Review of The Clarke’s Hotel, Shimla: A Grand Heritage Hotel Since 1898

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When I was growing up in Delhi, Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, was the summer holiday destination of choice. It continues to be a popular tourist destination, for its unbeatable colonial charm, lovely weather, wide range of accommodation options and good connectivity. Last week, I explored Solan in Himachal Pradesh (click here), and next week I will cover Shimla in depth. Today, I am reviewing ‘The Clarke’s Hotel’, where I stayed in Shimla, last month.

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THE CLARKE’S HOTEL, SHIMLA:

This hotel is the first property owned and run by the famed Oberoi group of hotels, and is one of the oldest heritage properties in India. Located at the tip of the Mall Road in Shimla, it has been in business since 1898. Before India became independent, its owner Mr. Clarke sold the hotel to Mr. Mohan Singh Oberoi who worked at the hotel, at a throwaway price. After ‘The Clarke’s Hotel’, Mr. Oberoi grew by leaps and bounds in the hospitality industry. The Oberoi Group has maintained this hotel exactly as it was in the days of the British Raj.

If you would prefer to read just the review portion, you can scroll to the end of this post.

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The famous Dining Hall at The Clarke’s Hotel, Shimla

BOOKINGS AND HOW TO GET THERE:

If you would like to book rooms at The Clarke’s Hotel on booking.com, please click here.

If you prefer booking directly at the hotel, please click here.

Shimla is about an 8-9 hour drive from Delhi. One can take a flight to Chandigarh and drive up, or a train to Kalka and drive up. One can also take the Toy Train from Kalka to Shimla. Though Shimla has an airport, it does not function on a daily basis due to unpredictable weather conditions.

TYPES OF ROOMS:

Superior Rooms: Comfortable twin beds and modern amenities but no view. Starting at INR 9,000 per night.

Deluxe Rooms: Comfortable twin beds, writing table, modern amenities, mini bar with partial view of Shimla valley. Starting at INR 9,500 per night.

Premier Rooms: Comfortable king-sized beds with ample room and seating space. Choice of view of mall road or partial Shimla valley. Starting at INR 10,000 per night.

Suites: King sized bedroom, adjoining room and reading lobby with views of partial Shimla valley. Starting at INR 13,000 per night.

From L-R: Club Sandwich, Fish & Chips and Nasi Goreng served at The Dining Hall

THINGS TO DO IN THE HOTEL:

DINING:

The Dining Hall:

This dining space was built in the British era and boasts a unique pillar-less design. Enjoy panoramic views of the city and the mountains, while sampling their delicious multi-cuisine spread.

Breakfast is included in some packages, but not all.

The Lounge Bar:

The bar is located just off the reception area, and offers an intimate and enjoyable colonial ambiance.

The Terrace:

The Terrace offers fantastic views of the mountains. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, or something stronger if you wish, throughout the day.

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Shimla by night viewed from The Terrace at The Clarke’s Hotel, Shimla

RECREATION:

Live Evening Barbeque:

When the weather permits, the hotel organizes a live barbeque on ‘The Terrace’, where one can enjoy some gorgeous views of Shimla by night. Food and drinks are served from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

MEETINGS AND CORPORATE PACKAGES:

The two large banquet halls are fully equipped and can seat up to 100 people for corporate events and meetings.

PARKING FACILITIES:

Residents of the hotel can park their cars in the hotel’s parking lot. Shimla’s mall road is entirely pedestrian and parking cars can be a huge problem.

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A lovely breakfast at The Clarke’s Hotel, Shimla

REVIEW OF THE HOTEL:

The Oberoi Group has maintained this hotel like a bungalow from the British era. With just 32 rooms, one dining space and a bar, it is an intimate boutique property. This allows one to have an uber-luxurious experience in a historic setting, at a reasonable price.

The real charm is the colonial ambiance and unbeatable location. One can amble along the mall road for an evening stroll and enjoy the sights of Shimla, a mere stone’s throw from the hotel. It is located 10 minutes from the train station and 20 minutes from the Jakhu ropeway which takes you up to the iconic Jakhu Temple.

