A luxurious birthday weekend at Bengaluru's ITC Gardenia & a trip to Europe via Ottimo

A couple of years back we had checked into ITC Maratha in Mumbai on K’s birthday.

Rini Saha, who heads PR at the Maratha, kindly got us upgraded to a suite then. The palatial room had a massage chair which K refused to get up from till it was time to leave.

This year K had to go to Bengaluru on work on her birthday. I joined her and we spent her birthday there. This time too at an ITC property. ITC Gardenia at Residency Road. We wanted a hotel which was central and this met our requirements and the rates offered were pretty good too.

The location is fantastic and if, like us, you like to stay in posh hotels and eat at local places then Koshy, KC Das, Wild Spice and Nagarjuna are all within walking distance.

I checked in to the room first as K was in a meeting and saw a massage chair the moment I opened the door. I immediately took a picture on my phone and mailed it to Kainaz. 

Through our stay at the Gardenia K and I took turns on the massage chair.

The room we were in is called the ‘luxury delight’. Thank to Rini, I suspect, I am an ITC Club member now which I think entitles you to upgrades when you book rooms here. The card also has a RFID which, when enabled, will alert the staff the moment you enter an ITC Hotel so that they can greet you. Not a good thing to have on you if you are ever on the run!

The room, not technically a suite as it does not have a separate room, was thoughtfully designed with the sitting area demarcated from the sleeping area. There were TVs in every corner including by the bath tub. There is a lovely balcony, which most rooms here seem to give, taking advantage of the lovely Bengaluru weather. All balconies look onto the patch of green in the middle. I was quite kicked to see a personalized welcome letter with my name and photo on it. There was some bubbly and cake for the birthday girl. Couple of other useful touches were charging points all across the rooms, lights which were brighter than in the average hotel room and a touch screen control panel by the bed. You could make calls and even control the lights using this. The latter was a blessing as I often spend hours in hotel rooms trying to figure out the myriad light switches. There was a pillow menu which included a pillow for times when you want to soak in the tub. I don’t know if all rooms had that but our’s had free wifi. For some reason old school luxury hotels in India like to charge for wifi. Another thoughtful touch was a laundry credit of two items per person. Laundry when you are travelling is such a pain and hotels who charge large amounts can win quite a few brownie points by offering this. When we returned home from the trip I got a mail saying we had left one of K's skirts behind. At our request they couriered it to us and didn't charge though we offered to pay for the delivery.

While I was driving down to the Gardenia from the airport I got a tweet from @ITChotels offering a bespoke birthday meal for the birthday girl. Soon enough I got a call from executive chef Datta of ITC Gardenia on my phone even before I reached. He wanted to know what we would like to eat for the special dinner. I suggested European as we were going to Fatty Bao for Asian the next day. I told him that K just loves steak tartare and he said he would make one for her. I decided to push my luck and said that I am addicted to foie gras. Chef Datta said he had some, ahem, goose liver and would try to see what he could do.

K checked in at night and squealed with delight when she saw the room. Since both of us travel quite a bit on work we are quite jaded when it comes to hotel rooms, yet the artistically done ITC Gardenia Luxury Delight room clearly made us happy and we felt we got more than our money’s worth. it made our weekend and holiday very special.

To Europe via Ottimo

We got ready for dinner and went down to Ottimo, the European restaurant at the ITC Gardenia. We were welcomed by a young lady, Sasha Fernanded, the assistant sous chef chef at Ottimo, who wished K and told us what she had in store for us and then headed back to the open kitchen.

“This is the sort of treatment Vijay Mally gets in Bangalore” K told me in a hushed excited voice.

Dinner started with some lovely focaccia and then the amuse bouches. A deconstructed parmesan sphere which you took a bite of and then felt the parmesan nectar gush down your palate.

The other amuse bouche was a Ferrero Rocher foie gras. Foie gras enrobed in a chocolate and hazelnut casing. We both love foie gras and K is a Ferrero Rocher devotee so if there was ever a dish made for a birthday girl, this was it.

