It&rsquos a tantalising introduction. &ldquoChrome is only our first flavour,&rdquo says Deval Tibrewala, the rather young CEO of Chocolate Hotels, of their first hotel, which has just opened in Calcutta. And not a moment too soon. If the resurgence of our eastern megalopolis were in need of a signifier, this boutique business hotel in the heart of town would fit the bill perfectly.
It&rsquos pretty easy to find, the shiny new pile bravely interrupting the unending row of charmless buildings on A.J.C. Bose Road, one of Calcutta&rsquos busiest thoroughfares. From the posh, pink-accented lobby I&rsquom whisked away to my room on the sixth floor. My usher is all smiles but thankfully not obsequious. A welcome drink follows. I&rsquod like to believe that the fact that the drink is colour-coordinated to the scheme of the room is no coincidence but, rather, an elegant bit of choreography. Yes, it&rsquos the little details that get grizzled travel hacks like us excited. The room&rsquos aesthetic is uncluttered but not uninteresting. There&rsquos a big fat recliner in the corner. No billowing curtains here but sleek window blinds, and lest I have to struggle with cords, they&rsquore operated at the flick of a switch. The glass-walled bathroom is bright and compact. There&rsquos a Bose music player by the bed. From my vantage, the busy street looks reassuringly distant. It&rsquos a nice room.
And so are the rest of the offerings. There&rsquos a little library, Deval&rsquos favourite part of the hotel. The all-white-curves nightclub, Pulp, sits primly on the terrace, where it will soon be joined by an infinity pool. The fine-dining Indian restaurant on the first floor is approached across a bridge, which doubles up as a standing bar and overlooks the lobby. There are themed rooms, like the Love Room or the Bose Acoustic Experience Room (I&rsquove suggested they rename the latter). And then there are the Edges. Which brings me to the façade, actually.
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I won&rsquot say the hotel, designed by Sanjay Puri Architects, is unpretentious, the entire front punctuated with faux portholes. By day, this looks intriguing. By night, the LED lights in the portholes command a palette of 16 million colours, changing in a pyschedelic display that draws you in. Towards the top, a triangular projection emerges from the façade and contains the Edges, the four premier rooms (one of which, the premier-premier, is called The Edge). Each features full-fledged Bose music systems and fancy shower panels that you can program.
There&rsquos more. Deval, who learnt the trade at the venerable Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, is brimming with ideas and Chrome reflects them brilliantly. The signature Fat Beds (surely inspired by Westin&rsquos Heavenly Beds) are made to order. The toiletries are stacked in test tubes, so pretty that they&rsquove been entered for the Red Dot Design Awards. The music in the room has been custom-produced by Blue Frog, a Mumbai nightclub and record label. The AC controls are conveniently next to the bed, not by the door. And in a now compulsory nod to eco-friendliness, the fumes from the AC exhausts are channelled into heating all the water, earning the hotel carbon credits. Soon there will be not just a pillow menu, but a slipper menu as well. And for the demanding guest who&rsquos still not satisfied, there&rsquos the &lsquoAnything&rsquo button on the phone.
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The boldest move is in the F&B department. While Nosh, the all-day bistro and coffee shop on the lobby level and Knock, the in-room dining service, are standard fare, Chrome pulls off a coup with Khanasutra, the fine-dining Indian restaurant which serves multi-course degustation menus, a treatment Indian food has rarely been subjected to. The leisurely meal I had there was nothing short of a gastrorgy. It began with a deceptive &lsquodehaati chhach&rsquo, which gave no indication of the feast to follow. The &lsquoJodhpuri paneer kabab&rsquo, the &lsquodudhiya murg&rsquo and the &lsquodahi ke kabab&rsquo were all succulent, the &lsquotamatar dhaniye ka shorba&rsquo refreshing, and the chilli-infused apple shooter cleansed my palate for the main course of chicken roulade curry which followed. The &lsquorosogolla&rsquo ice cream was a sweet finish to a memorable meal. If you dine in one of the two private cubicles, the chef will personally attend to your every whim.
Chrome is neither obscenely expensive nor overly grand, and certainly not yawn-inspiring cookie-cutter. With just 63 rooms, it&rsquos compact enough for service to be genuinely personal. And after a taste of Chocolate Hotels&rsquo first effort, I can&rsquot wait to bite into more.
Where 226 A.J.C. Bose Road, Kolkata
Accommodation 39 Chrome rooms, 4 Theme rooms, 12 High Chrome rooms, 3 Chrome suites, 1 High Chrome suite, 3 Edge rooms,1 The Edge
Tariff No fixed rack rate, only rate bands Rs 7,000-12,000 (Chrome), Rs 9,000-16,000 (Theme), Rs 12,000-17,000 (High Chrome), Rs 14,500-21,000 (Chrome suite), Rs 16,000-24,150 (High Chrome suite), Rs 20,000-25,000 (Edge), Rs 35,000 (The Edge).
Contact 033-30963096, www.chromehotel.in