Taj Coromandel, Chennai
What is it? Located on Mahatma Gandhi Road, Chennai's Taj Coromandel is understated elegance and Indian hospitality at their best and a welcome reprieve from the heat and chaos of the city that used to be called Madras. The property boasts a spacious old-world feel and stepping past the towering Bengali doorman, dressed in a magnificent regal uniform, you enter a lobby serviced by staff who seem to glide across the polished floors.
So it's an old hotel? No, you can't call it old, but it has become a landmark since it opened in 1974. The Taj is the place in which to host an event, or stay if you are looking to make an impact while in Chennai. Its bars are popular for networking and its restaurants perfect for proposals. The lobby and exteriors hark back to yesteryear, with a classical colonial style - and the guest rooms are cutting edge.
Cutting edge, you say? The basic luxury rooms feature 450 square feet of indulgence; there are cavernous wardrobes in which to hide your day's purchases, plasma televisions, spacious work areas and modern bathrooms with multinozzle showers. If you want a real pampering, take a Taj Club room (right), which comes with a complimentary airport pick up, an 'invisible' butler service, breakfast and cocktails in the Taj Club Lounge and an array of additional perks. There are also executive, luxury and 'grand luxury' graded suites as well as a royal and a presidential apartment.
What about dining? Anise offers a western and Indian buffet breakfast and some of the best coffee in southern India. With large windows looking out across the pool garden, the restaurant is a great place in which to start your day (and the kitchen grills rather than fries, so the health conscious should be happy). Lovers of Italian cuisine will enjoy Prego's fresh flavours and innovative dishes but Southern Spice is the true dining experience at the Taj, complete with traditional dance recitals, coffee rituals and a clairvoyant, whose parrot selects cards that determine your future. The food is stunning.
What's there to do after hours? Retire to the popular Victorian-themed Fort St George Bar for a nightcap. This Victorian-themed watering hole features live blues and jazz. A piano player entertains people in the hotel lobby in the evenings.
What's the bottom line? A Taj Club room costs 14,000 rupees (HK$2,300) per night.
The Taj Coromandel is at 37 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai, India, tel: 91 44 6600 2827. For bookings, visit www.tajhotels.com.