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IVFEx 2017: Aah Taj! Wah Taj! Quintessentially Indian Taj!

Posted: Monday, 24 April 2017 15:27


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IVFEx 2017: Aah Taj! Wah Taj! Quintessentially Indian Taj!

April 24: During his visit to India last month to attend wine events organised by the International Vine and Food Experience (IVFEx 2017) in Hyderabad , Delhi and Mumbai during which John Salvi MW also visited Nashik, giving him opportunities to visit 5 different properties of the Taj Hotels group which impressed him and left a lasting impact, he writes

Click For Large ViewI have never before felt the urge to write about hotels in which I have stayed all over the world, but this is different.  During my recent trip to India I spent 6 nights in Taj Hotels and have never been so hospitably received.  All Indians know the Taj Hotels – it could not be otherwise with such an important group.  They are fabulous!

TAJ calls itself “quintessentially Indian”, which is absolutely correct in every way.  It has 100 hotels in 62 locations and since returning to Europe I have learned that they have two in London that I am going to visit as soon as I possibly can.

Taj Krishna

My first visit was to the TAJ KRISHNA in Hyderabad.  This is a truly magnificent hotel with every amenity that one could wish for.  What I was to find everywhere was the remarkable number of staff waiting with wide smiles and innate courtesy to cater to your every need.  Even if I only had my passport or a small package a member of the staff would relieve me of it with a smile and accompany to my room before opening the door, seeing me safely inside and handing back the item in question. At any hour of the day or night they were there and treated my most ignorant questions and queries as thought they were matters of state.

The General Manager of Hotel Taj Krishna, Mr. K. Mohanchandran (every one fondly calls him Mohan) knew my friend Subhash Arora and we were treated like royalty, beginning with a royal welcome by him personally as we arrived earlier.

Taj Falaknuma Palace

But the event for which we had come to Hyderabad was not at Taj Krishna.  It was the “101 Taj Event” so called for a table known as the World’s Longest single table which was in an even grander hotel – the FALAKNUMA PALACE. 

Click For Large ViewThis has to be one of the world’s grandest hotels even if the Taj has other palaces. Trip Advisor has called it “the Best Palace Hotel in the World”.  It is unbelievably grand and aristocratic.  The first evening was a Garden Party in the most beautiful surroundings with a sumptuous buffet of Indian food.  Fine weather, Sufi music, delicious Indian wines from Sula, Grover Zampa, Fratelli and York wineries, and excellent company made an unforgettable evening.

The Grand Dinner at Falaknuma

Click For Large ViewTaj was not content with this.  Keith Edgar had arranged a dinner on this very longest table in the world.  A single table that seated 101 persons! (95 to be precise)  To match the grandeur, a two star Michelin Chef Srijith Gopinathan had come all the way from Taj Campton Place San Francisco, California to prepare our dinner.  A lavish dinner with truffle dust, scallops, quails, Porcini mushrooms, shrikand crystals and many other delicacies!   

Click For Large ViewWonderful wines and 60 waiters completed the magnificence.  They offered me a wheelchair and this was something of an adventure as to take the lifts we had to go through the back passages and through the kitchens.  The chefs looked very surprised and one offered me a taste of the Porcini and truffle dish, which I accepted with alacrity.  My friend Liam Steevenson MW was staying here so I used his room to have a dip into the vast swimming pool- bigger than any Olympic sized pool in Europe.  Service was well-nigh perfect and our 2-day stay at Hyderabad was bliss.

Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi

Click For Large ViewI have not said that this was the first of a Taj promotion organised by the hotels and Keith Edgar. Thus, the second part was in New Delhi at the Taj Mahal Hotel.  It was equally grand, with equally fine service and a gala dinner in the gardens among the tropical flowers, shrubs and trees.  The entire area was perfumed and fragrant.  The dinner this time was by the hotel chef who did a very fine job too.  A gastronomic delight that lasted into the early hours of the morning!  The hotel cars fetched and delivered me and no attention was spared.

The Gateway Hotel Nashik

Click For Large ViewNow we come to the highlight of the trip – The Gateway Hotel in Nashik.  It calls itself a Wine Hotel and indeed Nashik is the very heart of the Indian Wine World.  I solemnly pronounce this as the finest hotel in which I have ever had the pleasure of staying.  I wish to say this to the superbly professional manager, Vinod Pandey, who looked after us as though we were royalty.  He gave us the finest suites, organised special Indian dishes for us, especially his beloved and delicious Maharashtra cuisine.  He introduced us to his Executive Chef, Ali Khan, who came to see us to propose specialities even for breakfast. 

Click For Large ViewThe Gateway Hotels are supposed to be a level below the Taj Luxury hotels, under the same group ownership.  This particular Gateway is one step up.  Everything runs like clockwork under the eagle eye of the general manager.  When I wrote to thank him, he wrote back, ‘As they say, a place is because of it’s people and so is The Gateway Nashik. I am blessed with a team of committed and enthusiastic people. Gateway experience is all about people and working together to create beautiful memories for all our guests. I am blessed to be working with the group of highly motivated and enthusiastic individuals who take personal pride in delivering warm, intuitive and genuine service for all our guests ‘. Is that not a perfect general manager?!

Never shall I forget this and I cannot praise him, his hotel or his devoted staff highly enough.  I understand that the hotel is soon to be promoted and will become a Taj rather than a Gateway.  I am delighted to hear this and it cannot happen soon enough!

Apart from the fine staff the hotel itself is in lush, perfectly tended grounds, nestling in the hot, dirty and dusty town of Nashik.  An oasis of quiet, of green and of beauty!  As one drives through the gates one enters a paradise that is totally invisible and unsuspected from outside.

Pandey is proud of it being a Wine Hotel.  The décor is devoted to wine, the wine list carries almost every Indian wine worth drinking.  The hotel organises vineyard visits, gives wine advice and organises wine dinners.  I wish we had more such enterprising hotels in our European wine regions, where it is sometimes an effort even to get a drinkable glass of wine.

Taj Lands-End Mumbai

The stay in The Gateway Hotel Nashik hotel was not a Taj event, but part of my vineyard experience organised for me by my good friend Subhash Arora.  Now we come to the third of the “Taj 101 Events”, which was in Mumbai at the Taj Lands End. Again, I was treated like royalty and had a room looking straight over the sea. 

The Gala dinner was linked to the wine exhibition and tasting.  Throughout the evening there were stands where importers showed their wines and Master Classes where experts talked about them.  I gave one with Subhash Arora on our visit together to Nashik- East Meets West, visits Nashik’ and I was impressed with the knowledge of some people about wine as they asked several intelligent questions.

The following day there were more Masterclasses and I did one on old and new world Sauvignon with Keith Edgar.  This was followed in the evening by the Gala dinner, for which I just had time before the hotel car drove me to the airport.  It was yet another magnificent repast in fabulous surroundings with the best of wines and sublime food.  What a finish to the trip of a lifetime!

Well done Keith Edgar, well done Taj Hotels, well done Gateway and Vinod Pandey, and thank you all for an unforgettable and truly wonderfully enjoyable experience.

John Salvi, Master of Wine

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