My family consisting of 4 adults, 1 child and 1 nanny, booked a suite and a Deluxe Room for one night. The Suite was very spacious and comfortable. The rooms were clean, the wifi was functional and the bathroom had a tub and a shower facility.

Our nanny was given an extra bed in the adjoining room since the hotel does not have facilities for maid/driver stay. However, she was provided staff meals at a discounted rate of INR 250 in the room.

We enjoyed all three meals we ate at the dining hall. My pick of everything would be the Fried Fish & Chips, the Club Sandwich, the Cream of Tomato Soup and the Malaysian Nasi Goreng. The staff at the dining hall is particularly attentive and courteous, going out of their way to help.

In fact, every member of staff was amiable, willing and prompt at performing their duties. When the evening barbecue was cancelled due to rain, my father expressed a wish to have an umbrella put on the terrace, to enjoy his evening drink with a view. The staff obliged without complaint. We were allowed a later-than-usual check out and the entire process was very smooth. The hotel staff courteously couriered my phone charger home because I left it behind.

I had a wonderful stay at The Clarke’s Hotel, Shimla, and I will certainly return to partake of their fabulous hospitality, steeped in unmatched charm.

Hotel rating: 5/5

Book a stay at The Clarkes Hotel by clicking here.

Stay in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

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If you liked reading this review, you may enjoy reading my other hotel reviews from India and abroad here.

*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in all pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla and cannot be republished or repurposed without permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.

***If you enjoyed reading this post, you will enjoy reading my ebook “Tales From My Travel Treasury: An Alliterative Anthology” which can be downloaded for FREE for a limited time here.

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Review of The Gonville Hotel, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Hi folks, welcome to my series on United Kingdom! Having lived as a student in London from 2011-12 and visited it multiple times, I’m sharing my knowledge of this wonderful city and places I’ve visited in its vicinity. You can read about things to do in London here, where to eat here and where to shop here. The content largely focuses on my recent trip there in June-July 2018, but there’ll also be some gems from the past. If you’d like to know more, please follow my blog. While in London, we took a short trip to Cambridge, where my husband is currently studying. Previously, I’ve written a definitive guide to Cambridge here. This post is a review of the boutique hotel we stayed at- The Gonville Hotel.

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Our party consisted of my parents, my younger brother, my husband and my toddler son, so we chose a place that was family-friendly, and offered comfortable luxury. Scroll down to the last paragraph of this post for the review of the hotel.

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BOOKINGS & HOW TO GET THERE:

You can book rooms at The Gonville Hotel on Booking.com here.

Cambridge is well-connected to most other cities in the United Kingdom by rail. There are multiple trains that leave every hour. Book your tickets online in advance to avail the best deals on prices.

From London, one can drive to Cambridge or take a bus. Our bus ride to Cambridge was a comfortable 3 hour journey, while the train back to London took an hour but was very crowded!

The Gonville Hotel is located in Cambridge City Centre, a 2 minute walk from the bus stand, and a short taxi ride from the train station.

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Picture courtesy: http://www.tripadvisor.com

TYPES OF ROOMS:

The hotel offers four categories of rooms. The most luxurious of these are the eight Feature Bedrooms in Gresham House, a 19th century property that’s part of the hotel. These floral themed bedrooms have maintained their Victorian essence.

Superior Rooms offer luxury in a more modern setting, and we stayed in these. Classic Rooms are comfortable rooms in a slightly lower price range. There are also Accessible Rooms aimed at families or large groups travelling together.

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THINGS TO DO:

The hotel dates back to the 1800’s and its historical ethos is visible in every feature it offers.

BENTLEY TOURS:

The hotel offers luxury tours of the ancient university town of Cambridge, in its two in-house Bentley cars. Ably guided by the head concierge, Elliot, it’s your chance to roam the beautiful town like royalty. The service is complimentary but must be booked in advance.

GONVILLE BIKES:

If you prefer a more modest means of exploring the city, the hotel offers complimentary bikes. These are equipped with baskets and one-touch gears.

REGULAR EVENTS:

The hotel makes sure its patrons are kept thoroughly entertained through their stay. Check their website to stay updated on all current events. You can enjoy live jazz or movie screenings, among other activities.

