A Staycation as the name implies, is the opposite of Away’cation where you do not have to go away and can Stay and have a Vacation relatively close to your own home 😀 and is a great option for those who are unable to travel but want to enjoy the pleasures that come with a holiday.
I was invited to stay at the Howard Johnson, Bengaluru and experience their hospitality and facilities. Having just gone through a bout of travelling, this was a welcome change and the 20 mins between my house and the hotel made this the shortest length of time that I had ever traversed to get to a holiday destination 😀
Howard Johnson, popularly referred to as HoJo, is a part of a chain of nearly 450 hotels and belongs to the Wyndham group, which has a worldwide presence.
The HoJo in Bangalore is situated near Hebbal in the midst of busy Thanisandra. The hotel looms large, just a short distance off the ring road and is easily noticeable with its striking, blue glass facade. Its unusual triangular construction results in its apex ending in a sharp edge and the base on the opposite side being conjoined with the Elements Mall which is an extension of the same building but has its own segregated entrance.
The 7 storey property has 117 rooms which include deluxe, premium and executive club rooms and also suites.
Primarily a business hotel, its proximity to Manyata Tech Park makes it a very convenient place of stay for corporate guests.
The spa, swimming pool, board room facilities, conference rooms and an executive lounge interestingly named Hayek, provide the business traveller a fine blend of comfort and convenience.
My stay here was across the weekend where I was to check in on a Saturday before lunch and check out after the next day’s Sunday brunch. An added bit of excitement was that this was to be a special millet based brunch and being a millet maniac, this was the icing on the (ragi=finger millet) cake 😀
My companion and I arrived at the hotel, to a spice’y welcome of the famous Cardamom garlands and Litchi drinks.
We were then escorted to our 6th floor deluxe room that faced the swimming pool, which is the best view that the hotel has to offer. The Manyata Tech Park and several other tall buildings form the background.
A quick look at the room revealed a comfortable setting with all the usual amenities in place like the fridge, ironing board, large screen TV, radio, safe and so on and a washroom equipped with Biotique toiletries and Kohler fittings.
The wooden boards on the floor tended to squeak a bit when stepped on and one of them was out of place which was a bit unsafe.
The large glass window overlooking the enticing pool, compelled us to cut short our inspection of the room and with the azure waters and deck chairs giving us the come hither, we moved to the 5th floor to enjoy our snack of brown bread sandwiches and juice by the poolside. Facing the opposite direction away from the main road, this is a great place to unwind and spend time even though one may not swim (like yours truly).
This floor also houses the gym and spa and the complimentary morning yoga classes are also conducted here.
Of course one can pretend not to have seen the gym as one quietly slinks past the equipment in their quest to achieve greater things in life, for example total relaxation !!! Those filled with the adrenalin of human enthusiasm however, can have a go at the machines 😀
The spa goes by the brand name Sohum and has massages, facials, foot reflexology and such treatments and therapies. One can come here to unwind and de-stress at the hands of the skilled staff.
We indulged in foot massages expertly rendered by Saraswathi from Sikkim who embodied the oxymoron, firmly gentle 😀
Lunch was next on the agenda and we made our way to the 2nd floor where all the restaurants are located, namely The Verve, the 24 hour coffee shop, The Nest which is the main restaurant and the Marea bar lounge.
The 64 seater Nest serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets along with a la carte options from the menu. The decor including the furniture, the napkins and some of the crockery, is done up in the purple and orange thematic colors of the HoJo.
Tables that have been pre booked, sport an innovative Happily Committed sign, instead of the usual ‘Reserved’. Left to me, I would have gone with Happily Come’Eat’ed (that was so tacky right ?) 😀
The chef had curated a meal for us in the privacy of one of the 2 private dining rooms.
Chef Chakradhar who has recently joined the hotel, is young and dynamic and I had experienced his innovative and impressive creations at the Jackfruit food festival held here earlier this year.
Keeping this meal on a South Indian note, he started us off with a Smoked curry leaf rasam. Lip smacking is the only way to describe this tangy broth, cliched though the term might sound. As if by providence he had planned a crispy, spicy Andhra gobi starter for my cauliflower loving vegetarian companion.
A gentle hint (read blatant request 😀 ) nudged him to tread the seafood path with me and I was presented with fish fritters, which though nicely done, were of Basa. However the chef noticing my Basa’lisk look, was quick to proceed with a Mangalore style coconutty prawn curry that paired beautifully with the steamed rice that was served. The tamarind based Vegetable kuzhambu also went well with the rice.
