By Neelima Agrawal
The one conundrum ahead of my recent trip to Bengaluru was about where to stay. The very ambitious plan to pack in several meetings in my brief 30 hours, conceived despite the many harried stories about the city’s legendry traffic, left no scope for being stuck in a traffic jam. Happily, I struck gold with Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel, which is just a year old in the city. It proved itself a worthy destination for my purpose, in more ways than I had anticipated. Their tagline, ‘Business Unusual’, needed checking out.
To introduce Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel, it is a part of the Marriott International, one of just four in India. It is the first Renaissance in South India. The property was gearing up for the celebrations of its First Anniversary when I was there. The first Renaissance in Mumbai opened two decades ago, followed by Renaissance in Lucknow, and next in Ahmedabad in January 2018. Renaissance was the premium category in the Ramada Group, until Marriott International acquired it. It is a lifestyle brand and a Marriott Bonvoy hotel. (Marriott Bonvoy is the recently set up travel program for its patrons. As of this year February, it replaces Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.) It has all the staples expected, a swimming pool, gym, spa, banquet halls et al.
My endorsements rest on FIVE sound reasons – location, size, attitude, F&B, vibe, listed in a random order of preference.
ONE – Located as it is in the heart of the city, with easy access to the business districts, Renaissance Bengaluru
sits adjacent to the Bengaluru turf club, with some of the rooms having a grandstand view of the racecourse. The Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru was a swift 45-minute drive down the Bellary Road, at peak hour. The proximity to Brigade Road, MG Road, Vithal Mallaya Road with the UB City mall is also convenient. The World Trade Center, Embassy Golf Link Business Park, Peenya Industrial Estate, Chinnaswamy Stadiumare all in the proximity, as also are some of the key hospitals like the Apollo, Max, Fortis.The Races were not scheduled that weekend, so one could just spot a few riders cantering or trotting around in the distance as viewed from the 12th floor. Perhaps the hotel could provide binoculars in the rooms. Please note, the view of the racetrack is subject to the location of the room.
TWO– The Size. Renaissance is a smaller hotel within the Group, with fewer rooms and restaurants, making it faster and easier to navigate, in comparison with its larger full-fledged counterparts. Very noticeable is the personal touch; the staff recognizes each of the guests and respond quickly to any personal requirement, sometimes even intuitively. My visitor, who arrived early, was immediately guided to my location, without any instructions from me. The bartender remembered my preference. I had to inform but once about my vegetarian status. Another time, the Chef was quick to prepare my request, despite it not being on the menu, and the restaurant being quite full.
It claims the ‘boutique’ hotel status, where each of the Renaissance hotels has a distinct character. Renaissance Bengaluru is alive with the equine theme (you cannot miss it). Located on the Race Course Road, next to the Turf Club, the inspiration for the theme is palpable, as there are more horses in the hotel than on the track, in the form of pictures, sculptors, prints, paintings, wall mounted wooden heads, metallic mares prancing on the table top, an antique rocking horse, a rare sculpture suspended from the ceiling, and more, albeit all in good taste. I am told that each of the rooms is different from the other, in one way or the other, in terms of décor or setting.
THREE – Elaboratingon why I picked Renaissance Bengaluru over several other Star hotels, including a few other sister brands,such as the JW Marriott on Vithal Mallaya Road, located within a few kilometer radius, was that I was not familiar with this Reanaissance brand within the Marriott Group’s bouquet of hotels. Having said that, I must add thatI have always found the professionalism and hospitality at the Marriott hotels impeccable, and by default, the Renaissance not only was a novel property to explore, but also came with the guarantee of the same culture. This is particularly essential when travelling for work, as little irritants can add to the stress levels. Slow service or lackadaisical attitudes of the staff, rooms not properly prepped for the next guest, are just a few of the factors that one wants to avoid.