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HEALTH & WELLNESS:

The hotel has a beautiful and well-equipped spa in the Gresham House Building. They offer many different treatments.

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DINING:

COTTO RESTAURANT:

This fine-dining restaurant is helmed by Master Chef Hans Schewitzer and serves a delectable three-course meal.

ATRIUM BRASSERIE:

The coffee shop is open to visitors as well as residents of the hotel. One can ask for fresh Afternoon Tea to be prepared in advance.

The Buffet Breakfast is served here, as well as in the outdoor area in front of Gresham House.

ATRIUM BAR:

You can choose from local selections and fantastic cocktails in this classy bar.

PRIVATE DINING:

The hotel offers many rooms for private dining which need to be booked in advance.

MISCELLANEOUS:

PET-FRIENDLY:

Not only is the hotel great for children of all ages, it also welcomes your dogs! Make sure to give advance notice of the pet’s arrival.

MEETINGS & CONFERENCES:

The Gonville Hotel is a popular choice for meetings and conferences, as the impeccable service leaves no stone unturned.

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REVIEW OF THE HOTEL:

We booked two Superior Rooms in the Friday Package. This package included dinner at the Atrium Brasserie coffee shop in the price of the room. This was a fantastic deal for one night, as we were able to try many dishes on their extensive menu. I was pleased with my fish and chips at dinner, and very satisfied with the breakfast selection the next morning.

The rooms were spacious, a rarity in many boutique hotels. They were furnished in a signature modern style, with a focus on the iconic sights of Cambridge. The bathroom had a bath tub and a shower head, and was well-stocked with amenities. The mini-bar had a lot to offer. There was a large LED TV as well as an expansive desk. The bedding was comfortable and the turn down service was prompt. Every member of staff was courteous, polite and attentive.

The hotel seems popular with locals, evident from a 30thbirthday party celebration that happened when we were there.

We had a comfortable and happy stay at The Gonville Hotel in Cambridge. I’ll definitely re-visit when I’m next in Cambridge!

Hotel Rating: 5/5

Book your rooms at The Gonville Hotel, Cambridge on Booking.com here.

*This is not a sponsored post.

** All pictures are my own, unless mentioned. Copyright in my pictures belongs to nooranandchawla.

Review of The Imperial Hotel Delhi: Birthday Staycation Edition

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Can you tell I loved my birthday staycation?!

Having spent two consecutive birthdays at The Imperial Hotel, Delhi, I can write this post with authority. With its distinctive old-world charm and modern amenities, it’s the perfect place for a staycation- you won’t want to leave the hotel!

I chose the Spa Summer Wellness Retreat for INR 16,999 (inclusive of taxes) for my birthday. Our package included an early check-in with a late check-out, buffet breakfast for two, fruit platter, 60 minutes spa service for two, 30 minutes hydrotherapy for two, 30 minutes salon service for two. We booked the Imperial Room but were kindly upgraded to the Heritage Room.

THE HISTORY:

Opened in 1936, this colonial hotel was built as per the Master Plan of Lutyens’ Delhi. Many historical decisions of note have been made here with the ‘who’s who’ of the country frequenting it. Today, the hotel has maintained its historic character while adopting international standards of hospitality.

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The swimming pool

GENERAL INFORMATION:

Bookings and How to Get There:

Click here to book rooms on www.booking.com

The capital city of Delhi is well-connected to the rest of the country as well other countries by air, rail and car. The hotel is located in the heart of the city on the prestigious Janpath walkway.

Types of Rooms:

Starting from INR 10,000 per night, the hotel offers various categories of rooms and suites along with different packages.

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Poolside eats

THINGS TO DO:

Recreation:

Swimming

The Imperial has one of the loveliest pools in Delhi owing to its colonial design. The water is at a depth of 4.5 ft and the temperature is cool. There is a separate hot tub/Jacuzzi available for those interested. The pool is open only to guests of the hotel.

Art Tour with High Tea

Guests of the hotel can be given a guided tour of the gorgeous period art of this hotel followed by high tea for INR 3000 plus taxes.

Culinary Classes

For foodies and cooks, the Imperial often hosts culinary sessions where one can learn in-house cooking secrets.

