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Review: Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (summer 2011)

September 25, 2011

Review: Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (ttgluxury Summer 2011

With its doors not long open, a parade of Bollywood A-listers and the arrival of the US president imminent, there couldn’t have been a more hectic time to check out the reincarnated Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

It was October, and we were looking around the newly reopened hotel after the devastating terrorist attack that killed 166 people in 2008. Unsurprisingly, during our tour of the newly restored Heritage Wing, which was decimated in the attacks, security was tight.

Walking around the immaculate and bustling hotel, designed in a mixture of Florentine, oriental and Moorish styles, we would still spot the odd scar, left by a bullet, on a column. As Obama would later say: “the Taj has been the symbol of the strength and the resilience of the Indian people.”

By the pool, close to where the terrorists entered, it was chilling to imagine what had taken place, but with the guests relaxing all around in such luxurious settings, it felt out of place to ask questions.

Some of our group were staying in selected suites on the top floors of the Heritage Wing, so-called as it was built in 1903. Some of the 285 suites had only just been renovated, while decorators were literally putting the finishing touches to the Presidential suite.

My Olive suite was tastefully white, and except for a few intricately carved Udaipur-style relief panels reflecting the hotel’s grandeur, everything was modern and sleek. One nice touch was the plasma TV built into the bathroom mirror, as well as my shirt returning in an antique leather suitcase, with a card thanking me for my stay. The Seagull suite (pictured above right) was another stand-out feature of the hotel.

The restaurants, many of which were the first sections to be completed in the two-year $37.3 million restoration programme, were equally impressive. Our meal at Wasabi By Morimoto (pictured top) was a poignant one, taking place in the turret that became one of the emblems of the attack, catching fire and spreading through to the rest of the wing.

Today, diners can eat there once again, overlooking the Gateway to India, as dozens of small courses of sushi and sashimi filter in. But Mediterranean-style restaurant Souk, on the top floor of the tower, offers even betters views than Wasabi, showing more of a sense of the kind of sprawling behemoth Mumbai is.

Our stay coincided with the Bombay Times’ Halloween party, packed with Bollywood A-listers. Around midnight, as the stars came and went, the hotel’s bustling lobby was filled with children waiting with their parents for autographs. The Taj is certainly the place to be in Mumbai, and its reincarnation testament to the resilience of the property’s staff, and commitment from its owners, the Tata group.

HOW TO BOOK IT
Bales Worldwide has three nights at the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, flying Kingfisher Airlines in business class, from £2,820pp. The price includes breakfast and transfers.
Tel: 0845 057 1819,
balesworldwide.com

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