FOUR– The smell of freshly baked bread and coffee invokes a feeling of homecoming. Cinnamon, the coffee shop and deli at Renaissance is located in the arrival lounge and plays a huge role in the Welcome. With its tantalizing display of fresh pastries, fruit gateaux,breads, croissants, gelatos, chocolates, it does test the willpower to resist. The many varieties of teas and coffee flavours on offer should be tasted, perhaps another time. I did plan to eat here, as it is open through the day from breakfast to dinner, but didn’t get around.
I like to think that I have simple tastes in food, being a vegetarian and all. Candid confession moment; my vegetarian preferences can be quite unconventional, communicated mostly in sign language and multi-lingual vocabulary, often testing the chefs in their ingenuity, patience and intuitive ability. I didn’t need to do much here, as the flavors were how I like it.
The R-Bar on the ground floor was doubling in for the Executive Lounge, which is due to come up on another floor.This is where I settled in for most part, with my visiting companions. The Ren takes on the local influences and preferences, bringing a distinct Bengaluru flavor.The nomenclature of the entrée on the menu were more than local names. There is the Bloody Rasam, which is a twist to the Bloody Mary. The holy grail of southern kitchens, the Rasam is spiked with vodka, tamarind, jaggeryet all. Delicious, despite the additives that sound alarming. The popular Italian Negroni, is presented as Kappi Negroni, with a dash of the Kappi decoction. I got partial to the Coorg Freshly Forages, with flavors of curry leaves, jaggery syrup, coffee decoction. The bar menu listed most of the speyside Glen singles, the highland Dalwhinnie 15yo, the Indian singles Amrut and Paul John (rated high in Murray’s Whisky Bible), a range of branded and hand crafted beers, long list of wines from France, Italy, Argentina, Chile, US, and the local staples from Indian wineries. The R-Bar appetizers are ample snacks that nearly make up a meal. The Southern Regent platter, veg or non-, have the usual fare of cottage cheese, tikki, tikka, seekh. The Father KL Michael Burrata is a pizza, that is an ode to the monk from the Vallombrosan Benedictine order who has made his mark in Bengaluru with his artisanal Vallombrosan Cheese made from buffalo milk. Father KL Michael trained in Naples in Italy, lives in Bengaluru, and his entire range of gourmet cheese Bocconcini, Caciotta, Rocotta, Mascarpone is in demand by chefs at all the local high-end hotels.
The main dining kitchen Lush is a few meters across the lawn, in the adjacent building. During my stay, we checked out the Herb Gnocchi, made of tomato confit, basil pesto and three kinds of cheese, Nasi Goreng Istimewa and Thai Curry. And of course, the Sunday Brunch, before I left.
The Sunday Brunch at Lush is quite popular with the locals, and in keeping with the sentiment, is vegetarian. The entire place came alive with indoor and outdoor seating, live cooking counters, a large spread of cuisines from various Indian, South Asian, European kitchens. It was a vegetarian’s idea of a gourmet heaven.
FIVE – I was here over a weekend, where the end of the hectic Saturday, which began with an early morning flight, left no energy to step out and explore the city in the evening. At the Ren, there was no need to. On Saturdays evenings, the R Bar hosts a live band, or a DJ. The entire place was transformed by evening. The furniture re-arranged, a small stage set up, loud peppy music and mood lighting, ready for its party people. Early mornings, the musicians play the melodious morning ragas live, setting a soothing ambience.
The Ren is equally engaged with its walk-in patrons as much as out-of-towners. Bengaluru being the city of successful techies and entrepreneurs, it is these affluent, upwardly mobile guests who sync probably lend the youthful vibe to the place. The Renaissance Bengaluru clearly resonates with that energy. The late risers roll in for the beery Sunday Brunch, which begins at 12pm. Another side of the lawn was set for a baby shower. Perambulators and toddlers added to the merriment. In the thick of the action, and the flurry of activity in the kitchen, the Chef stepped out to make me something special I asked for.
No I did not miss being away from home on a Sunday.