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Taj Bengal - Everlasting nostalgia of the British Empire!: Submitted by: Padmanabhan Krishnan | Date Added: 16 Mar 2015
Listed in: Destinations / India - East India Synopsis

This hotel, one of my favorites, always rejuvenates me whenever I happen to spend time here. They call it a pure business hotel but it has always proved to be a haven of warmth due to the excellent staff and service they give. We were welcomed first by Sanjeeb Chakraborty, Airport Reception of the Taj and taken by a Jaguar (Nothing less for us, sir - we are the guests of the Taj). The white uniformed chauffer driven Jaguar took us along the New Town, Nicco Park, EM Bypass, Park Circus and other places which we wanted to see en route and the chauffer was well versed with the city to inform us of the heritage and the culture along the route. The cab had drinking water and mints to cater for en route refreshments. Quite an impressive feature. After an arduous journey of more than one hour in the chaotic rains of Kolkata, we ached the hotel and were welcomed by Favid Araon, the concierge at the security. The atrium as we entered was fabulous as usual and there was Mohan Chandran, GM who greeted us as usual and described about the season's charm. The checking-in process in Taj hotels is painless, no lining up at reception, no luggage... everything is so carefully thought out with the greatest and most professional level of service. I love Bengali Festive Cuisine. Who doesn't?

Located in the city's greenest precinct, the Taj Bengal is within walking distance of the Victoria Memorial, Royal Calcutta Race Course, Horticulture Gardens, National Library and the Zoological Gardens thus ensconced by flora and foliage that teems with birdlife. The airport is 60 minutes away and the railway station is 20 minutes away. I cannot commend them highly enough. We had the staff thronging in to give their best wishes. Regarding the rooms, my opinion might be distorted as we were upgraded to a junior suite, probably thanks to my Inner Circle Gold Card, which I would advise travelers to get before their stay. The lavish stone and marble atrium, soaring skyward for five stories, is a contrast of contemporary design and chic traditional appointments. The huge pillars of the Porch are an engineering marvel. The check in with David was 'executive' and ultra smooth to our upgraded suite 315.

Full Review

The Club Rooms (top floor) have added space (thanks to a window alcove), personal butler service, and access to posh lounges and exclusive restaurants (with strict dress codes) where the city's elite plot and play. Bathroom to die for, towels and robe super soft. The hotel gave flowers and basil leaves in abundance every day for our Puja and replaced fruit baskets every day which was a pleasant surprise. The restaurants are excellent, rooms super and the overall feel that you are being taken care of, from doorman to bar staff and all stops in between, gives you a peaceful place in a chaotic city. The room which we have booked was not our usual suite - 515. But the junior suite had all the facility which can be offered by a hotel. It had refrigerator full of fruits and drinks. The toilet was a place no one would like to get out of. The only flaw is the wash-basin at the middle, ready to knock off anyone who does not care its menacing presence. I was very impressed with the quality of the room and the service. The suite was fairly immaculate, clean bathroom, good room service.
They even have their own tea and coffee making facility and electronic curtains. Taj Bengal boasts some of Kolkata's most impressive restaurants, under the aegis of the highly experienced chef Rama Rao. Besides Sonargaon and The Hub, it houses one of India's best Chinese restaurants, Chinosserie. Quieter rooms face the pool, or you can ask for a room with a view of the Victoria Memorial.
The hospitality of the hotel was par excellence. They were most accommodating and made you feel comfortable right from the word go. We had reached much early than the check in time but as the room was available they ensured that we settle down. The hotel staff, right from the Assistant Concierge Sanjeev to the Floor Manager Karishma or Sang Sapta Basu from the IRD, always was there when we required them. And the rooms well prepared, fully filled up with the goodies. The pool is a hit with me as always and we enjoyed the same and the staff was there to keep an eye on me. They had no reason to know that I am an expert swimmer from Kerala. The "gentlemen's club" ambience in the residents' lounge goes down well with a game of pool, a book from the small library, or time at the Internet bar. In the evenings, you can sit in the atrium at By The Way amidst palms and enjoy live instrumental music with a vast assortment of teas and coffees from across the world. I tasted the Jamaican coffee at the hands of Kaushik, my favorite in the Hub, besides Leonard. We had been searching for Sujoy, whom we could not meet during the stay. Ranjan and Rama Rao offered some special delicacies to my wife and I have a feeling that she puts on weight every time she visits the Taj and we do it often.

