In the energetic chaos of suburban Gachibowli, the Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre is an island of calm. The private road that leads up to it sets the tone, as you leave the world of business parks, high-rise residential apartments and glitzy shop windows behind, and enter a place where order reigns and everything is easy on the eye.
In January this year, the decade-old hotel unveiled its new look, after a major refurbishment, which took a year. The rooms now sport a contemporary design in trendy hues. There are vibrant restaurant upgrades. The lobby has a completely new look, and has eschewed a formal feel for a casual and welcoming ‘living room’ feel. According to Novotel, “the design elements and changes speak to a more modern Hyderabad that has risen over time in the lifestyle index in the country and is home to a young aspirational population that seeks new offerings in line with international standards.” Their #FreshAsFirst campaign to mark the occasion highlighted “a refreshed version of its experiences, packaged with a modern presentation and amalgamation of colours, warmth and signature Novotel occasions such as coming together over art, culture, music and family.” Not what you’d generally expect from a business hotel attached to a convention centre, right? But then this Novotel wears many hats.
For delegates attending a conference, it’s convenience itself. For corporate travellers with meetings scheduled in HITEC City, it’s practical. For leisure visitors, the hotel provides excellent recreational facilities in a 15-acre campus replete with landscaped greens overlooking a waterbody. There’s an eye-catching pool and fully equipped spa which all guests will appreciate. For families living in the area, the Sunday brunches with live cooking stations, musicians and a slew of activities for children provide much-needed diversion. For techies looking to unwind after cracking code all day, the bar transforms into a venue for edgy rock performances every evening. And India’s first Ikea is just a short drive away.
One of the most important changes at the property has been the introduction of their new restaurant, Food Exchange, which is a standard Novotel offering. The concept of Food Exchange across Novotels is to blend local, regional and international ideas and recipes, hence the name. In Hyderabad, it’s positioned as an all-day dining (and social) hub for discerning diners, with newly curated culinary offerings. The outlet is characterised by a social and interactive atmosphere with flexible seating options offering indoor as well as poolside outdoor seating. With live kitchens, there’s an emphasis on freshness, local ingredients and organic produce. The Bar too has undergone a transformation, and now has a more chic and contemporary feel, attracting a young crowd over the weekends. The appetisers are innovative and the signature cocktails addictive. Then there’s Le Cafe, quite literally a coffee shop, it’s decor and ambience a nod to Novotel’s French roots. The exclusive poolside restaurant, which used to be Mexican, is undergoing a reinvention, and should reveal a new avatar soon.
I had a drink with Manish Dayya, the hotel’s affable and down-to-earth General Manager. I wonder if he’s responsible for the hotel’s strong leisure vibe, since he was managing the Novotels in Goa just before he moved to Hyderabad. Over the course of our conversation, Manish shared some interesting statistics about the hotel as well as the adjoining convention centre, which is also managed by AccorHotels. The details are a bit of a blur now, but suffice it to say that they were extremely impressive.
My own stay was memorable. I had a large suite at my disposal, with a memory-foam mattress to die for, but I can tell you even the basic rooms are spacious. I managed to catch one of their legendary brunches. They’re so popular one had to wait to be seated. A dear old friend who lives in the area came visiting. She’s been a brunch regular for years. I caught a riveting performance at the bar one night. I think the performers were partial to death metal, but guests of a certain vintage kept requesting ‘Hotel California’ until they were obliged. The entire show here is based on requests, which are conveyed on napkins to the band. So very soon, the small stage was buried under a pile of paper napkins. Yes, it’s popular.
For a hotel that primarily caters to business visitors, it exudes, unusually, a resort-like ambience, making it a great place to retreat to and unwind after a day of meetings or if you’re on holiday or even staycationing. When I visited, a couple was immersed in a romantic candlelight dinner by the pool even as a major conference on seeds was underway at the convention centre next door. In fact, if this hotel had been somewhere else, it would have been taken for a leisure property.
It would be unfair, therefore, and incorrect, to slot it as a ‘convention hotel’, when it’s so much more than that. But I decided it was finally time to have a look at the convention centre that India can’t stop talking about. A behind-the-scenes tour turned out to be an eye opener. The centrepiece is a pillar-less hall with an area of 6,480 sq m which can accommodate as many as 6,000 delegates. There’s a lot of nifty technology at work here. Based on the requirement, the hall can be divided into six smaller ones, with galleys between them for the catering. The ceiling is a high 12.5m, with roof cat walkers and truss to support heavy suspension. There are service pits every six metres, with power, water, internet, etc. Even the carpet is in neat squares which can be individually removed. There’s additional seating concealed in the walls. The service area for the convention centre is almost as large as the convention centre itself.
Arguably the best convention centre in India, it has managed to attract several marquee conferences, Indian as well as international. But don’t think it’s just for large conventions. Smaller events and meetings can be organised as well, besides multiple conferences. There are 37 breakout rooms, including specialised meeting rooms, speaker preparatory room, boardrooms, and a VIP lounge. There are vendors at hand to organise offbeat and interesting city tours for delegates. And, of course, there’s the in-house, five-star banqueting service, supported by enormous kitchens, with dedicated sections for even offerings like fruit.
Taken together, the hotel and convention centre are a juggernaut really, chugging along efficiently. The food is good. The entertainment excellent. The rooms lovely. So next time you’re in Hyderabad, this can be your unconventional choice of hotel.
The property has 288 rooms and suites. For more info visit their website.