Picasso at the Ritz Carlton, Bangalore

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” – Pablo Picasso

These profound words by Pablo Picasso resonate deep in the plush corridors of the super deluxe Ritz Carlton, Bangalore, which has art at its heart. Striding up the path to the entrance doors of the hotel, the first encounter is with the life size bronze sculpture of a frowning Pablo Picasso in a rocking chair, made by the American artist Robert St Croix. The plaque alongside informs that it was specially commissioned for Nitesh Residency Hotels, the owners and developers of the Ritz Carlton, Bangalore. Deeper to the left behind Picasso’s back, across the water body with low fountains, is the 8 foot bronze ‘Abrazo’, one of an Edition of just six made by the Cuban master sculptor Manuel Carbonell. I am told there are around 1240 art works on display in this hotel. In my eyes, Ritz Carlton, Bangalore has already notched up a few more stars.

The Ritz Carlton Luxury Hotels and Resorts has at its core the DNA of two premium hotels considered the last word in luxury in the era predating World War-I, the Ritz in Paris, and the Carlton Hotel in London, the address where royalty stayed, and heads of nations were hosted. A century hence, despite changes of ownerships, the brand continues to carry the legacy, as also does the first-in-India, the Ritz Carlton, Bangalore. Located in the heart of the city, on the busy Residency Road, flanked by a crude glass office block on its right and a scruffy housing apartment on its left, the mundaneness soon evaporates as the ambience shifts and the air get more rarefied within the premises of this beautiful hotel. Reported to have been built at a cost of Rs 750 crores, the 500.000 sqft, L-shaped 16 storied hotel block with 227 rooms is located on a 3 acre plot and took a little over four and a half years before it opened its doors about two years ago, on 30th October, 2013 to be precise.

Referencing our visits to other Ritz Carlton hotels in New York, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, the Bangalore Ritz franchise had all the known Ritzy elements –easy check-in, personalised stationery in the room, the Asprey London toiletries, the linen from the Italian luxury bed-ware brand Frette, the superb club house, a classic view from every window, glorious cuisines, the afternoon tea ritual, Business Centre with round the clock assistance, a fitness center. But the Bangalore Ritz had an additional edge, a feeling of warmth that comes from all the special attention in designing and the artworks, and the very warm and attentive team of ‘ladies and gentlemen’ at Ritz Carlton Bangalore. Meticulous, pristine, yet warm and cosy, eliciting a homey emotion that diffuses the cold corporate ultra trappings, it is the ultimate test for any luxury hotel, and Ritz Carlton Bangalore scored high.

Art at the Heart

A veritable art gallery, with serious art displayed everywhere. No marks for guessing, but clearly Nitesh Shetty, Chairman of Nitesh Estates, is an art connoisseur and serious collector. Satish Gupta’s ‘Autumn Forest,’ in the reception zone, the walls of the corridors leading up to the room were covered with the beautiful fabric collages by Poonam Paralkar, canvas byBose Krishnamachari, Paresh Maity, Sujata Bajaj, Seema Kohli, metal sculptors by Arzan Khambatta, Alexandra Gestin’s red Sumo, huge mural byRevati Sharma Singh in the banquet lounge, so many master pieces up-close, everywhere, to be viewed at leisure, or soak in as one dashed about one’s business. More impressive is that each of these art works was specially commissioned for the hotel. The lattice work in stone,wood, metal of the ‘Jaipur Jaali’ is a theme played out across the hotel, on the pillars in the driveway, in the lounge as lit niches, dividers in the spa, in the rooms as the sliding doors to filter the light from the windows, the elevators. Expertly analysed, the balance between aesthetics and practicality, the lighting of each area was more than fancy bulb holders, with chandeliers that looked like art installations. I was informed that the florists at the hotel were specially trained to follow the Ritz Carlton Way of floral displays.

The leading architect firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG), which has designed over 60 Ritz-Carlton hotels in 25 countries, worked with 26 global design firms. For instance, the lighting was designed by a San Francisco based firm, and the opulent chandeliers were sourced from half a dozen locations on the globe.

Wine n’ Dine

This is a very exciting place for the gastronome with the choice of seven dining venues. And with its location in the heart of the city, Ritz Carlton provides a good place to host business lunches, or post work dinners. Adding sheen to this is the Executive Chef Anupam Banerjee, who moved from Mandarin Oriental and has been around since pre-opening, bringing in the right elements. Winner of two Michelin stars, he recounts the excitement when the first Michelin was awarded within a year of opening of the restaurant Rasoi, at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva, and how Bloomberg leaked the information three days ahead of Michelin’s Red Book, which came out on 19th November, 2007. With his credentials, I was more eager to check out the grub scene, and explore the restaurants.

At ground level is the gourmet pastry shop Ganache, offering a choice of fresh brewed coffees, teas, a copper Samovar in action, wafting aroma of freshly baked cakes and more. Our Picasso is seated right across the passage, and I am tempted to take my coffee to the chairs and tables set outside. Besides the sinfully delicious cakes and patisserie, Ganache also stocks skin care products. Hmmm…that is interesting.