The buffet breakfast was sumptuous at the hub and what a variety they had! The variety included South Indian, North Indian, Continental, Oriental. Variety of non veg dishes, cakes and the special omelet?s with no of beverages to choose from. I mentioned elsewhere - nobody makes fluffy omlet the way Shelly of The Hub does - I mentioned it to Mohan Chandran, who attributed the credit to his Chef. There was Rama Rao, the Party Chef, who churned out some special non-veg dishes for me and my wife every time we visited the Hub. The Restaurant Manger, Manoj Mishra or ever-charming Christopher always ensured we got the best seat every time we visited the Hub, even though in the late nights, getting a chair in the Hub is next to secure a MLA seat in the Writers' Building. The dinner included whatever the taste buds of yours desire. On the whole the meals were tastefully sumptuous. Years earlier I had always been a fan of the Leela as far as food was concerned. Still I adore the Citrus and the Jamawar of the Leela, but after I started visiting the Hub, the Taj just stole the account from Leela because this is the best, if not the finest restaurant I have ever dined at. This time I did not try the Souk since I apprehended Palash will ?do the job? on me the way he did last time, which made me sulk the last two times when I had to seek diversion to Oberoi Grand and ITC Sonar. But the Taj is Taj ? always lush, elegant, quiet interiors... the craving of the contemporary Mediterranean-specialty restaurant Souk at Taj Bengal did not make my stay complete as Souk is just the place to experiment and excite your palate. Distinct flavors, aromatic spices and imported ingredients - you can be rest assured you get these here. The robust flavors of Greece, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Arabia, are all offered, under one roof. Platters, curries, seafood, kebabs, grills.... Meat lovers can tuck into the Calamari Salad, Samak Meshwi and the Minced Lamb Deep-fried Balls. Overall, a satisfying dining experience, until the Chef took you for a jolly ride.
The hotel is great. Service, service, service. The housekeeping staff were extremely hospitable whenever we called them and the room was always squeaky clean, comfortable and spacious. Tea maker was uncomfortably placed below the TV table to discourage its usage. Particularly lush toiletries, always in abundance. The rooms are great. Spacious, clean, and they think of everything, even a pair of ear-buds. The service is fantastic, even if I tend to repeat this quite too often.
Overall, the Sonargaon is an excellent venue for family get together while the Hub is the happening place for power lunches and a lazy dinner with the friends. Very good location. Good social events/ dinners facilities. Overall, we had a great stay at The Taj Bengal. It redefined the meaning of warm hospitality and high service levels. The personnel are very friendly and helpful without being too fussy. This is what sets Taj Bengal apart. One thing stood out during our stay at the Taj Bengal : the warm, courteous and efficient service we received anywhere in the hotel.
Designed by noted architect Bob Fox, Taj Bengal stands apart with its elegant fa?ade, modern architecture, classical atrium design and interiors with genuine antiques and priceless art. The hotel is large and modern but with a traditional feel. The ambience gave a feeling of calmness compared with the frenetic pace of life on the streets outside. It is beautifully decorated inside and is a pure relaxing haven in Kolkata. Swimming pool and spa are nice, while restaurants are getting a bit expensive especially the Sunday Brunch. Overall this is a wonderful place to stay with good quality for the price. I'd advise to check prices ahead on Taj internet website as their promotional rates are reasonable. The Gym is very well equipped, better than all competing hotels in Kolkata. There is always at least one personal trainer on duty. The Pool, Spa, Sauna, massages - are all excellent.

The service was consistently very good and I never felt pressured to tip. We had a very late flight back to Mumbai and they gave us a late check-out time (4 pm) which was perfect. If you have some time to kill, or simply want a great treatment, I can highly recommend visiting the spa for a head and neck massage.
To give you an idea of the professionalism here, I was on the move on the afternoon of the last day. We needed modak for the puja before check out. I called the chef, Mr. Rama Rao, to tell what I needed. As soon as we entered the suite, we saw him walk in carrying the tray of the modak. This was on the date of checkout, when we normally experience from any other hotel is polite indifference. Now if you are a traveling person then you know what I mean, this is FIRST CLASS.
A very good swimming pool with ample amount of deck beds and very helpful staff. Door man can call you by name at arrival. Hotel staffs are everywhere you go in this hotel and quite helpful and almost all of them are quite proficient in English. To summarize, the Taj is a great hotel. It has a nice spa. The gym was a bit small for a hotel so grand, but I was the only one in it, so maybe that's why. The pool is nice and clean and there was even a swimming instructor or something like that.
The food was wonderful, from the buffet to the on-site restaurants.
The service was great as well -- everything I would expect from a 5-star luxury hotel. From the check-in to the wait-staff to the concierge to the valet. If anything went wrong it was fixed in seconds. Once the plug point and once the TV.
Now the cons, Wireless internet access is provided in-room, as well as WI-FI card. So, just bring your laptop. The standard internet is very slow.
The other negative point was the terrible lift music which was wonky and distorted (the same as the info channel on the TV). Entering the realm of the Taj Bengal, is to enter into a delightfully calm, scented world where one feels cosseted, soothed, and at peace in the midst of hectic central Kolkata. Despite the somewhat jarring presence of airport-style security on the front steps (a necessary evil it seems in light of 26/11), the welcome feels sanguine and safe, and as it did each and every time I entered, we were always greeted warmly and gently guided through the security protocol. The warm professionalism of the entire staff, from the front desk to trainees, cleaners, security guards, chefs and service staff in all the restaurants, was a delight at every turn. It seemed these people were genuinely pleased that we had picked their hotel to stay at, and made it their business to make sure we knew it. The breakfast buffet is diverse, abundant and delicious, room-service fast, the pool a welcome spot to relax in Nirvana!!

Overall, I would rate it quite highly.
Special thanks to David Aaron, Kapoor, Meenakshi, Christopher, Rama Rao, Ranjan, Neeraja and hundred unnamed others, who made our day.
It is a reminiscence of nostalgia of the British Empire! I will come again when the ?season? is right.

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