It's not only Maharajas who live in palaces. Regular people, as we reviewed, can get that feel at Grand Hyatt Goa too, coupled with good food and a wonderful spa!
By: Karishma Suri
Posted on: April 12, 2013
It’s not only Maharajas who live in palaces. Regular people, as we reviewed, can get that feel at Grand Hyatt Goa too, coupled with good food and a wonderful spa!
Once upon a time, there was a palatial property that expanded over a vast expanse of lush green lawns and beautiful blue waters that threatened to invade upon the property. Fast forward to today, and this property is in step with all modern amenities and will literally cocoon you in its vast lap of luxury. Not Udaipur or Jaipur, but you will find this property in none other than the party capital of India – Goa. This Grand Hyatt property aims at pleasing and nothing less than that. Grand Hyatt Goa is conveniently located seven km (4.3 miles) from the capital Panaji. Built in the architectural style of a 17th century Indo-Portuguese baroque palace, the hotel is located on the calm and inviting waters of Bambolim Bay.
The property seems to have had a lot of planning and detailing involved from conceptualisation to its completion, from the stones used in the construction to the fencing of the property. The hotel comprises a main building that houses four of the main restaurants and the bar: The Dining Room, The Verandah, Chula and Capiz Bar as well as the Bay View Lounge and the deli, Confetaria. Don’t miss the 16th century chapel that has been left untouched, adding that ancient heritage touch to the property.
At first sight
As you drive into the palatial estate’s main house, you are welcomed by a symbol of protection and healing, with a sculpture of a mother and child in deep copper and bronze to welcome each guest. As you walk into the main hotel reception, you are greeted with tall urns in four niches. Each urn is made with 800 pieces of wood joined together and then carved with intricate floral patterns.
Walking through the hotel, the first thing that greets the eye is the way every corner of the hotel has been moulded with the right mix of Indo-Portuguese and contemporary architecture, to give its guests a memorable experience with this one-of-a-kind structure they can call home. The hotel has been built in a baroque style, hence the high roof consisting of approximately 1,000,000 roof tiles!
A step further from the entrance of the main hotel, take a look and appreciate the stone work on the columns in the atrium, which were worked on in China before being transported here. The interiors of the hotel are calm and inviting with open spaces (that offer an abode of tranquillity) and clean elements. Impressively massive, you will feel that you are in a palace – yours actually, while the staff makes you feel like royalty.
The property is said to offer the largest banquet facilities in Goa. Take a tour of the property before you check in and don’t miss the Grand Ballroom that is decorated with Kaala Khata marble imported all the way from Israel. Don’t miss the Tarazzo style of tiling employed at Grand Hyatt Goa (which is a unique system of tilling used in ancient India). Collectors will absolutely love the beautiful Capiz shells that feature prominently in the interiors of the resort. The opaque flat shell, also known as mother of pearls, is commonly associated with Goa. A striking piece of art made from strings of cascading Capiz shells greets guests on entering the lobby, Shamana Spa, Capiz Bar and The Veranda.
Peace that you deserve
The 314 rooms and suites at Grand Hyatt offer panoramic views of Bambolim Bay. They are perfectly designed for a leisure guest to unwind in the comfort of a large bed or watch the magical sunset from the oversized balcony. Pick from an option of three different views: the bay, the pool or the garden. The bathrooms are very spacious and highly appreciated are the separate dry and wet areas. The rooms are fully equipped with everything you need to make your stay complete including an iPod docking station, fruit basket and mini bar. A word of caution: keep a second set of keys close (or even a house phone) as their locks are becoming a little too shy. They won’t accept your keys and will only respond to the Security’s master key. After facing this problem more than once, we learned our lesson finally.
Transport around the property is usually through buggies, but I would recommend making friends with your walking shoes, as there is a big chance that your buggy will take over thirty minutes to reach you (and the property is huge!).
No visit to Goa is complete without at least an hour for yourself. If you are looking to relax, the Shamana Spa has a variety of treatments that will pamper you and will elevate your wellbeing with personalised Balinese, Thai and Indian therapies, using luxurious products like diamond, pearl and seaweed. The property also has an outdoor free form swimming pool for guests to be able to unwind and enjoy the sea breeze and literally soak in the Goan experience. You can use a spacious fitness centre, a world-renowned beauty salon, water sports and a sailing club too. Children can enjoy the entertaining Camp Hyatt facilities at the hotel, presenting a complete recreational and wellness experience for couples, friends and the entire family all year round!
