The sprawling 250-acre Leonia Resort lies 30km from Hyderabad, in a snaking lane off the Shamirpet Road. Even after having passed through the gates, it was a few minutes before my car stopped at the reception lobby. An imposing metal-sculptured lion was the centrepiece here and the staff friendly, warm and welcoming.
I was shown into my room at once. It was what they call the Cascade — a generous bedchamber with large windows. A door led out to a small, private outdoor space with some greenery, a shower area and — most fun of all — a small plunge pool with a cascade that gives the room its name. The room offered all standard mod-cons: air conditioning, a remote light system that was a bit confused about what it was meant to do, television, kettle and beverage tray. The flooring tiles were of excellent quality, and a small round table begged you to sit at it and stare out at the roaring water.
I thanked the pretty Filipino manager who had come to introduce me to the room, shut the door on her and opened the door into the bathroom — to the first inkling of the patchiness that I realised later was characteristic of this hotel. In sharp contrast to the understated feel of the room, the bathroom was specked with bright pink and yellow tiles of clearly inferior quality, the fittings worked but were utilitarian and the small white fluorescent light bulb was inadequate and — unforgivably — unflattering. The bed linen outside was of excellent quality but the bath towels were rough. I began to suspect that the designers had forgotten to lay plans for the bathroom — there can be no other explanation.
Over the rest of that day and the next, I was shown all over the property. Leonia Resort has rooms of several types but I found their Lagoon Villas extremely charming. A long pool flanks the entire side of a building — each of these rooms leads out into the pool from a small swing door on the balcony. I might have enjoyed this — dangling my feet in this blue pool or slipping into the water, bobbing up for sips of some tall drink.
For the rest, there are six types of suites, each successive one surpassing the other in the amenities and space it offers. The clincher is their signature suite, ‘Lion’s Den’, designed for those at the very top of the heap. An apartment of about 1,000 sq m is provided with every conceivable luxury: two bedrooms, a bar, a private dining room, a study, plush bathrooms, walk-in towel cabinets, rain showers, a Jacuzzi; outdoors (an area enclosed with translucent fibreglass and completely air-conditioned), there are lavish pools, various clusters of seating, a gazebo, a small area for massages and treatments and even a nice authentic barber’s chair, should the guests feel like a shave and a haircut. The suite costs nearly Rs 5 lakh a night.
But I must hasten to talk of Leo Juventa, the spa. Leonia’s brand managers should consider selling it on the basis of this alone, for this is a five-floor building crammed, crammed with exotic (and expensive) machines capable of a truly amazing range of treatments.
At least six trained medical professionals are on hand here; and there are 42 treatment rooms for a variety of therapies. Apart from the usual salon and massage services, there is physiotherapy that includes an aqua gym, a slew of weight management technologies, a well-kitted gym, a cosmetic dental clinic, anti-ageing therapies that includes Thermage, a Rasul sauna room and a hot-and-cold lavish hammam that can seat eight persons. I climbed floor after floor, peering into room after room till I reeled — there was simply no skimping on investment here.
The lavishness extended to the game zone. I counted 24 gaming stations, including the Nintendo Wii and they came loaded with games designed to thrill. Empty, unfortunately, when I visited it — a zone like this in a centrally located mall would have been teeming with boisterous children.
The problem with Leonia resort, though, is that it tries to do too much. It wants everyone: families, corporate clients, status seekers, event managers and holidaymakers. It will have a spa such as this, but also a somewhat garish hall for weddings; it will offer plush suites with the finest of fittings but have unattractive linoleum flooring in its restaurant; it will mark out space for a cricket field and put aside endearing little nooks and indulgences for children. I was by turns touched, impressed and bemused. Let’s just call it a mixed bag.
Where: 30km from Hyderabad in Bommaraspet village, off Shamirpet Road
Accommodation: 82 rooms (Bay Window, Lagoon Villa, Cascade) and 6 suites (Ethnic, Presidential, Business, Honeymoon, Leisure and Signature)
Tariff: Rs 7,900-Rs 9,900 (rooms); approx. Rs 60,000-4,85,000 (suites). Taxes extra
Contact: 040-66400000, www.leonia.in