The most imposing presence is that of the Chinese restaurant Lantern, glass walled, its three floors accessible at every level, sitting right up front in thedriveway, lending the short arm to the L- shape of the building. The arty interiors are by Japanese firm Super Potato Design. Walls with books as bricks, or bales of cloth, coloured glass bottles, a single orchid leaning in a square vase, very Zen. The Lantern is really the House of Dim Sums, with 20-25 varieties of Dim Sums underMaster Chef David Chang, who churns out delicately flavoured, melt-in-the-mouth Crystal dumplings with translucent wheat starch skin, the Chef’s Special Truffle Scented Edamame Money Pouch is sinfully delicious and we tucked in every type – steamed, fried, baked, stuffed with radish, asparagus, shitake, lotus root or stem, barbequed tofu, prawn and almonds, chicken or duck. The Lantern’s special Business Lunch menu offers unlimited Dim-Sums for Rs1200. The Longevity Salad is good. Don’t leave without checking the main course à la carte, or the incredible desserts. Highly recommended – Warm Ginger & Lemongrass Soufflé, Berry Sorbet, or the Soya Milk & Chocolate Cheese Cake, Cookie Ice Cream. Do make reservations as it is a popular hangout zone, with its assorted seating options, indoors, outdoors, private seating zone. The Ritz Carlton Bar on level three of The Lantern, which stocks some of the finest Champagnes, French wines, and other imported spirits.

Every dining venue at Ritz Carlton Bangalore has its own wine cellars and floor-to-ceiling wine racks, for perfect pairings. We spoke with Manu Manikandan, the Beverage Manager who gave us an insight on what Champagne we could pop on a special day. Expect to find some of the best in the categories, and renewed wine lists. Celebrate with Champagne brands like Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998 and Krug Clos du Mesnil 2000 priced at Rs 2.5 lacs, Krug Clos d’Ambonnay, or the Cristal 2005 for Rs 48000. The rare Bordeaux wine Château Margaux, which was one of four wines to achieve Premier cru (first growth) status in the Bordeaux region, finds a home on the racks here. For special impact, order a 16 liter Balthazar size Pol Roger Champagne for that party.

On the rooftop at level 15 is the famous bar Bang, incorporating the open air ambience with outdoor seating that becomes possible in Bangalore’s good weather. DJs, great view, funky cocktails, mezze platters, it is open only in the evenings from 5 to 11.30pm. Ritz Carlton Bangalore is one place with an impressive Champagne list. For a drunken soiree on a reunion with the batch of ’85, order the Pol Roger in a Balthazar bottle of 16 litres. For cuisine from the North-West Frontier Province, visit Riwaz, the interiors of which are by German high-end hotel interior design firm, Peter Silling & Associates.

The multi-cuisine, all-day dining space, with sumptuous buffets, breakfast brunches is appropriately christened The Market. The interiors by Super Potato are bright and cheerful, and the service impeccable. My tea preference had to be informed just once, the tea cups replenished on cue, eggs done just right, fried, poached, omelette, benedicted. The Chef De Cuisine Ranjit Thomas kept the gourmet experience exciting. The Enoteca, (eno=wine, teca=liberary) is a cosy enclosed private dining space behind all those wine bottles stacked all around.

On level five, above The Lantern is located the swimming pool, all blue and cosy, with secluded cabanas. And there is The Pool Bar. They do serve poolside kind of cuisines like salads, sandwiches, and some great cocktails. Nice place to sit out and sip exotic cocktails, even if one doesn’t want to dip into the pool. The Ritz Carlton has made a grand ritual of the Afternoon Tea service, which is maintained at all over the world. Head out to The Lobby Lounge on the third floor here to sip your tea and admire the art works.

The Spa

Anyone looking for a short getaway for relaxation and rejuvenation, should simply check in to simply enrol in this luxurious spa. Managed by ESPA, the premium natural skincare and spa products brand, the sprawling 17,000 sqft area is the place to lose one self in. A leisurely Swedish massage by a well trained masseuse, a hot sauna, a cool plunge pool, there’s a lot more. Opt for one of their Signature Rituals. The words ‘rejuvenation and tranquillity’ fit well. For shared therapy there is a couple’s suit too. Let the Spa Concierge help in picking the right treatment. Make a reservation. For an active fitness and wellness regimen, choose between Gold, Platinum and Elite memberships.

The well known Italian hairstylist – Rossano Ferretti operates the Hair Salon. A session at the Spa is going to have to be followed by some time at Mr Ferretti’s

Check in

The Ritz Carlton rooms are all that they should be – luxurious, comfortable His n’ Hers washbasins, art, a Krups Nespresso machine, Feretti linen, remote controlled lighting and screen, Asprey London toiletries, fruits and cookies and chocolates, electronic alarm clocks, complimentary wifi, an I-Pad was the electronic concierge for providing all data about the hotel, and make requests. Personalised gold embossed stationary is a sure hit with the guests.

My Club Level room on the 15th floor, on the same level at the Club Lounge was the perfect solution for a busy executive, in town for business. It became possible to have quick personalised breakfast, with a chef in attendance, and the entire retinue of the essentials. Truly, a ‘hotel within a hotel’, homey ambience, computer workstations and wifi access, complimentary beverages, tea, coffee, wine, whisky, several food presentations through the day and open from early morning to after dinner, until 11.30. I could conduct my meetings and interviews in a personalised space. Could also have used the Club Boardroom for two hours complimentary, for a larger group of eight, which goes with all Club Level rooms.

The spacious 3,157 sqft Ritz-Carlton Suite is very luxurious, with its own kitchen, wine cellar, dining table, personal butler and chef on demand.

Highly recommended for the
• business traveller on a hectic schedule or otherwise
• for those with families looking for a ‘staycation’
• a lazy healing getaway destination for the local Banglorian

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