Food for the soul
Grand Hyatt Goa, with its seven restaurants and bars, offers guests a wide selection of authentic cuisines from different parts of the world, but served with the traditional warmth of a Goan residence.
You will probably spend most of your time in the Dining Room, which as the name suggests, depicts the dining room of the palace. Ideally a buffet restaurant serving breakfast and dinner, you also have an a la carte option for lunch in a contemporary setting. The restaurant is a warm, lively and casual dining venue featuring five interactive buffet stations serving various cuisines along with international Western favourites with a balanced variety of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. You will feel like you are in your personal kitchen as you help yourself to bits and pieces in a gastronomical world tour with Thai, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern delicacies making their way inside you. The outlet introduces the concept of eating out of the pan, grill or oven, where food is cooked fresh for the guest to take back to their table.
Breakfast here is quite a grand affair. A must have for chocolate lovers is the Hot Chocolate that is freshly prepared and steaming (will wake you up) but you can also opt for fresh fruit or vegetable juices (they even have flavoured lassis). Health lovers will clap their hands as this place also offers Celery Juice and Tomato and spinach juice! Pair these beverages with a platter of seasonal fresh fruits and yoghurts or opt for more sinful options like pancakes with butter. Though delicious, be sure to top it up with maple syrup as it may get a little dry. A cheese platter with brie, camembert, emmental and cheddar will also delight. Strongly recommended is a visit to the Lebanese counter with Hummos, labnah and fresh and hot pita bread. Available throughout the day, don’t sweat if you miss it at breakfast. Dig into a whole wheat croissant that is absolutely fabulous and you will not be able to tell that it is a relatively healthy option! The Tomato and Mozarella Croissant is a must have, even if only a bit, and watch as it simply melts in your mouth. Avoid mushrooms as they are tasteless and a little chewy. The usual egg station features here as well. The dosa can be slightly dry so keep your eyes on the stove and request it to be cooked in butter. Besides all this, the usual milk, cereals, cold cuts and salads are also available.
Lunch is an equally grand affair at the Dining Room, so ensure you have digested breakfast to make place for this meal! Beat the summer heat with the Italian Smooch, a Mojito inspired fresh mocktail, formulated with mint, lime, sugar, salt, crushed ice and topped with coke and brown sugar. Sample the Cauliflower soup with cheese croutons, which is light and delectable. A live pasta station will fulfil your Italian quota for the day as you sample small portions made to order. You can add bits of chicken if you please. The sautéed market vegetables cooked with Italian herbs and butter will open up your palate. The Asian section practically calls out your name with savoury dishes like wok fried noodles and stir fried vegetables but I went with a red vegetable thai curry with rice and paneer in black bean sauce (from their a la carte menu) which I promise you will devour till the last drop. Perfect hint of flavour with the right mix of spices and herbs, your ticket to South East Asia can now be pushed to a later date.
Non-vegetarians can have the Grilled Fish, which they generally make with Snapper, but being unavailable, they used the local fish which tends to be slightly dry, but the taste absolutely made up for it. The Fish Pie is a continental lover’s delight as it is creamy and has a buttery fish filling that overcomes the slightly chewy pie, If you want to have Grilled Chicken, ask them to freshly prepare this dish to avoid cold and undercooked pieces, and flavour it with some herbs before eating it. An absolute must have are the Shwarmas (vegetarian with paneer made on request) which will bring the Middle East right to your plate and fill your stomach. Coming to the best part, make sure you keep some place for their in-house prepared ice cream that comes in four flavours - strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and coffee. You can also add a variety of toppings, but I would recommend them as is since they really are good! In second place comes the chocolate fondue that you can pair up with fruits or marshmallows (on request). Other desserts fall flat either because of the heat and climate (as they put it) or because the tags are a tad bit mixed up so you are quite unsure of what you are eating.
