Luxury Hotels

INDIA – 13

The Diospyros melanoxylon, also known as Coromandel ebony or East Indian ebony, is a species of flowering tree in the family Ebenaceae,native to India and Sri Lanka. It has given its name to the Coromandel or Cholamandalam, coastal region of the Indian subcontinent, bounded by the Utkal Plains to the north, the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Kaveri delta to the south, and the Eastern Ghats to the west, In all it covers an area of about 22,800 square kilometres.

It’s also the name of Chennai’s first luxury hotel, Taj Coromandel, built in 1974 by the scion of the Reddy hospitality industry. The L-shaped building has 212 rooms, and there is an imposing marble lobby designed by Chandu Chhada. Really, for a 50-year old the hotel is remarkably sprightly, and it has lots of style. Agent in the sixth floor Taj Club strut as mannequins in their stunning nautical blue and white striped blazers, white trousers and white and tan correspondent shoes (so called because that’s what media men used to sport, long ago before jeans and sneakers came on-stage).

It was a joy to be back at Southern Spice, an imposing temple-like restaurant that is a regular haunt for locals. Foods are served on banana leaf-lined metal dishes with a multitude of smaller dishes holding different accompaniments, yoghurts through to powerful mango chutney. The eating choice also includes Anise, where they thoughtfully alert you which are busiest breakfast hours, but even at that time they somehow manage to produce eggs-to-order in under two minutes. The hotel is, indeed, like a well-oiled machine, with flexible authenticity. Nothing is too much trouble. Girlahead sent just the body of her puffer hoodie to the laundry. It came back, far before the requested time, in a linen-lined basket. She learned her lesson. Try as she could the hood would not re-zip to the body. No problem, a smiling Club guy took it to the laundry and within half an hour it was back. On a hanger.


There’s another Club here, Chambers, one of Taj’s private-members gathering spots. This is where invited locals and out-of-town members can meet, work, socialise. Chambers Chennai is ground floor and flows out to the garden, a well-organised space that allows Chambers clubbers to sit out, in upright chairs, across the curvilinear pool from holiday makers, sitting back in folding deckchairs as they relax after another day of sightseeing – or cricket. You could say Chennai, or Madras-as-was, is the home of Indian cricket. Madras Cricket Club, yes, the MCC, was founded by one Alexander Arbuthnot in 1846, and the city remains a magnet for cricket-lovers.

This is, overall, a really comfortable hotel – see a video of ┬ásuite 638, on the Taj Club floor: