Regular travellers to India are accustomed to Maharaja conversions and their spin-offs, crumbling palaces re-invented as hotels or new-builds harking back to the heavy Victorian opulence of the Raj.
The Royal Gardenia, the latest flagship hotel in the cyber city of Bangalore, breaks the mould by lightening the mood and embracing a thoroughly green future. This includes 21st-century basics such as energy efficiency and zero solid waste management, but its most striking aspect is the use of vertical hanging gardens.
Bangalore's celebrated parks and green spaces are under increasing threat from urbanisation resulting from its commercial triumph. The Royal Gardenia reverses the trend by bringing nature indoors. In the Cubbon Pavilion, the hotel's 24/7 restaurant, guests sit under a wall of greenery, 14m high, made up of 25,000 locally grown philodendron plants, each in its own little pot. They have to be watered regularly from above – diners beware.
Architectural ingenuity has also replaced air conditioning in the lobby area by creating wide open spaces to catch the passing breezes. They lead through to the Lotus Pavilion in the Garden Courtyard, an instant "must go" meeting place for Bangalore's cocktail-drinking elite. The multi-columned bar with its lotus flower motif was inspired by Tipu Sultan's Palace at Srirangapatna, but I doubt Mysore's 18th-century conquering hero added a turf roof to encourage natural cooling.
The Royal Gardenia has 292 rooms, 13 of them suites. The Presidential spread is the largest in India – which is saying something. The Eva Rooms provided extra security in a wing dedicated to women travellers. Each floor has a theme, ranging from earth, fire or wood to winged species and the clouds in the sky, with decor to match. The rooms are spacious and contemporary, with bathtubs overlooking the gardens and huge flat-screen TVs. All have butler service, complimentary use of the boardroom and access to the Towers Lounge, where cocktails are served from 6pm to 8pm.
The food and drink
The flagship restaurant is Kebabs and Kurries, serving primarily Indian cuisine but drawn from all corners of the country and with a separate vegetarian menu to satisfy southern India's dominant cultural preference. The open kitchen allows diners to see their food being prepared. India's new willingness to expand its culinary boundaries is given the nod in the West View Grill, dedicated to Mediterranean cooking, and Edo, a Japanese option that is still fairly scarce in these parts. Madhu Krishnan, a rare female chef, runs an extensive "green and wellness" operation, which includes a juice bar and help yourself sushi in the Cubbon Pavilion. The Highland Nectar Bar serves assorted malts and other whiskies from 11am to 11.30pm.
The swimming pool area on the roof of the 12th floor is a real treat, with cool blue waters and great views. The Kaya Kalp Spa, with Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms, offers a comprehensive menu of treatments and there is a very well-equipped gym.
Four rooms have wheelchair access. Children welcome. No pets.
From £175 per person per night, based on two sharing, with an international buffet breakfast in the Cubbon Pavilion.
ITC Royal Gardenia, No 1 Residency Road, Bangalore (Bengaluru), 560 001 (00918022119898; itcwelcomgroup.in).
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