Taj Gateway Hotels and Resorts’ first hotel in Chennai, The Gateway Hotel IT Expressway, is a blend of competitively priced rooms and myriad food options designed for the business traveller

“This is where the action is.” Ranjit Shankar, general manager of the newly-opened The Gateway Hotel IT Expressway, Chennai, looks fondly at the bustling street outside, an unaesthetic tangle of over-loaded lorries, impatient bikes and honking cars. To a traditional Chennaiite, Sholinganallur may still be the ‘outskirts’ of the city. But Shankar is right. This is where it’s all happening.

Set on Rajiv Gandhi Salai (better known to the city as the Old Mahabhalipuram Road), right next to the junction that connects it to the East Coast Road, the new Gateway is big on the three factors that matter in property: location, location, location. However, in an increasingly competitive market, the hotel still needs to put up a fight to stand out. So they’re using the smart hotel formula, competitively priced rooms teamed with practical luxury. So no indulgent butler service, ankle-deep carpeting and plushly expansive rooms. But to make up for the lack of frills, they say they offer all the basics that the contemporary business traveller needs. So as they call him/ her: ‘The modern nomad.’ So there’s high speed WiFi, a well-equipped gym and a trendy bar. And, since this is new age India, a yoga mat in every room.

The secret weapon here, however, is unexpected. Arachuvitta sambar. Actually, maybe not. Coming to think of it, excellent sambar is just as essential as galloping WiFi in our city of myriad food options and high expectations. In keeping with Gateway tradition, corporate chef Natarajan Kulandai has hired a homemaker to supervise the traditional food. Slow cooked in earthen pots and laced with cow’s ghee, he says the food is cooked every day with freshly ground masalas, exactly the way it’s done at home. Determined to prove there is more to Chennai than idlies and over-spiced Chettinad food, Chef Natarajan has decreed Tanjore food to be the newly-opened hotel’s forte.

The Tanjore vegetarian food is subtly spiced and made without onions or garlic, as per tradition. Think bayleaf flavoured brinji rice moist with coconut milk, served with cumin-speckled spinach masiyal, baby brinjals simmered in a tamarind gravy and ladies finger cooked in yoghurt, then tempered with mustard and fenugreek. The non-vegetarian food is equally distinctive: tender shark steamed and tossed with green chillies, spicy chicken with fennel and tender mutton chunks cooked with drumsticks. Then, of course, there is the signature arachuvitta sambar, made with roasted coconut.

While traditional food is the highlight of the menu, the coffee shop ‘Buzz’ also features ‘Active foods,’ which Chef Natarajan says includes foods that have antioxidants, are high in probiotics and have a low glycemic index. Of course you can still have Belgian waffles for breakfast, right after a multi-grain dosa made with nine types of lentils and grains.

The hotel also includes a lounge bar ‘Swirl’, and a Chinese restaurant, Sian, which specialises in Schezwan cooking, although it also offers sushi and grills.

This is Taj Gateway Hotels and Resorts’ first hotel in Chennai and the third in Tamil Nadu. It’s also the Gateway’s 23rd hotel, and rapid expansion plans are on. Apparently the country is bristling with modern nomads.