Everyone should escape to Mysore for at least a day trip… or getaway and relax for a weekend of culture, delicious food and a bit of a boogie like I did! Like most people who live in Bangalore I seem to road-trip it to Mysore a bit more often than any other city when friends and family come in to visit and I am always thrilled to do it. Luckily for such a small city it really has an amazing array of accommodations, restaurants, cultural sites to visit and – last but not least – fun spots to sip a martini or two.
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So when my brother flew in from San Fran for his first visit to India, we booked Mysore into our roster of things to do while he was here. The plan was to stay at the Royal Orchid Metropole, visit the Palace located just one kilometre from the hotel, the art museum, do a bit of shopping and then party like mini rock stars at Liquid. And Mysore did not disappoint.
My brother is a foodie. And when I say foodie, I mean that if we planned our days around our meals he would be a happy camper. So with him in mind, the only and best option for us was the Royal Orchid Metropole. It doesn’t have a spa but I knew from my mates who are from Mysore that it is one of their favourite places to dine so that’s where we were staying.
To be honest, I could see by the photos on their website that the rooms and the property were lovely and fantastically decorated above and beyond those other the other hotels in its class in Mysore but I wasn’t at all expecting to be wow’d to the degree that I was when I stepped onto the property or into my room. The Metropole is a wonderful hotel that gives one the feeling of being transported back to a time of decadence and grandeur, where I almost expected to see royalty sipping tea in the interior courtyard as I passed through.
The property itself is somewhat of a heritage property, although not certified through Unesco. For more than a century it has stood proud, reminiscent of days gone by when colonial British architecture was coveted and the Maharajas of the village reined over their province, developing land to please the Gods — or in many cases a woman! The building itself is lovely, standing only two stories high and open in such a way that every room has a balcony, with many opening up onto a lovely courtyard. There is a pool and a gym but like I said, the real attraction is the food so if you – or your brother visiting from San Fran – is a foodie, then this is your home away from home in Mysore!
If possible, I would highly suggest requesting Suite 108, which is the fabulous room I was lucky to land up in. I think because of the old world feel of the room that I can hand-on-my-heart swear that it is one of the most charming but definitely the room with the largest private outdoor terrace I have ever stayed in. The entry way felt almost like a portico and it had two massive mirrors and lovely antique furniture with flowers. The floors are a combination of hard wood and tiled, changing from room to room. The bathroom is the size of my bedroom back home and showcased an enormous vintage bathtub with old-school pedestal feet that I plunged into more times than I want to admit here. Living in India, where bathtubs are a luxury, makes any hotel room with a tub a vacation in itself!!
The bedroom itself was also massive and included all of the standard amenities one would expect like a lovely sitting area, a nice big flat screen television, desk and connections for my laptop and more. But the real charm of the room comes from the lovely vintage rugs and the fabulously large four-poster canopy bed. It not only looked wonderful but I slept like a baby on it.
But the room doesn’t stop there. Through a set of double doors is the entrance to the private terrace which wraps around two side of the room and overlooks the gardens and pool in the distance. The terrace has a dining table in one corner, a sofa lounge area for relaxing and sipping champagne or tea and enjoying and then a second more private sitting area at the far end. This room would be perfect for hosting a private reception for a birthday or other celebration and I could easily see 30 to 40 or so guests fitting perfectly on the terrace with a couple of staff members catering to everyone’s needs. If I lived in Mysore I could easily see myself throwing my next birthday party there!
But we weren’t there to party, we were there to relax and explore the wonderful cuisine and our surroundings. I had the pleasure of meeting Sam David, the executive chef for Royal Orchid Metropole since December 2011, and he recommended some eye-opening delights to us – some things that I have either never tried or was trying anew with a special twist to them.
Sam explained that the Metropole is one of the only – if not the only – spot in town that preserves the traditional authenticity of the Tandoori recipes they prepare. I explained that at times the Tandoori spices pack a bit too much punch for my more wimpy white lady palette and he happily agreed to tone down the spice a pinch for me, which was very much appreciated.
For the food we ordered, Sam suggested a bottle of Hardys 2009 Cabernet Merlot and it paired perfectly with our din din. For the appetizers we started with a healthy crudité with a fabulously zesty sauce, poppadum cones with tomato, paneer, onion, coriander and mixed spices with mango chutney since it was mango season and the mixed tandoori platter that was bigger than we expected and just as delicious as my friends said it would be. Then we had vegetables marinated in turmeric, ginger and garlic spice… then the skewered mushrooms stuffed with minced vegetables cooked in the tandoori oven.
The main course options are ample and we ordered the minced lamb infused with minced vegetables and coriander cooked in the tandoori oven, the TO DIE FOR tender lamb chops with a tangian marinade, fish in a saffron, ginger and garlic marinade, and last but not least, the murgh tikka that literally falls apart in the mouth.
For lunch the next day we pigged out again! We tried the lamb roganjush cooked in a masala reduction stock and dal makni, which is black lentils that have been boiled for 8 hours on the tandoor clay oven with Indian spices and served with amazing roomali bread. Then the Jaipur veg dish comprised of julienne cut veggies in a tasty cashew based sauce. And last but not least their infamous Dampuk chicken biriyani cooked with the conduction method where no direct fire is involved, sealing the meats together with the rice and spices by sealing it with dough to steam it. The biriyani is just superb and the waiter asked the spice level we wanted, which I thought was a nice touch.
There are two restaurants to choose from, either Tiger Trail or Shikari (which in Hindi means hunter). Lunch is served buffet style from 12:30 to 3:30pm and includes oriental, continental, and Indian cuisine, including some Mysore specialties. Friends of mine who live or travel frequently to Mysore head quite frequently to the lunch and rave about it. Dinner is served a la carte from 7:30 to 11:30pm
When you make your reservation, even if you do it online, call the hotel after and try to score Suite 108…that terrace was a dream come true! The staff is warm and friendly and they were happy to accommodate every request.
(reviewer Angela Carson)