My millet loving reputation having preceeded me, I was also urged to try the Millet dosa with coconut chutney. We ended our meal with desserts from the buffet counter.
After lunch, Madeeha from Sales who was my ‘tour guide’ for the day, took me on a round of the rooms that lie on either side of long, carpeted corridors.
Unlike my room, those that face the main road have a lot of ‘Thanisandra’ in their view 😀 and with this busy locality constantly chock a block with traffic, this is a far cry from the soothing pool view. However, the glass barriers of the building are so acoustically sound, that one is near totally spared the sounds from the outside and the best way to describe this to say that one can only see the noise and not hear the noise 😀
All that touring was naturally tiring and the afternoon was spent resting. Not for long though, for hot pakodas and cool juices prodded us to awaken and continue our eating spree.
We spent the evening on the 3rd floor library which is a quiet little passage flanked on both sides by rooms and earns the right to its label by the presence of a little bookshelf with real books, that lies between faux shelves in the form of wall paper bearing book prints.
A large chess board with ornately carved wooden pieces lay on a little table.
An antique looking telephone, gramophone and wall clock, completed the sedate picture.
At dinner we were requested to try out their In room services and it was Asian for me with Basil fried chicken and Thai prawn curry with rice and North Indian for my companion with butter naan, rotis, dal fry and alu gobi (yes prawns and gobi again … we are rather fixated like that)
Dessert was Ras malai in coconut milk and though the liquid was delicious, the sweet itself could have been spongier.
Dining within the room does have its advantages where privacy and pace of eating is concerned but the downside is that some of the foods like the rotis, tend to get cold in transit and also it could get a bit cramped since the table is not large enough to contain all the dishes. The service however was prompt and the clearing up happened quite seamlessly.
The beds were comfortable and after all that food there was no other place that we wanted to be 😀
The view of the pool in the daytime, though rather less appealing with its concrete jungle backdrop, miraculously turns charming at night with the dull buildings taking on a glitter and the scene morphing into a scintillating play of gold and blue.
This resulted in the pictures literally being as different as Night and Day 😀
Breakfast next morning was the buffet with the regular Indian and Western offerings, with live counters producing eggs to order and fresh dosas off the griddle. The cucumber mint juice was a welcome addition apart from the usual fresh fruit juices. I also enjoyed the mini butterscotch pancakes doused in honey.
Since I had some time before lunch (yes we plan our schedules based on food), I set off to survey the surroundings. Being a Sunday the roads were relatively less traffic laden and I managed to get some reasonably clear pictures of the hotel building from all possible angles.
Of course, all that effort only helped in working up an appetite and it was the Millet lunch next on the list.
As I mentioned earlier, Chef Chakradhar brims with novel ideas and he had put together a buffet which nearly 60 % millet based.
Consisting of a multi millet medley, the very impressive spread was made up of the Steamed fish and millet salad, Roasted broccoli with apple and millet salad, Thai peanut millet salad, Millet and moong khichdi, Millet urundai kuzhambu, Millet and broccoli risotto, Ragi spaghetti and Bajra Fettucine made in house and served with creamy pesto sauce, Millet encrusted grilled fish with garlic butter sauce, multi millet Focaccia and Ragi rolls.
Desserts showcased the Ragi semiya payasam, delightfully chewy Honey coated bajra sticks and a Ragi chocolate gateau.
This millet magnificence was truly was a very satisfying end to my comfortable stay.
My thanks to Chef Chakradhar and Ms Madeeha for taking such good care of us.
The HoJo is a swanky, clean, conveniently located and the staff is well trained, friendly and ready to be of assistance. It is an easy 30 minutes from the airport and very close to business hubs.
The facilities are well maintained and the restaurants cover reasonably good multi cuisine options.
However, they could do well to improve their valet service at the driveway and see to it that the guest has a smooth entry into the premises because the entrance is where the experience begins !!!
All my feedback was conveyed to the staff and duly noted.
For more information of tariffs and seasonal offers, check out the Howard Johnson Bengaluru Hebbal
For more pictures see My Facebook – Howard Johnson-Staycation
Sep 23rd-24th, 2017
Please note – My staycation was on invite. The narration is based on my personal experience.