Full disclosure: I went to Kochi mostly because they said Naomi Campbell would be there. In my defence, this was totally out of character and, by the time I actually arrived, I felt the first prickles of shame and delight at the shallowness of my motives.
In the event,the moody ex-supermodel never showed up,leaving me to wallow in ripples of disappointment and relief. Shame, delight, disappointment and relief: it’s fair to say that mixed feelings would colour my stay at the newest Vikram Chatwal hotel, the Dream Cochin.
Actually, the only real letdown came first, and there’s no nice way to say this: it’s not a great-looking building. Like the flagship Dream Hotel New York, the Kochi property is housed in a pre-existing structure. But while the DNY is a handsome Beaux Arts block, DC occupies a modest glassy-glossy tower that only a Gulf-struck Malayali could love. In the end, though, the shock of this façade works in the hotel’s favour, because it sets you up for the unexpected aesthetic of irony, playfulness and stylish indulgence within this unusual hotel.
Inside your room it’s a different picture. Mine was a ‘14th floor’ deluxe twin with a 3rd-floor view (there are 10 invisible floors between the mezzanine and the ‘11th’ as well as the usual silent 13th floor. Why?), which was puzzling but didn’t matter because the room was the view. The hotel’s signature gimmick is the bedside console which bathes your room in various shades of blue light. It glows and throbs from the walls, the ceiling and even under your bed. It’s a theatrical but surprisingly seductive touch, which together with the seamless wi-fi and the slightly obtrusive soundtrack in public areas adds to the sense of inhabiting an electronic cocoon. The place certainly has a style but for all the ‘hautel’ spiel, it’s not intimidatingly stylish. The lobby sets the overstated and inclusively playful tone with disco-crystal-ball chandeliers, neon-temple pillars and a carpet that looks like it fell off a flaming meteorite.
Behind the smoke and mirrors, the Dream is really a no-nonsense business hotel, dressed up in the nonsense that businesspeople like. I may have had an overdose of the hype but the more traditional comforts of service and luxury were in evidence too. My suit was pressed in a jiffy, the room was immaculate every time I returned to it. My experience of the hotel’s F&B options was blurred by a hyperactive bartender who used a funnel to pour cocktails down my throat at the Ava Lounge. Other venues are the Ayela, a Thai restaurant; the rooftop Highbar and the plummy library-themed Willington. In truth, my culinary priorities lay outside the hotel (one outlet of the legendary Kayees, home of prawns biryani, is minutes away) and my only meal here was the breakfast buffet at Keshia — the eggs were just the way I like them, but ‘local filter coffee’ should not come from a cafetière.
In a blue grotto on the 24th floor, I submitted to a vigorous early morning Swedish massage, and inaugurated the rooftop pool before the proprietor and his minder Ursula (a rumoured ex-model) took the plunge in their eveningwear. It was all very dolce vita. And maybe a little Gabbana too.
Where: S.A. Road, Kadavanthara, Kochi
Accommodation: 151 rooms and suites
Tariff: Rs 11,000 single, Rs 12,000 double (Studio); Rs 12,500 (Deluxe); Rs 13,000 (Club); Rs 13,000-25,000 (Suites)
Contact: 0484-4129999, www.dreamhotels.com