Until now I have abstained from reviewing 4 star hotels because of my website’s dedication to review the best-of-the-best luxury brands in Bangalore. But that was before I learned that the wonderfully indulgent 5-star chain that I know and love so much from back home in Barcelona, W Hotels, had a sister. Aloft hotels is the 4-star sister of the W Hotel chain, designed with the same chic, modern vibe of the W but their rooms are a fraction of the price.
The first impression anyone has when they enter Aloft is that it is a cool, hip hotel. The main entrance is decorated with a vintage Italian Vespa and a lounge area just off the reception desk that looks like mini living room stations – individual chill-out zones – each with a large square area rug, standing lamps, arm chairs, sofa and a coffee table. It’s fantastic! There’s even a pool table and large screen TV in one area.
My daughter and I checked in with the friendly staff and there was a bit of a miscommunication about the room type we requested (we asked for two queens but were given one king) but after a quick change we were in our desired room with two beds and we were both very pleasantly surprised. I had viewed the room photos before our visit and the rooms are actually much larger than what they appear to be from the website. Our room was nicely appointed, modern and minimalist … with vibrant colours and contrasting walls that were a lovely change from the normally stark walls in hotel rooms. The architect did a superb job of creating a welcoming environment from a simple and clean design.
The amenities were the first thing to remind me that I was in a 4 star hotel after 18 months of staying exclusively in 5 star accommodations. They weren’t bad but the shower had dispensers for shower gel and an all-in-one shampoo + conditioner which I detest but I had brought my own hair products so that was okay. And in all fairness I do believe that the dispensers are more eco-friendly than the millions of tiny plastic bottles used around the world each day in hotels but my prissy side would have preferred my conditioner and shampoo separate.
Business travelers will LOVE Aloft – we did for their amazing fast wifi from everywhere in the hotel. Normally the wifi is dog slow depending on where the routers or femtocells are placed but we never found a slow spot. And each room can connect up to five devices to the room’s wifi. It’s pretty cool! They also have docking stations and a unit that charges just about any device. The desk chair is one of the comfiest I remember in a while and the TV had loads of fabulous English language programming, with recent movies and series playing 24 hours a day.
There is a gorgeous pool with small alcoves that are perfect for either napping in the shade or curling up with a laptop poolside. The lower deck has designated areas for chilling out where you could eat a picnic lunch in the breeze. And of course there are lounge beds around the pool to catch up on your tan – although sadly that wasn’t for us. We had both brought our bikinis and kept hoping for the sun to break out from the clouds to go enjoy the pool but it was raining the weekend we spent at Aloft.
What surprised both of us the most was the culinary experience at Aloft. We dined in the room a few times and stepped out to the charming Mediterranean restaurant for our Saturday night meal and we didn’t have a single complaint about the food. Not one! In fact we loved everything. We ordered room service for lunch and enjoyed tasty roasted tomato and basil soup, Mexican tortilla soup, tenderloin steak that was ordered medium-rare and came perfectly cooked with a side of mash that was as yummy as the pepper sauce. The have amazing bacon with their breakfast … although the pancakes are really tiny so if you are hungry I suggest you order two portions.
Now with all that said, although the staff is friendly, they lack the attention to detail of a five-star hotel. They really need to improve their number of staff who speak and/or understand English perfectly. We have zero complaints about the food but the service due to the lack of English was frustrating beyond belief. There was not a single time that we placed a room service order that we didn’t have to repeat everything three or four times and ask for the staff member on the other end of the phone to repeat back everything we ordered because they didn’t catch it the first time. On top of that, the food was delivered to us wrong every single time but one. Either an item was missing from our order or they forgot to bring the dipping sauce for something or the Ceasar salad arrived without parmesan cheese, etc. Amazing food … but very frustrating service.
That is except in Estia, the must-visit Mediterranean restaurant with perfect service. It has a lovely interior that looks like a local restaurant on the Med would (and you can trust us because we lived right on the Med Sea for the past 10 years before moving to Bangalore). The restaurant has soft lighting, although there are stunning chandeliers comprised of individual candle holders but not a single candle was lit in the entire restaurant, which we found very strange. The music is a fun and folksy mix of Greek tunes. And the food is EXQUISITE! And they have a nice selection of wines by the glass which is always a treat. We enjoyed the Mezze Dips platter with sundried tomato and rosemary, hummus, tzatziki and muhammara. The pita was fresh and the addition of 2 unique dips to the standard mezze platter was a treat. The traditional Greek Souvlaki chicken kebobs were absolutely tender and flavourful. And I highly suggest the maple and orange glazed pork chops with apple polenta – the pork was yummy and the apple polenta added a unique balance to the decadent glaze.
After dinner my daughter went back to the room and I headed to the über swank W XYZ bar. They have the most unique selections of cocktails and I have to admit I enjoyed myself at the bar with my laptop, just writing for a bit and sampling a couple of signature cocktails. The Bubbletini is made with vodka that is infused with bubble gum for 3 days then strained to ensure no residual bubble gum remains and served with a pink and white stick of bubble gum (very cute and girly). BUT my favourite was the Cucumber Collins, made with pressed-in-the-moment cucumber and gin and it is absolutely divine! It is so tasty and refreshing that it goes down way too easy! SOOOOO goooood! The seating area is the coolest of any bar in town. It had a table in the middle with board games like Battleship, Scrabble, Jenga, etc with individual living rooms on square rugs, set up with hip floor lamps. I am a big fan of floor lamps, so you can imagine my lust for these. I have plenty in my home (note to any interior design fans: Pagazzi is the best place for all of your floor lamp needs) but I was still jealous of some of these. I could have sat in there for ages. I just wished I had someone to play some of the games with and just chill for a few hours there. It has to be the coolest bar in Whitefield.
At the end of our stay we used the Aloft shuttle to drop us home, which was a larger van (or maybe SUV, can’t 100% remember) with bottles of water and soft drinks on ice for us, as well as the day’s paper. I saw that they also had smaller Aloft cars and I really appreciated the comfy difference of being in the shuttle because driving on Bangalore streets is like off-roading in any vehicle and the larger ones always have better suspension. The driver was very sweet, didn’t honk his horn all the time and drove at slower speeds around bumps which is always appreciated.
All in all, Aloft is a fabulous hotel for business travelers (not ideal for holiday goers or for a spa weekend because alas there is no spa or even a steam room). The wifi was kick-ass, the rooms are perfectly appointed for the business traveler … and the food is amazing! If it wasn’t for the sadly too frequent sub-par service, I would easily have mistaken much of the property for a five-star hotel.
Aloft Bangalore @ Whitefield website: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3275
(reviewer Angela Carson)