I went to the Park on Holiday Beach (yes, that’s what the Park Hotels’ newest property, and their first in Goa, is called) fully prepared for disappointment. Could the heavily retro-modern aesthetic that’s now the leitmotif of the boutique chain be successfully transplanted to Goa? How would an über-contemporary building converse with the local Indo-Portuguese architecture? I needn’t have worried. As I discovered, the Park too has a place under the Goan sun, and I came away charmed.
The Park occupies what must be the most premium beach real estate in Goa. It’s on Calangute, just on the edge of the more happening Candolim beach. (Indeed, they had called it the Park on Candolim Beach initially but that ruffled the Calangute panchayat’s feathers, and they renamed it after Holiday Street, at the end of which they are.) The shape of the plot, a narrow strip leading inland from the beach, posed challenges. The hotel placed the open-air restaurant and the bar on the deck atop it on the beach side, followed by the pool and, finally, the main building housing the lobby and rooms. Given the property’s modest size, the rooms are what one must euphemistically call ‘compact’, barring the suites, which are also the only sea-facing accommodation on offer. The kind folks in charge gave me a suite.
It was the opposite of compact. And really if your budget allows, this is the room you want. There’s a roomy balcony where a lively breeze blows in from the sea at sunset, a large living area to a side of which sits a freestanding tub, with the twin basins and shower beyond. A contemporary four-poster, echoing the cabanas that grace every Park poolside (including this one’s), is at the back.
The all-white theme, with splashes of purple, initially gave me a headache but once I’d found my inner Cher, it was actually quite soothing. The terrazzo flooring will make some clients very nostalgic. There was a chrome-plated dog on the bedside table (don’t ask me why). The coffee table was bevelled mirror from top to toe. The ample shower area had a inviting concrete bench running across one wall. The white sofa with faux fur cushions (also white) looked perfectly inhospitable, but I nodded off on it.
As expected, the Park is a consciously designer property (although the guests, mostly self-absorbed honeymooners or at least the very happily married, seemed unmoved). There’s no shying away from modern materials. There are acrylic Philippe Starck Louis ghost chairs in the restaurant, the pendant light in the lobby looks uncannily like a Dale Chihuly creation (although it’s not), the seating in the bar is a mix of bright-hued beanies and plain acrylic cubes which do duty as seats as well as table, not to mention providing illumination when required. There’s much artwork strewn about, all of it personally selected by Priya Paul.
The reason all this doesn’t seem out of place is because the décor also pays tribute to Goa’s hippie/backpacker heritage, although in a sanitised, upscale avatar. Photographer Rohit Chawla’s flamboyant portraits of Goa’s floating population grace each and every room door as well as the cabanas by the pool. The plaster fish with mirror work hanging just behind the reception are the creation of an Israeli artist who lives in Goa. The casual staff uniforms have been designed by local boy Wendell Rodricks. There’s the ’60s-style signage. It’s the sort of hotel a hippie would return to by way of Wall Street.
It’s all in the calm hands of Dilliwala Saurabh Khanna, director, operations. During my stay, it didn’t unsettle him in the least to learn that one of the guests had let the water run too long and he now had a flooded room on his hands. The barman’s the only other import. Seems it’s impossible to get a good bartender in Goa, Goans, wisely, having stuck to the consumption end of the drinks business.
The drinks were good, especially the bloody Mary which made a nice poolside pairing with Thank You, Jeeves. The food is a bit hit and miss at the moment, but what’s good is great. Like the Goan beef patties served in pois. Or the artisanal platter of local cheeses. And it takes a brave F&B manager to serve fries with tamarind chutney, not catsup. When I visited, the entire menu was available for in-room dining, round the clock, and I took full advantage of this. A fine dining dinner menu should be on the plate by now (think pork chops with vindaloo sauce).
There were the usual teething troubles, but nothing that can’t be mended. Despite much coaxing, the bathtub tap could not be persuaded to yield hot water. The cabinet holding the minibar was so badly designed you could not open the bar without imperilling your digits. The window glass in the shower area was tinted but I think curtains would go a long way in encouraging shy bathers like me to shower in anything but complete darkness. There was a ghost in the air-conditioning and it made occasional spooky sounds. Some of the non-veg items in the in-room menu had a green dot next to them, but it’s unlikely a vegetarian guest would be tempted into ordering a beef burger. Nothing, like I said, that cannot be easily rectified.
The beach, when I finally stepped out onto it, was a shimmering sea of thongs. Thousands of daybeds fronted numberless shacks catering to every nationality under the sun. The shops on Holiday Street too peddled everything from sand castle-making kits to Kashmiri carpets.
In the coming months, the Park will see a tented spa bloom on its ample terrace. A good reason to go park yourself there in the quiet season.
Location Holiday Street, lane opposite Calangute Mall, Calangute. An hour’s drive from Dabolim airpor
Accommodation 21 deluxe rooms; 5 luxury rooms (with balconies); 2 studio suites (with plunge pools); 2 deluxe suites (with balconies)
Tariff Rack rates: Rs 14,000 (deluxe room); Rs 18,000 (luxury room); Rs 25,000 (studio suite); Rs 40,000 (deluxe suite). Introductory rates as low as Rs 8,500–28,500 (plus there’s an early purchase discount of 20%)