the dead of night, which you'll count as a blessing once you've encountered the daytime traffic. When you get to the Ista, don't be alarmed by the step-through metal detector at the entrance to the lobby; all hotels in India have had to use them since 9/11.
What's the bottom line? Room rates start at 6,999 rupees (HK$1,000; plus taxes) a night during the week and 6,399 rupees at weekends.
Ista Bangalore is at 1/1 Swami Vivekananda Road, Ulsoor, Bangalore, India, tel: 91 80 2555 8888; www.istahotels.com/hotels-bangalore.aspx.