Next on was foie gras ice cream! Slabs of foie gras enrobed in a nutty gelatinous casing pierced bt a pipette with a twelve year old balsamic in it. This was placed on a slab of ice and and you ate the foie gras like an ice cream stick. Imagine the joy of two foie gras lovers being presented with generous undiluted slabs of goose liver to nibble on. The cold ice cream format dulled your taste buds a bit which is when the drops of balsamic helped liven up the liver.

Then came the dish that I had specially requested the chef to make for K. Steak tartare. A dish K is so addicted to that she has it during every meal when in the West as you rarely get it in India. It reminds her of the raw kheema she used to sneak in as a kid when her grandma would make her kebabs.

The tartare in Ottimo was served with soft, runny inside, quail eggs, balsamic caviar and parmesan chips. K took a bite and broke into a smile of birthday delight. The dinner was her treat to me but I felt so glad that I could arrange for her favourite dish in the world thanks to Ottimo. I had a few bites of the tartare and felt that in freshness and juiciness of it compared favourably with the best we had in our recent trip to Prague. K had gone to Budapest after Prague, had the tarter there of course, and said Ottimo’s was better!

As we waited for our steaks, which I chose over the pork belly on offer, chef Sasha insisted on getting us a porcini tortellini pasta. In retrospect we are glad that the she insisted on this. The tortellini was made in house and had a pleasant bite and yet was not chewy. I had each tortellini ring individually and quite enjoyed the experience. The pasta was heady in its flavours with the porcini and parmesan combining together to gave us an experience which didn’t make us miss the absence of meat. This is one of the most flavour packed pastas that I have ever had and I just loved the very unique texture that it had. Come to think of it, K is really fond of cheese based pastas. The folks at Ottimo really knew how to crank up the birthday quotient.

Then came the dish I was looking for, the steak. I ordered it in memory of the wonderful steaks that I had had in Nase Maso, Prague. The steak at Ottimo was Aussie. I asked for it to be done medium rare and it was nice and pink though done a bit more conservatively in comparison to what I have had at Prague. Not as marbled. Possibly tenderloin.

There was more to it. The dish was actually a meat lover’s carnal dream. It was served as two pieces of steak with a layer of foie gras in the middle and a layer on top with some morrel reduction over that. Chef Datta explained that this is a classic French serving and is called Rossini. For me it was an out of body experience with lovely steak livened up with the exquisite flavours of a beautifully grilled foie gras. The dish of the day for me, possibly of the year. A dish that made me feel as if it was my birthday and not just K's.

If great produce is what one looks for in India, then restaurants in Bengaluru offer the best when it comes to meat. This is the city to come to eat in and Ottimo kept the the city's reputation alive.

We weren’t keen on dessert as there was cake in the room and more importantly I had carried Pooja Dhingra’s Le 15 Patisserie macaron dark chocolate cake from Mumbai. Ever since I first ordered it for K’s birthday two years back, I have not had to bother about what cake to get on K’s birthday. The instructions are very clear!

Chef Sasha got us a huge chocolate globule on which she poured a hot sauce and the shell gave in as a stream of cream gushed out and below that was a nutty chocolate ball. She insisted that we have this with a shot of limoncello  as advocated by their Italian head chef, Greco, and yes the experience was pretty hedonistic.

The bill left me a bit confused. They didn’t charge us per dish. The overall bill was about Rs 6,000 with taxes and was presented as ‘2 Ottimo meals’. While 6,000 is not a small amount, given the produce used and that some of the dishes were served as individual portions we had expected the bill to be more. So I am not sure if this is a discounted price and whether you can expect to pay the same if you had this meal at the Ottimo.

What I can tell you for sure is that if you tell Chef Datta of ITC Gardenia about your life’s desires then he will organize a meal for you through which you will have to keep pinching yourself to check if you are dreaming.

Thanks ITC Hotels, you did make a birthday girl very happy.


Sassy Fork said…
What a dream of a trip! Finding charging points in a hotel room is such a bother.Usually there is only one and far away from the bed! Finding light switches is also a problem.Good if all that is taken care of.
K's birthday meal was a magnificent example of the chef creativity!
kaniska said…
lovely. just lovely. wish you guys many more such experiences.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
the chef really went out of the way for the meal