I knew exactly what I was in for when I read ‘Traditional Bengali Welcome’ in my itinerary. Sure enough, as soon as I was through the door, they plonked a topor, the conical headgear that every Bengali groom has to suffer at his wedding, on my head. It was an auspicious start. On cue, I found the coffee table in my room adorned with—albeit briefly, since I promptly demolished it—some of the best jolbhora sandesh I have ever encountered. I later discovered that they have an in-house guy just to make the sweets. It makes sense, considering the number of weddings they have hosted since they opened. For newbies, a name card proffered the following explanation of this remarkable Bengali invention: “An essential component of Bengali hospitality that literally means ‘ filled with water’, where two elements, namely, ‘chana’, a cottage cheese typical to Bengal, and rose water, which is in its core, combine to give an exhilarating experience.” I can assure you this description is spot on. Burp.
F&B is definitely their strong suit. Bathed in natural light, JW Kitchen, the all-day diner, was bursting with guests when I lunched there. The competitively priced buffet may have something to do with it, and I did find it noisy. However, not noisy enough to distract me from my shorshe ilish and mishti doi. That night, I dined at Vintage Asia, their speciality Asian restaurant. They must be doing something very right, because rarely have I seen a speciality restaurant at a hotel packed to the gills. Of course, this was Kolkata and the cuisine was Chinese. But it was the proper stuff.
My meal was like a well orchestrated piece of music. I began with exotic dump- lings like edamame & truffle and pork xiao long bao, while someone dramatically poured me tea from a Chinese long pot. Next, I had a startlingly authentic sichuan hot & sour soup, before moving on to assorted main courses like Thai red curry and the standout mapo tofu. Dessert was a favourite: a salted caramel ice cream served with a banana smothered in sesame seeds and toffee sauce. Heaven.
When I visited, Gold, their nightclub inspired by gold mines and mining gear, hadn’t opened yet, but by now it’s possibly well on its way to becoming one of the leading nightclubs of Kolkata.
My spacious room came with a gorgeous soaking tub, and it was from here next morning that I took in sweeping views of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and the wetlands beyond. The hotel’s twinkly infinity pool was sprawled below. Unfortunately, as I found out later, it basically had a view of the new flyover on the Bypass (and vice versa), something the architect couldn’t possibly have anticipated when the plans were drawn.
Kolkata is a city of infinite delights. Courtesy the Marriott, on this visit, I enjoyed three: the Zoo (a shocking mess), the Victoria Memorial (stunning but a shocking mess), and a meal at a vintage Park Street restaurant (I chose Mocambo; stunning, and shockingly cheap).
Our eastern metropolis is in the throes of a quiet hospitality boom. No longer is the guest stuck with the holy trinity of Taj- ITC-Oberoi. JW Marriott, the first one in Eastern India, is a game changer, bringing fresh ideas and global processes to the city. Helming it all is the calm (how does she do it?) and obviously effcient GM, Ranju Alex. Over high tea at the JW Lounge, she brought me up to speed on the hotel’s journey since its inception. At her suggestion, I checked into their contemporary Spa by JW not once, but twice. If one spa treatment is good, two is twice as good, she reasoned. (Maybe that’s the secret of her relaxed demeanour and ageless good looks.)
I have stayed in enough hotels to have developed an internal detector of “little things that make a difference”. At the JW Marriott Kolkata the detector went off with reassuring regularity.
Location: 4A, J.B.S. Haldane Avenue, Kolkata; 40min from the airport
Accommodation: 281 rooms: 172 Deluxe, 88 Executive, 12 Executive Suites, 8 Deluxe Suites, 1 Presidential Suite
Tariff: ₹7,000 onwards
Contact: +91-33- 66330000, marriott.com