Shopping

There are a few shops where one can pick up Indian curios and books. The famed shopping street of Janpath is a stone’s throw from the hotel, for those who’d like some variety.

WiFi Access

The hotel offers free wifi for 3 devices, which works well.

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The Imperial Spa

Wellness:

Spa & Salon

The Imperial Spa is housed in a gorgeous glass building. They offer 6 types of oils to choose from and 6 types of massages depending on your needs. The masseuses are highly skilled and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my massage every time. The spa is only open to guests of the hotel.

The salon is open to public yet is a quiet place. I got an excellent pedicure which I highly recommend.

Health Club and Yoga Studio

You won’t miss your workout as the spacious resident gym is well-stocked with the latest machinery. Yoga classes and the unique Aquayogarobics are regularly held in the studio and the pool respectively.

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The Bianca Royale pizza at San Gimignano

Dining:

The Spice Route

I love all the restaurants in this hotel, but I have a soft spot for this one. The South-East Asian cuisine is phenomenal and the décor transports you to a different location.

The 1911 Bar

Fancy a drink before your delicious meal? There are two bars on the property, of which the 1911 Bar is more popular. They have a large selection of spirits that won’t disappoint.

Patiala Peg

This tiny bar next to Daniell’s Tavern is great for a quiet rendezvous.

Daniell’s Tavern

We visited this pan-Indian restaurant on the last day of a Coastal Cuisine Festival, and loved everything we tried. (Check out my Zomato review here)

San Gimignano

This Italian restaurant has perfected its Italian flavors and European vibe. (Check out my Zomato review here).

Buffet Breakfast at 1911 Restaurant

1911 offers an extensive breakfast buffet that won’t disappoint. The breakfast ends at 10:30 a.m. so keep that in mind before sleeping in!

Cakes & Bakes

The hotel generously sent over a delicious chocolate cake and bouquet of roses on finding out it was my birthday. I really appreciated the gesture and absolutely loved the cake!

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The 1911 Bar

Meetings & Conferences:

The hotel offers a couple of conference rooms and a large ballroom for fancier occasions.

Miscellaneous:

The hotel is a lovely place to host events and celebrations. I had my engagement lunch in the San Gimignano lawns on a sunny January afternoon. The leafy greens and period decoration is perfect for merriment of all kind.

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The complimentary chocolate cake and bouquet I received for my birthday

WHY YOU SHOULD STAY HERE:

I return frequently to this place because of its regal atmosphere. The history and charm enhance the experience so it stands apart from its competitors. Guests feel transported to another era with the ambiance and attentive service.

If you’re visiting Delhi, the Imperial is a fantastic choice for its location and uniqueness. If you live in Delhi and are looking for a quick escape from regular life, this quiet and alluring hotel is your best bet.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK ROOMS

HOTEL RATING: 5/5

(Please excuse some of the clips that are out of frame! This is my first time making a vlog. Also please give me tips on how to edit the frame of the videos on iMovie :))

*Featured image of the blog post courtesy: http://www.tripadvisor.in

**This is not a sponsored post

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The breakfast buffet at 1911 Coffee Shop

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Doi Maach with Malabari Paratha during the Coastal Cuisine Festival at Daniell’s Tavern

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The salon in the hotel

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The Heritage Room

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The toiletries in the bathroom

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Review of Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. Cute as Can Be!

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CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR TICKETS

Animated movies are my absolute favorite kind of films, and I’d thoroughly enjoyed “Hotel Transylvania” when it first came out. Despite having missed the second part of the series, I liked Genndy Tartakovsy’s “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation”.

THE PLOT:

When friendly vampire Drac (Adam Sandler) is dragged on a summer vacation monster cruise by his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), along with his entire family of monsters and humans; the last thing he expects is to fall in love. Drac immediately “zings” (a monster term for love at first sight) with the attractive human captain of the ship Erica (Kathryn Hahn). However, their love faces many obstacles as Erica has a dangerous legacy to fulfill.

THE COMMENTARY:

The series has always explored the themes of love and acceptance, and this offering is no different. By emphasizing the similarities between monsters and humans, the makers of the film make a poignant point about similarities across races and religions. The story gives utmost importance to the concepts of love and tolerance, along with spending quality time with your family, and letting your hair down to have fun.

