The Westin Pune Koregaon Park – A Review By Punam Mohandas
About the first thing that strikes you as you walk into the 277-keys Westin Pune, is the subtle, lingering fragrance. The mood enhancing scent of White Tea is prevalent throughout the hotel, putting guests into a conducive frame of mind almost immediately.
The lobby at this hotel is long rather than wide, with quirky settee seating. Local artists display their art and installations in the lobby space; especially eye-catching are the thought-provoking sculptures by Arzan Khambatta. A broad flight of stairs leads to the upper level where the restaurants are situated.
Really wide, plush corridors lead to the rooms which are divided into the following categories: Deluxe (41sqm); Executive Club Room (41-55sqm); Terrace Club Room (55sqm); Club Terrace Suites (80sqm); the Penthouse (120 sqm) and the Club Presidential suite (240sqm.) The Deluxe room, although the base category, is spacious and comfortable, with single and double bed options. A chocolate brown striped settee and footstool is offset by biscuit coloured carpeting and furnishings. Apart from the usual amenities, this room surprisingly also has a toaster, microwave oven and French press coffee machine, making it more of a studio apartment than ordinary hotel room.
I stayed in the Club Suite that has a humungous sitting area, with a four-seater, round dining table, an L–shaped settee, work space and large screen TV (and I do mean large!) The bedroom has a chaise lounge and another large screen television. The bathroom is extraordinarily spacious, with two sinks, bathtub and separate rain shower/toilet cubicles.
All rooms are supplied with tea/coffee maker, electronic safe, large screen TV, iron and ironing board, French press coffee machine and four complimentary bottles of drinking water. Furthermore, all rooms – except the physically challenged ones – have bathtubs.
Nonetheless, there are a few suggestions: The Westin brand used to earlier offer a pillow menu to its guests and I was surprised to see that is now missing from the compendium. Far from the ‘Heavenly Rest’ that Starwood advertises, the bed was lumpy and the pillows too high and hard. Further, the study desk is not configured for comfort, with the knees banging against the underside of the desk. In spite of the luxury and space that the bathroom provides, there are absolutely no towel or clothes hooks. Perhaps the most discomfiting element is the noise level; the hotel has not been adequately sound insulated and sound filters through clearly, be it from the lawn wedding events or the nightclub.
F&B options include the 68-covers lounge café, Daily Treats, just off the lobby; the 110-covers Italian fine dining, Prego, which the hotel proudly advertises as offering a “gourmet travelogue” through its food and wines; the 65-covers Kangan offering traditional Indian cuisine; the 100-covers Mix@36, the bar lounge that serves finger food and sundowners (this outlet has an outdoor terrace space as well) and the 138-covers, all-day dining, Seasonal Tastes. Prego has a funky yet welcoming interior, with the sofa seatbacks made of golden coloured bolster cushions in varying heights, offset by wooden flooring. Pictures of happy, smiling diners, line one wall. However, the hands-down winner for F&B at this property would be Kangan and its passionate chef Saadab Qureshi, who, with his creativity, has taken the menu beyond what the original Qureshi brothers imagined and propagated for the Kangan brand. The outstanding – and outsized – ‘khakhra’ that he has created has guests coming back especially for this exclusive appetiser. He has also given a deft twist to the traditional dessert of shahi tukra.
As an outlet, the Club Lounge is deserving of praise all by itself. It serves quite the most lavish range of snacks at ‘Happy Hour’ time that I have seen at a five star hotel. Indeed, after nibbling at the nosebag here, one does not really feel the need to head to a restaurant. It is also useful to have two computers here for complimentary guest use, and the friendly, helpful staff assist in getting print-outs or scans done.
The Westin is justly proud of its latest offering to the savvy, cosmopolitan denizens of Pune. In December 2016, the hotel launched the ‘House of Medici,’ an exclusive, luxury nightclub that marries Italian renaissance murals with a chic, modern flair. Black flooring offsets chandelier shaped lights in white metal that turn into actual flashing disco lights come the night. There is a separate seating area at the far end of the hall where the tables are sold at premium rates. This space has a more stylish lounge atmosphere, with actual chandeliers and settees with cushions. There is a live DJ in attendance, while the staff are attired in get-ups of mime artists. The House of Medici claims to have a horseshoe-shaped bar that is not only the longest in the country, but also the tallest – a novel, construction-site style elevator takes guests to two upper levels where they can select their own wines or whiskies. The nightclub can accommodate a whopping 600-pax standing and 120-pax seated. Plans in the pipeline include having a segregated Cigar Lounge on the premises.
Recreational options at the Westin Pune include a couple of shops at the lobby level and a hair salon (outsourced management.) Apart from an outdoor swimming pool, also on offer is an indoor squash court and an aerobics studio. There is a very basic children’s play area which requires some more thought to go into it.
The in-house Westin spa brand Heavenly Spa, has six treatment rooms, including one for couples. Each room has its own individual steam room, while sauna facilities are available in the male and female changing rooms. While selected treatments can be offered in the guest rooms too (at a surcharge) the Heavenly Spa signature massage is a 60 or 90 minute therapy involving heat packs and a green tea and grapefruit oil massage. The spa stays open until midnight on weekdays and 10pm over the weekends, much longer than most other hotels.
The Westin Pune is doing a lot of things right on the guest comfort front. For instance, the Workout Studio, which is quite a well-equipped gym and moreover, is open 24-hours, does not turn away disappointed guests who have forgotten to pack their gym outfits; for just US$5, gear such as track suit, socks and shoes can be provided. Personal trainers are on call from 6am-11pm.
Convention facilities include four smaller meetings rooms: Refresh (40-pax) Renew (50-pax) Recharge (40-pax) and Revel (30-pax.) Apart from this, the main hall Inspiration has quite a spacious lobby that can be used as a pre-function area or accommodate stalls during an exhibition, although the actual pre-function area is right outside the hall. Inspiration can take 700-pax theatre style and can be partitioned into three smaller halls. The lawn is also used for outdoor banquet functions.
The Business Centre located in a corner at the lobby level is a long, narrow space again. Unusually for a hotel, the Westin Pune also offers a room for wedding planners here, including display space for wedding designers. Additionally, there is a small boardroom available. One laptop is provided for complimentary guest use, and printing and scanning facilities are available. One could wish that Indian hotels will quickly wise up to the fact that wifi is considered a necessity and not a luxury anymore and hence, should be free.
A special mention must be made of the service. All the teams are exceptionally courteous and friendly and all – including Housekeeping – speak in English. It is now hoped that the new general manager, Nishant Agarwal, will be able to rectify some of the above-mentioned snafus during his tenure and so position this hotel among the premier properties in the country.
The Westin Pune is located in a prime location, in the city’s poshest locality of Koregaon Park. Here one will find upmarket shops and cafes, as also the famous Rajneesh ‘Osho’ ashram. For film entertainment, the Gold AdLabs multiplex is just about a five minute drive away. The heart of Pune cantonment, Mahatma Gandhi road – or Main Street, as the locals term it – is a 25 minute drive away.
Pune has its own small, international airport, however, as just a select few airlines fly in here, the easiest way to get here would be to fly to Mumbai and then drive down. The train (Deccan Queen) takes about 5 hours; it is simplest to take a bus (Rs 450; approximately 4 hours) or a taxi (Rs 2,500 for the whole cab; you also have the cab sharing option which is cheaper. Travel time approximately 3-3.5 hours.)
THE WESTIN PUNE KOREGAON PARK
TEL: +91 20 67210000
FAX: +91 20 6721 0021
WEBSITE: www. westin.com/punekoregaonpark
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.