I am told that, what with hectic lifestyles and working weekends, vacations are increasingly going the staycations way: Wake up on a Saturday morning, get into your car and within an hour or two arrive at your short-break destination. The Gateway Resort Damdama Lake cashes in cunningly on this trend. For residents of Delhi and NCR, this latest Gateway property with 78 rooms offers the perfect ‘so near, yet so far’ experience.
As my cab pulls into the resort late in the evening, my first impression is of perfect right angles and unforgiving straight lines. To me, the word ‘resort’ — this is the first resort from the Gateway brand — conjures up images of fluid spaces, green open expanses and playful décor. All that is there at this Damdama property, just hidden behind that stern stone façade. The resortiness (and I mean this in the best possible way) begins right on “the walk from the main entrance to the lobby, with steel cranes dipping into a small patch of water and metal cows along with their cowherds dotting the grass by the walkway.
Art, especially art from scrap, is a big motif at the Gateway Resort Damdama Lake. In a nod to the property’s rustic environs, there is a large tree — real and green — in front of the lobby, sheltering a goatherd and her goat — metallic and brown — under it. The lobby itself is alive with scrap art: a crawling caterpillar, a mammoth mosquito and, in an enclosure, a peacock with a bike-engine body spreading wings made of steel ladles.
The Gateway Resort Damdama Lake is all about the great outdoors and encouraging city slickers to revel in it. Tucked away in the grounds is a peaceful nook for romantic dinners, with wind chimes hidden among the trees. Even the art (there I go, art again, but it really is one of the most interesting things about this resort) hanging from the walls in the lobby and inside my room depict landscapes and fauna, created by local artisans in traditional techniques and media such as phad, mata ni pachedi and kalamkari.
And from a miniature putting greens inside the resort to treks in the surrounding Aravallis, this Gateway does it all. The highlight is the large Adventure Zone in one corner, offering activities to suit all ages and fitness levels. Zorbing anyone? A quick ziplining adventure? Perhaps a shot at archery? Or a walk across the dangling Burma Bridge?
A word about the Damdama lake itself. Although it is a short walk from the resort through the local village and is touted by Haryana Tourism as a leisure destination, it has now dried up to a mere pond.
Just before that walk to the lake, I had gone on a sunrise trek up the Aravallis. It was an easy hike, just clambering up a hillside and stepping over some boulders. And at the top lay an abandoned temple and great views of the Aravallis and the ribbon of a lake way down. But it all still counts as activity and put me in the mood for breakfast.
At Buzz, breakfast includes an Active Foods menu for the fitness freak: think raw vegetable juices, wholewheat croissants and millet dosa (excellent, by the way). And as if in an attempt to bring some of that outdoors inside, this restaurant is designed like a canopy of trees, with a curving roof and mobiles of flying birds.
Dinner is also at Buzz, a meal of authentic Haryanvi cuisine — and who knew there was any — created out of local produce. This locavore concept is part of the Gateway brand’s identity, using regional recipes that are being forgotten, sourced here from rural homes. At dinner, we have a Haryanvi housewife from a neighbouring village who cooks the meal and comes up to the table to talk to us about the unfamiliar dishes. Somewhat similar to Punjabi cuisine but with much milder flavours, the meal with bajra roti, hara dhania cholia and kadhi pakora is delicious. And it ends with a trio of desserts, including a creamy phirni and alsi pinni (flaxseed laddoo).
While Buzz serves as a coffee shop and all-day diner, Sian offers superb contemporary — and non-Indianised, I must add — Chinese and Thai food. And Swirl, the lounge bar, is laid out in a lazy spiral, symbolising the need to take life at a snail’s pace. I am all for the slow sip movement, I think, as I sip on my whisky ale.
The rooms come in sets of four here, at two levels in a squat building. Mine is on the top floor, with a view of the amoeba-shaped swimming pool in the distance. And the open green expanses that I was craving after months of living in steel-and-glass Gurgaon. The room is bright and cheerful, scattered with the aforementioned paintings on the wall and colourful block prints on the pillow covers.
If this is the kind of quiet luxury that Gateway resorts have to offer, then I eagerly await the opening of more of them soon.
Where: The Gateway Resort Damdama Lake Gurgaon, PO Damdama, off Gurgaon–Sohna Road, Gurgaon; 43km from Indira Gandhi International Airport, 55km from New Delhi Railway Station
Accommodation: 56 Superior resort rooms, 20 Deluxe resort rooms, 2 Gateway suites
Tariff: Rs 8,500 (Superior resort rooms), Rs 10,500 (Deluxe resort rooms), Rs 20,500 (Gateway suites), breakfast included and taxes extra
Contact: +91-124-3983000, www.thegatewayhotels.com