Dinner at this venue is quite reminiscent of lunch, so you can make up for what you left out. The live grill offered freshly prepared corn and vegetable patties which almost immediately melted in the mouth and was paired up with a cucumber raita. The non-vegetarian alternative to this was grilled chicken, fish and beef in a yoghurt and garlic marination (as available for lunch). Go for the lamb seekh which is quite full of masalas and will tickle your taste buds (ensure that it’s well done else you will find it very chewy). It is not too spicy as they cater to a lot of international guests too. The Jacket potato was a little tasteless, so you will need to add some salt, pepper and herbs to it before you can actually eat it. A winner at this dinner was the pizza with onions, bell peppers and corn – absolutely delectable and stays true to its authentic roots. Desserts will fail to impress so fill your stomach with the food instead. A small wish that they pick up their socks with regard to their sweet nothings. Desserts that are meant to be served hot are cold. The rotation of the empty platters is slow, with the desserts not being refilled quickly, so you are left staring at just the name tag imagining yourself to be sampling the dessert. We recommend making use of their other dining options instead of just relying on one if you wish some variety during your stay.
An option at this grand hotel is The Verandah which is their signature restaurant. It is a must visit purely for the design and layout of the outlet, which will definitely enhance any dining experience, adding a refined touch with its posh setting (only open for dinner). A Western-style grill that predominantly serves meat and seafood in season with Middle Eastern and Asian influences, the show kitchen is an impressive addition to this restaurant.
For the Indian in you
During your stay at the Grand Hyatt, if home-style Indian cooking is what you crave, then ensure a reservation at their very popular Chulha restaurant. An informal, fun, local, home-style food restaurant offering a five-star environment, you will not fail to notice the rural type table setting. This is where you can satiate all your ‘chaat’ and Indian food cravings. Worry not, as the food items served will be in small portions, encouraging the guest to order a larger variety. The open show kitchen manages to set the tone for a fun meal and preps the appetite for a tasteful experience. An absolute must have is the Palak Papri Chaat which has batter fried pieces of spinach leaves with yoghurt, tamarind sauce, mint sauce and coriander sauce. Of course, your ‘chaatful’ journey doesn’t end here, so have the aloo padi chaat, samosa chaat and the dahi padi chaat which are equally mouth watering.
From their grills, have the Paneer tikka, which is so delicious that it practically melts in your mouth. Highly commendable is their quality of paneer. The Lentil seekh kebab is crunchy because of the lentils, but is a little too oily. The Tandoori Jhinga and the mutton seekh kebab, though delicious, can be a little too spicy for the usual palate, so request them to tone it down a bit. The main course offers a variety of fulfilling dishes that you will find at any normal Indian restaurant, but the taste of Chulha’s creations are a definite victor. The Dal Makhni (very heavy and a little tangy) can be paired with the Palak Methi Paneer, which is quite innovative. Its texture, however, can be a little ‘thready’, which deters the enjoyment, but has a fabulous taste.
Putting a big bucketful of water over all this praise, watch out for foreign particles in your meal. The paneer makhanwala, however tasteful, came with a special topping in the form of a white thread inside! However good the meal was, it was an instant dampener, and completely marred the entire experience. For the sweet tooth, try the Jalebi or the Kulfi (very powdery and settles down on the tongue) if you can recover from the ‘thread paneer’. Watch out for the mosquitoes though (get a coil or a repellent put next to your table). The food surpasses all expectations and happens to be the best Indian food one can get around India if they take cleanliness seriously.
For a quiet and lazy evening, visit the Pool Bar and Grill as they serve refreshing and innovative cocktails, comfort food, all-day delicious grilled dishes, light salads and home-made ice-cream! Their brownie point is the proximity from the beach and the pool, so you can feast your eyes on the beautiful sunset while an atmosphere of relaxation surrounds you. The property also houses a bakery/patisserie for fresh bakery items, pastries, chocolates and specialty coffees and teas along with retail items throughout the day. A visit to The Confeitaria, therefore, is a must for all those with a sweet tooth!
If you are looking for an entertainment spot to hit over the weekend or just sip on a drink with your partner, Capiz Bar at this property is the place to be with its in-house DJ playing lounge music. Open from 4:00 pm until late, pick between a bar seating, lounge seating or even a large outdoor terrace - though not advisable because the mosquitoes may just kill you. Music, signature cocktails, mocktails and bar bites – what else can you ask for in Goa? A perfect place to enjoy a sun downer!
What makes this property is their warm, friendly and caring staff whose dictionary does not contain the negation ‘no’. You will feel at home while they try their very best to ensure that your stay with them is pleasant and comfortable. The housekeeping staff, however, needs to pull up its socks slightly, and ensure that it implements its basic standards correctly. We hope that there is no “The End” to this beautiful palace and that many will want to be a part of this palatial journey.
Coordinates: P.O. Goa University, Bambolim, North Goa, Goa, India