It has been a really long time since I posted anything on the blog. Finally got time to sit at my comp it’s been a little over two weeks. I was in Chennai on work, the trip was nostalgic indeed. I was to visit the hotel, The Park Chennai in October 2017 but sustained an injury that kept me away for over six months. Finally, managed to travel in the last week of March; after yet another postponement. Whatever comes after a good long wait is certainly sweeter.
What a beautiful welcome I received, was totally floored! That’s one of the reasons why I love The Park Hotels and my job! They gave me the same room as well, 11 years 10 days since, they said I was there last. Flashback to 2007, was there for the interview with the MD when I was joining the company as a pre-opening team member, somehow no other visits happened in this tenure of over a decade. Have visited the other properties many times but not The Park Chennai, I couldn’t thank the team, lead by General Manager Mr. Rajesh Radhakrishnan.
The arrival experience was one of the best I’ve had, was received by one of the most professional and very engaging chauffeurs Mr. Hari Kumar, who did his job extremely well. I was feeling as if he was living the entire script and the welcome that needed to be extended to a guest; I was an internal guest. I would give him a 10 on 10 for creating a very positive Moment of Truth. The arrival at the hotel was smooth, Chennai as a city hasn’t changed much but I really didn’t venture out at all so can’t say for sure, the Metro work is on; in the entire country so Chennai can’t be spared but it’d certainly be a great mode of transportation. My country is developing and developing how!
I was checked in by one of our Management Trainees posted at the Front Office there. Exchange of basic pleasantries, mostly talking about AIH. I was escorted to the room by the manager on duty. The room looked familiar, I peeped out of the window and felt as if I had seen this earlier but I let the thoughts just pass by. The welcome note was a beautiful handwritten card with some amazing and thoughtful work done by the pastry chef. I was tired but instead of ordering room service, I decided to go down to the coffee shop (we call them all day dining in our hotels). Also to thank the Management Trainee Mohammad Sadiq for the extremely thoughtful welcome amenities placed in my room. I met him at the reception and expressed my gratitude. He said, “Did you realise it was the same room given to you when you came here 11 years and 10 days ago”. I was awestruck! No wonder I felt some familiarity when I looked outside my window.
I was there for five days and had 5-full day training sessions; whereas evenings were meant for exploring the hotel, to check out the different areas as well as it’s outlets. The property is a designer’s delight, made on the theme of movies as the erstwhile Gemini studio was here before it was bought by the Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels and a new swanky boutique hotel was built by Ms. Priya Paul retained the essence and curated the history of the Gemini brand.
Apart from being great in design, the hotel had many best practices that I’d like to highlight:
It breathes the spirit of Indian cinema; there are original posters of the movies made by Gemini Studios as well as other greats of that era. One witnesses the evolution of the Indian cinema from its humble beginnings to the magnificence of the 90s and even the onset of the millennium. The guest rooms have original movie posters instead of the typical picture frames or famed paintings. Even the offices boast of lively movie posters. An absolute treat to the eye, wherever you move around the hotel each frame better than the previous one! I couldn’t really have enough of it, brilliance is all I could say when thinking of the architect and designers Hirsch Bedner Associates Los Angeles. They have curated a masterpiece, giving you the feel of the film studio and having a priceless collection of rare posters adorning the hallways of The Park Chennai.
The staff was one of the best I have met, when the basic ingredient is right moulding it into anything else or something better is hardly a challenge. The knowledge of their job was good but as a trainer you always find ways to tell people to become the best versions of themselves. With the right inputs they had the potential of being good service professionals.
The food was good; chefs always strive to work magic with ingredients to give their best to the guests. I had five days and 5 dinners to really explore the offerings from each restaurant. I did manage to get just a taste and the feel of the ambiance of every restaurant. I was also auditing the overall dining experience and service standards; the trainer in me is on work even when I want it to just chill! Can’t take certain things out from a person you see! 21 years do have a bearing on you.
I loved the filter coffee made by the ladies, who the hotel has hired and trained them to work as team members. The tea coffee requirements and service during breakfast is taken care of. I would say it is one of their best practices. Women bring in an element of authenticity when it comes to food, they bring in that; as well as the culture of Tamil Nadu dressed in their traditional attire. Overall a great experience at 601, the all-day dining.
A2 The rooftop restaurant has interesting interiors , Gunjan Gupta is known for her un finished kind of look, good use of wood, exposed pipes, flowing water, potli stools and kathran sofas made the place look distressed yet stylish. The food is equally interesting, it serves Japanese, Mediterranean and continental delicacies. Chef Pradipta served some of the most loved delicacies from the menu. I left it to him to decide for me. I have learnt that the chefs somehow understand your palate, have never gone wrong with that. Training manager Shalini was a great company, she ensured that I was told about the history and significance of every place or outlet we visited throughout the hotel.
Lotus the Thai restaurant worked on two different themes one for lunch and the other for dinner. I had lunch there. The expatriate chef served great Thai food, I left the choice to him and he did a great job. The décor matches up to the rest of the hotel that I can’t stop raving about, that explains how beautiful it is. It has recently been renovated and every artefact is a masterpiece. I particularly loved the show wall and the chandeliers.
The nightclub Pasha gave the feel of Morrocco, nice, cosy and quite energetic. Didn’t see it in its true spirit as I only went there taking a stroll post dinner. It was brilliant when it came to the décor and ambiance but the actual feel was amiss as that comes only with the people who come to party there.
This hotel has many Chef trainees and as a trainer for them during their onboarding and off the job training at AIH, I felt proud of each one of them. Rohit Bhartula made my meeting with a childhood friend totally a memorable and nostalgic moment. My friend Padma and I are grateful to him. She can come up with even a prose on this as she holds a doctorate in English literature; I can only express ‘straight from the heart’. All the Management Trainees posted at The Park Chennai did meet me and we had a little rendezvous!
The Housekeeping team did a good job when it came to their services and they took care! Didn’t really meet any room attendant as I was hardly there in the room, but could feel their attention to detail quite well. Managed to save up a couple of minutes to get a haircut from one of the best hair dressers in Chennai, Mahai who works at the Salon understands hair well, I liked a couple of good hair styling by him that I wanted him to work his magic on my unruly tresses. Whether it created any magic or not I am happy to have tried it.
I always talk about creating experiences for people, as that’s the best form of service attitude. This hotel made me reiterate that. Positive Moments of Truth and exemplary experiences can beat the product advantage hands down. Chennai as a city added so much to my personal repertoire. Also glad that I could meet an absolute professional, a noble soul and a gentleman Capt. Vivekanand. My husband and I were looking up for him and finally managed to get in touch with him. He was a mentor and a guide to my master mariner husband who was a cadet then; he says he owes his professional success to him. Personally it was very satisfying for me to connect the two men after nearly 26 years.
Chennai proved to be the ‘Chennai Express’ that had all the masala and emotions of a blockbuster!