A colonial dream

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

With its origins in the early 19th century, the charismatic Taj-Savoy Ooty of white cottages and vibrant gardens offers an upmarket taste of colonial-era Ooty. Expect gracefully muted rooms, crack-of-dawn yoga, an ayurvedic spa and a brilliant Indian-international restaurant.

The hotel spreads around gorgeous grassy gardens on the western edge of lively Ooty, Tamil Nadu’s favourite hill station. Known as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, Ooty was founded in the 19th century as a summer escape in the Nilgiri Hills for the British Madras government. The nearest airport is down in the plains at Coimbatore, from where it’s a three-hour taxi up the hill, or you can link up with the Unesco-listed Nilgiri Mountain Railway to/from Mettupalayam (which takes about four hours).

The Savoy is made up of charming, cream-coloured, cottage-like rooms strung around gardens dotted with daisies, swinging benches and bird of paradise flowers. Some sections date from 1829, making this one of the town’s original Raj-era hotels, still retaining hints of colonial-time grandeur. It’s popular with families and groups as well as independent guests, and there’s usually a sociable vibe.

Service is efficient and attentive (though occasionally a little hit and miss), and there are all kinds of activities on offer, from board games and evening bonfires to cricket, snooker, complimentary yoga, ayurvedic massages and guided hikes. There’s an intimate bar, with an excellent Indian-international restaurant. On cool evenings, staff pop in to light the log fire in your room or hand-deliver hot water bottles. Local women sometimes exhibit their craft-making skills and sell their wares at the hotel.

Framing the gardens, the hotel’s red-roofed cottages have a restrained colonial-era style thanks to their bay windows, working fireplaces and white walls offset by lime-green cushions and throws. Enormous marble-effect bathrooms have hairdryers and Biotique toiletries, and there’s a complimentary tea/coffee tray in each room. Some have little indoor porches, while others could do with more natural light. Décor is kept uncluttered (which might not be quite to everyone’s taste), though Executive rooms are slightly more elegantly styled.

The Savoy’s evocative restaurant is one of the best in Ooty. A pianist tinkles away between wood-panelled walls and white-cloth tables, conjuring an atmosphere of times gone by. The menu mixes expertly prepared pan-Indian cooking – from dosas (thin lentil and flour pancakes) and dal makhani (black lentils simmered overnight) to paneer tikka – with international staples such as stir-fries, pastas, salads and kebabs. There’s also a good selection of health-focused food, plus dishes inspired by traditional tribal recipes from the Nilgiris.

Website: www.seleqtionshotels.com

Address: 77, Sylks Rd, Monterosa Colony, Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu 643001

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