A wealthy landlord or Zamindar of Bengal, Kaliprasanna Singha, had built a palatial home sometime in the early 19th century to house his large family, which consisted of his siblings, his wife and children, a host of other relatives, and a retinue of attendants necessary to run the household. Son Nrishinghoprosad inherited the estate following the death of the patriarch. Things went well until one stormy night the British soldiers arrived here in pursuit of a family member who was involved in the Swadeshi movement. Nobody is sure what exactly happened but not a living soul has been seen since then.
Suddenly there was a piercing noise, startling us back to the present. It was evening and a lady in a red bordered sari was blowing on a conch shell after lighting an earthen lamp in front of a small altar containing a Tulsi bush, located in one corner of the courtyard. The spell woven around us by the narrator ably assisted by the thematic décor of the grand mansion was broken.
Thus began our introduction to Raajkutir, Kolkata’s latest boutique hotel.
Carved out of Swabhumi, an erstwhile entertainment zone, the property, spread over a 13-acre campus, has been built around a fictional representation of 19th century Bengal. Conceptualised by architect Vivek Rathore, the entire hotel is spread over multiple ground levels where a deliberate attempt has been made to create changing sight lines and perspectives to keep alive the explorative and intriguing character of the design.
Like every zamindari home, the entry was through The Outhouse, where the Reception was located (along with the spa and the gym). After a formal welcome – ‘boron’ with chandan tika, misti mukh and water in glazed earthen glass and refreshing wet towel – we were led through the ‘Bot-Tola’, a recreation of a typical rural setting where an old banyan tree serves as the focus of activities, including a meeting ground for village elders.
The hotel proper is designed like a grand double storied mansion with an enclosed courtyard; the sense of vintage created through colonnaded verandas, balconies with cast iron railings and louvered shades, fenestrations, etc. The majority of the rooms were designed after the life and passions of the fictional occupants with four poster beds, some with curtains, faux hand-pulled fans, designer mirrors and other period furniture. The lighting of the lamp and the blowing of the conch-shell was also reminiscent of a centuries old daily ritual practised even now in many Hindu Bengali homes.
But that does not mean you are stuck in a time capsule, said Shatnau Das, Room Division Manager, who walked us through the property. The vintage romance has been balanced with contemporary amenities for the global traveller, he said.
A total of 33 keys, 26 are ‘character rooms’ and seven are ‘Atithi Rooms’ or guest rooms. There is an all-day dining restaurant, a modern bar, spa and swimming pool, shopping arcade, café cum deli and an artisan’s gallery.
According to Subrata Debnath, Business Head, Raajkutir, the all-day dining area, named The East India Room, sports a menu that reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Kolkata, with dishes drawn from Jewish, Portuguese, British and Anglo-Indian cuisines. On the other hand, at The Loafers Café, guests can settle down for a Victorian High Tea. The deli and café stocks up on scones, freshly baked artisanal bread, sandwich blinis, palmier, quiche, bagel, tart, hand rolled chocolates, macaroon, muffins, English tea, iced tea, single origin coffee etc. Guests are encouraged to interact with butlers or the chefs directly about what they feel like eating, rather than just be given a menu to choose from, said Debnath. The bar, aptly named The Swig, has a wide range of liquors and alcoholic beverages. Or, you can also relax at the Velvet Lounge (The Traveller’s Room) for a brandy and cigar with your friends or family or simply revel among the souvenirs collected from around the world and lovingly arranged here.
The Arcadia will have high-end shops for those who love retail therapy while the Colonnade will serve as the exhibition area.
With theme weddings being the order of the day, the boutique hotel includes the Raasmanch and Rangmanch, two banquets that will allow to party in regal style.
Getting there: Raajkutir, a boutique hotel belonging to Ambuja-Neotia hospitality, is located on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, opposite the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium) and Subhas Sarovar. It is nearly 13 km from Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. The 33 rooms are categorized into Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Premium Rooms, and one Presidential Suite. Rates on request.
Contact: EM Bypass, 89C Moulana Abul Kalam Azad Sarani, Kolkata 700054; tel: 033 4084484. www.raajkutir.com