Intimate spaces that spell luxury, weaves-centric art works, a residential-style ballroom and a restaurant that runs to six levels! Shonali Muthalaly gets a first look at The Park Hyatt that’s opening shortly
Champagne corks pop with merry abandon. However, it’s 4 p.m. on a particularly sunny day. And we have the grace to feel just a little guilty. Till dapper Yann Gillet, general manager of the Park Hyatt, holds out his champagne flute and declares, “We’re just got the news. We’re officially open from October 1!”
We’re in the petite hotel’s first restaurant, The Dining Room, with the Stig Drageide, the Norwegian executive chef and Pier-Marie Le Moigno, who at the age of 25 already has one Michelin star under his belt. Pier-Marie has flown in from Park Hyatt Paris to train the chefs to make desserts that are, in his words, “light and authentic, with a pinch of French styling.”
He stands beside a counter riotous with colour. After demonstrating how to make classic French mille feuille, daintily piped with lashings of rich cream and studded with juicy blueberries, he introduces the desserts. English scones, set beside bowls of clotted cream. Madelines perky with lemon zest. Wobbly marshmallows. “Classic, coconut and that Indian flavour… What do you call it…” he thinks for a minute, “Kewra.” He then holds up a flaming pink cake and grins, “Strawberry cream”.
Yann, however, is more interested in advertising the Canele. “It’s a specialty cake from the Bordeaux region in France. Crunchy and caramelised outside, and soft inside,” says Pier-Marie. “That’s where I’m from!” Yann says. Chef Drageide smoothly steps in. “We also have strong Nordic influences in our menu. Scandinavian food. You have got to try our salmon from Norway.”
This is the Park Hyatt signature. Small, personal and unique. An experience moulded by not just the chain’s philosophy, but also attitudes and opinions of its inevitably chic, globe-trotting, contemporary crew.
As Yann whisks me around the hotel, still commandeered by construction workers busy drilling, cutting and polishing, he talks of his past postings. The Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg, before which he was in Casablanca, Beijing, Cannes and Paris. “This hotel pays homage to Chennai,” he says, adding “This city changes every day.” He explains how the property has been conceptualised around a house. “It’s the story of a man born in Madras who made a fortune in textiles and garments. He came back to build a house. The décor is all about his profession.”
George Wong Designs, the New York firm of architects behind the property, have concentrated on keeping the feel intimate, while giving a sense of being enveloped in luxury. Art by Venu Juneja from Goa, carries the ‘weaving theme’ — a whorl made from spools of buttery silk on one wall, waffle weave art made from canvas on another.
Demonstrating their attention to detail, Yann points out the courtyard’s still empty lily ponds. “Once they are filled, there’ll be a mechanism pumping in cold water, which will bring the temperature outside down by six degrees. We’re also putting in fish that discourage mosquitoes.” He sprints up the stairs and opens the doors to The Apartment, their answer to the ubiquitous hotel ballroom. A residential-style venue, this comprises about 8,000 sq. ft. of flexible space, broken into six rooms, all designed like colonial salons with massive windows, which flood the venue with sunshine.
As we peep into the plush rooms, he talks of how they’re tailoring them for women travellers. “They’re about ten per cent of the business travellers in India. We have special amenities, like nail polish remover, fitted shower caps and Kerastase hair products.” He also discusses their still-under-construction Antahpura Spa, set on top of the hotel besides their membership-only gym, and an infinity pool that overlooks the lush Guindy Park.
“Chennai’s a competitive market,” says Yann. “But we’re different because we have a totally different product. Just 201 rooms. After all, when you want to be top end you need to know your guests. We are modelling ourselves on a house. A home.”
The Park Hyatt is at 39, Velachery Road, Guindy. For details call, 71771242