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Image courtesy: http://www.wikipedia.com

The film wonderfully mimics life on a cruise ship, and has some lovely laugh-out-loud moments. There is a lot of action, humor, emotion, and plenty of heart. Each character is given sufficient screen time to endear them personally to the audience. Drac’s grandson Dennis in particular is adorable. All the actors who’ve lent their voices have done a phenomenal job.

Music plays a big role in the film with some lovely old classics making an appearance. Nothing is explained about the first two movies and you may be lost about characters’ history if you haven’t seen those, but the story stands on its own legs. Overall, the director deserves applause for keeping the film at par with its previous iterations.

THE VERDICT:

I highly recommend you take your children to watch it. It’s a film that offers both amusement and life lessons. I also recommend it to people who don’t have children, for being easy yet meaningful entertainment.

Film Rating: 4/5

Buy your tickets on BookMyShow by clicking here

*Featured image courtesy: http://www.hotelt3.com

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Baoshuan at the Oberoi Hotel, Delhi: An Honest Review

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Though I chronicle much of my Delhi life on this blog, most restaurant reviews go up on Zomato (follow me here) and TripAdvisor (follow me here) directly. As a foodie, I take my dining experiences very seriously! I recently had a meal at Omya– the Indian Restaurant at the newly revamped Oberoi Hotel, Delhi. I rated the placed only above average due to the lackluster service despite its high price point. You can read about the experience here. After reading the review, Simon Rastrick, the Executive Assistant Manager- Food and Beverage of the Oberoi Hotel, reached out to me offering a new culinary experience at their Chinese restaurant Baoshuan; to give the hotel another chance.

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The meal began with a hot towel, various kinds of crackers and delicious sauces

I’ve been a patron of the Oberoi hotel for years and felt very honoured by this overture, where the hotel probably felt my views were worthy of being changed! I took them up on their offer to review the Chinese restaurant for people that may be interested. Please keep in mind that such reviews must be read with a grain of salt, as a regular customer’s experience may differ from one specially hosted by the restaurant.

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Prawn Wonton with Sweet Chilli Jam

Baoshuan replaces the iconic Taipan, the concept of which has been significantly changed. Where Taipan was known for its delicious dimsum spread, Baoshuan has considerably reduced the selection on the menu, concentrating on making each dish really stand out.  Instead of an unlimited dimsum lunch, they now offer a main course and starter along with dimsum servings of choice. The dimsum menu is largely limited to lunchtime, except for select seafood choices served at dinner.

The Peking Duck pancakes

The meal began with crackers of different kinds served with some lovely sauces. We ordered the “Prawn Wonton with Sweet Chilli Jam” as an appetizer, the “Moo Shu Pancake Wraps of Chilli Bean Paste, Egg and Mushroom with Peking Duck” and the “Dong Po Slow Braised Pork Belly with Pickled Ginger” for the main course. The restaurant manager Tenzing Tashi sent over a selection of dimsum that he felt best represented the restaurant. These included the “Soupy Dumpling”, the “Chicken Suimai” and the “Crab Dumpling”. For dessert, we were served the “Tea Smoked Banana, Nut Crumble, Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate” despite our full tummies!

A selection of dimsum. From top left: Soupy dumpling, chicken suimai, crab dumpling

Each dish was beautifully presented and perfectly cooked with a bouquet of subtle flavours. My personal favourites were the soupy dumplings which were unusual yet delicious; the Peking duck which was the correct balance of crispy and soft textures with a delicate zest; and the fantastic dessert which was a complimentary conglomeration of flavours. Perhaps the only criticism is on the pork belly which could’ve been slightly softer in texture to elevate it to the next level.

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Braised pork belly. We ordered steamed rice to accompany it. 

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Tea smoked banana nut crumble with vanilla ice cream and chocolate

The service was highly attentive without being intrusive, and ensured we had a memorable experience. The place is definitely pricey but the food is worth the pretty penny. I’d like to thank the team at the Oberoi for this wonderful meal. Here’s hoping the other restaurants in the hotel fix their teething issues and rise to their Chinese counterpart soon!

Restaurant rating: 4.8/5