It was a five-star hotel that nearly got scuppered as soon as it stepped off the drawing board. “When we started digging, we encountered terrain so rocky we doubted whether the hotel would materialise at all!” recalls Ashwini Kumar, COO of Nitesh Estates, the developer that built and owns the Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, the first of the chain in the country.
But that and other hurdles aside, the hotel, positioned as one of the most luxurious (and expensive) in India, finally opened its Jaipur-style doors to guests last week.
The property is located on Residency Road in the heart of Bangalore, but the trees outside and the longish driveway means the L-shaped, 16-storey hotel does not dominate the landscape. Once you’ve stepped inside, though, it’s easy enough to forget the hubbub outside.
The 277-room hotel has elements of Rajasthani jali work throughout, from the frame of the main door right down to the lift doors. The incorporation is subtle enough to blend with the rest of the decor. The property had 26 global design firms working on it, with the principal architects being WATG, which also designed The Leela in Goa.
The lighting, funky or opulent by turns, is by a firm in San Francisco. “We’ve also sourced chandeliers from six places across the world,” says Nitesh Shetty, chairman of Nitesh Estates, who personally approved the lighting, artworks, landscaping, designs of the restaurants and bars, and the 17,000-square-foot spa.
The artworks, spread across the hotel, number over 1,200 and include some of India’s biggest names. The lobby has paintings by Bose Krishnamachari, Paresh Maity and Sujata Bajaj, with a statue of Picasso by American sculptor Robert St Croix near the entrance.
The hotel has seven dining options, though Ganache, the pastry shop, and Bang, the roof-top bar, will open a little later. The others include Riwaz, with cuisine from the North-West Frontier Province; The Lantern, a Chinese dimsum house spread across three levels; The Market, a multi-cuisine and all-day dining space; and the ornate Ritz-Carlton Bar.
The restaurants have options for private seating. Overseeing the restaurants is Executive Chef Anupam Banerjee who earned a Michelin star while heading the Mandarin Oriental in Geneva.
The rooms, starting at Rs 14,850, are steeper than the competition, but Shetty points out that Ritz-Carlton properties across the world are priced 20-25% higher than the market. The linen in all the rooms is Frette and the toiletries from Asprey in London.
The presidential suite, called the Ritz-Carlton Suite, is spread over 3,157 square feet and has its own 14-seater dining table, kitchen, and wine cellar. A personal butler and chef are available on request. If you want to be exclusive but not spend Rs 3.5 lakh for a night in the Ritz-Carlton Suite, one of the club rooms on levels 14-16 could be an option.
Pay a 20-25% premium on the normal rate, and you will be whisked up to one of these on arrival, and get personal attention, from business cards saying you’re in residence at the Ritz, to service round the clock. And then there is the famous afternoon tea, scheduled to start soon at the third floor lobby.
But what will set the Ritz apart from its competition, says general manager Shane Krige, are its “ladies and gentlemen”, as the staff are referred to. One of the group’s unique policies is the $2,000 allowance given to each staff member that can be spent on guests at their discretion, without seeking clearance from a superior.
“More than the dollar figure, it’s about empowerment,” says Krige. An instance at the chain’s Abu Dhabi property showed how this can be used. The engineering team built a ramp overnight so that a guest with a disability who had wished to watch the sunset on the beach could be wheeled down.
Ritz-Carlton properties, he says, also maintain an extensive database of its guests, where personal preferences are noted, such as what guests are allergic to and even which side of the bed they sleep on.
Shetty, and everybody else involved in the development of the Rs 750-crore property, expects the Ritz-Carlton to raise the bar of luxury hotels in Bangalore and is quite confident it will.
“We’re expecting Rs 200 crore revenue in the first year itself,” he says. It is perhaps an ambitious target. But then again, it’s the Ritz-Carlton.