Three days into my stay at the House of Mangaldas Girdhardas, the newly opened hotel is helping me define serendipity. Abhay Mangaldas, the dynamo who supervised the restoration of this house from crumbling old family residence dotted with a warren of tenants’ rooms into a quirky but practical hotel for business travellers, has already shown me around.
But with old staircases doubling back on themselves, and little balconies popping up from nowhere, I’m still getting lost. It’s like being in an Escher painting, with Alice in Wonderland as the subject. Serendipity leads me to the two large suites on the first floor, with old-style Gujarati swings and huge four-poster beds, when I’m looking for the open-air restaurant on the ground floor. I’m much better at locating Agashiye, House of MG’s rooftop restaurant, though I have a habit, distressing to the chefs, of pottering up the backstairs rather than the grand entrance with the old-fashioned lift at the front.
Then again, everything about the House of MG is unexpected, starting with its location. Built in 1924, it’s in the heart of Ahmedabad’s Lal Darwaza area, an intricate network of pols and winding market lanes where you can pick up cholis, spices, mukhvas, leatherware and munshi’s ledgers. The roar of traffic comes right up to its gates and stops dead; just opposite, the delicately carved jaalis of the Siddi Saiyad Masjid do their best to tempt you out again. The building’s striking terracotta and ivory exteriors say “family home” rather than “business hotel”, but Mangaldas has done his best to blend the two. Not easy: his father, Sheth Mangaldas, designed the house by drawing a chalk outline and telling the architects to get on with the job!
In the garden restaurant on the ground floor, as elsewhere in the hotel, he’s retained the original Italian tiles and mosaic insets along the walls, merely restoring what needed to be fixed. You’ll get the standard burgers-pizzas-sandwiches, but House of MG is known for the quality of its Gujarati food — or you could blend both and try their bhakri pizzas!
Each of the ten rooms is dedicated to a different member of the family, which is Mangaldas’s way of paying homage to his roots as well as ensuring that the biradari feels part of theHouse of MG. If you like black-and-white photographs out of someone else’s family album, you’ll be beguiled. If not, the clever wooden screens that conceal the air-conditioners and match the wooden panelling, the old-fashioned but extremely comfortable beds, the restored family furniture and the beautiful old wooden mirrors and light switchboards will do the trick.
The bathrooms, like the rooms, blend functionality with old-world tiling and deliberately nostalgic touches, such as teak washstands. Most rooms offer laptop space, ample plug-points, and large working areas; some will be converted into mini-service apartments. The business centre offers reasonably good broadband Internet; the conference room is equipped for PowerPoint presentations (when it’s not in use, the House of MG has open-to-the-public film screenings). A perfect balance between offering a leisurely, laidback heritage experience and all the bells and whistles of a standard business hotel.
The heart of the hotel for Amdavadis is the rooftop restaurant. Agashiye has a large indoor waiting area, a ‘bungli’ with seating for hot days, and utterly charming seating on the roof with a grand view of Ahmedabad. It’s here that you understand the appeal of the House of MG.
It’s a thoroughly modern hotel where you feel as though you’re visiting an old friend’s house. It’s at the junction of old and new Ahmedabad. It offers all the madness of crowds and the lure of pols and havelis; it also offers a sense of peace and absolute quietness. It occurs to me that I have to come back some day. There are corridors and corners I haven’t even begun to get lost in.
Tariff: Rs 5,899–12,299