you are not in a hotel but a Novotel when...
1. ...the extremely courteous, ever-smiling staff, with their Zen-like expressions, whisper when they talk. ALWAYS. As does every one else. Even if the hotel's fire alarm is howling its previously discreet head off.
2. ...you are acutely conscious of the echo created by your footsteps as you walk down the spotless floors of those wide, marbled and rather slippery corridors. There will, in all likelihood, be no distractions. Even in the form of boisterous children screaming bloody murder.
3. ...you know that the lunch buffet, gastronomically sinful and delightful as it was, comes financially second only to the taxes you filed last year. If the buffet comes first, you have no business eating here.
4. ...the person occupying the suite next-door is Russian royalty.
Allright, we can vouch for only the aforementioned point numbers 2 and 3 as being true with respect to Novotel Hyderabad, a palatial, 287-room hotel run by the renowned Accor Group, although please do note that there has never been a fire at this hotel. A good thing, too.
Novotel, the newest entrant in Hyderabad's premium hotel segment, is radically different from its most severe competition in this city, especially on the visual barometer. If the Taj Krishna and the ITC Kakatiya Sheraton & Towers
pay homage to the city's rich history and its fabled culture by using them as inspirations for their lavish decors, full of pretty, eye-catching adornments, then Novotel is remarkably post-modern in comparison.
The interiors, as sleek and refined as the shell, seem to be minimalistically designed. The planes are symmetrical, the space is vast (the lush landscaped lawns outdoors seem to be an extension of the same philosophy), the light (especially sunlight) is abundant, the colors are appropriately inconspicuous, and the furnishings, in the lobby and the rooms, are sophisticated and neutral.
Alternatively, the Krishna and the Kakatiya score much higher when it comes to other departments, namely restaurants, bars and salons. Novotel has but one restaurant, the strangely named The Square (their least expensive lunch buffet will lighten your wallet by at least Rs. 633 as we write this in Jun 2007, inclusive of taxes, although the buzz is that the food is heavenly), a definite problem since we are talking about a very upmarket hotel in a city famous for its food and its food connoisseurs.
Novotel also has a good-looking and well-stocked bar (wish we could say the same for the bartender), aptly but boringly named The Bar - the bar, not the bartender. It also has a delicatessen, where I committed a huge faux pas by ordering what was perhaps the worst penne pasta salad in Hyderabad. As for the salon, the staff reveals that although there is currently none, a salon-cum-spa is in the offing. Novotel could also do with a full-fledged shopping center on its premises; as of now, all it has is The Bombay Store.
Nevertheless, whatever Novotel does comprise, it all blends seductively, harmoniously, creating a posh hotel, a polished world, that help it cater to its main target audience - wealthy corporates. Make no mistake about this; Novotel, sitting pretty beside a rather unclean lake (some rooms overlook it), much like the proverbial lotus sitting pretty in a muck-ridden pond, has been carefully cultivated by its owners to pander to the expensive tastes of the hi-fliers of this world, particularly those who fly into Hyderabad (Novotel's well-equipped, 24-hour gymnasium is reportedly a huge hit with this jet-lag fighting breed) and operate in the corporate confines of the Hitec City
Of course, all of this is helped by the fact that Novotel is a one-of-a-kind hotel for miles together in the vicinity - though it might not be for long. As per newspaper reports, over seven five-star and five-star deluxe hotels are being developed in the city, even as a number of existing ones undergo expansions and face-lifts.
For example, K Raheja Corp is constructing a 250-room hotel in its IT Park Mindspace at Hitec City itself, which will be operational in 2008. Judging by the heavyweights behind the other projects - Hyatt, Hilton and Le Meridien among others - the upcoming competition will be equally pricey and hospitable. Or as an unknown, seemingly harassed hotel manager once remarked about the hospitality industry, they will be experts at "the art of making others feel at home when you wish they were".