Downstairs rooms in the Club area of Goa’s top-flight luxury hotel, The Leela, have plunge pools but they are only semi-private as others can look over them. The gal was, this time, upstairs in the two-floor block. 935 had a wonderful and firm Seely bed, gorgeous views, over manicured lawns with lots of egrets and, beyond, the Arabian Sea. Because many stay here for at least a week, there are lots of eating places, one highlight being Leela Riverside, the Italian restaurant just across the public road (which is not exactly ‘main’ at this stage as it has really petered out, almost becoming a dead end).
Dine at Leela Riverside, inside if you must or out on the terrace, which is the general favourite. The taped music is perfect, with rolling classics into which Lara‘s theme from Dr Zhivago blends quite naturally (the music is personally chosen by the hotel’s savvy GM, Shridhar Nair, who says when he has lots of Indians staying, which is usually during the summer months, he switches to more razzmatazz, Bollywood-themes and so on). Some people here, by the way, choose to eat at the Club Lounge, a separate building that really does provide a feeling of a Raj-type club transported to the 21st century.
All the food I had during my stay was absolutely delicious – the chef, who delights in a single name, Bharupha, seems able to supervise any style of cuisine (loved my deconstructed eggplant parmigiano). After so much eating, the typical Leela Goa-ite needs some exercise. As well as swimming and tennis, this place has free bikes, and masses of day-long activities, interestingly aimed mostly at Elders or Just Kids. The former have a range of yoga, circuit training, golf putting or nature walks while the latter are enticed with bottle art, glitter art and drawing classes.
The conductor of this exciting orchestra is Shridhar Nair himself. Why, I asked him, did he become a hotelier rather than a Bollywood producer or an impressario? His elder cousin was an Extremely Important Person in another hotel company and, as we know, kids prefer to emulate those a little older than themselves so here he is, now running the luxury hotel that is making about 45 percent more than any of its competitors (no-one, surely, can have this idyllic and spacious campus, so well closeted away from the hubbub of Goa).