Temple of the king: A weekend at Radisson Blu Temple Bay Mamallapuram
The bedevilling hold-ups and nerve-grating cacophony of traffic on the East Coast Road can easily infect any ordinary person with what is known, in certain circles, as the manic Jack Torrance syndrome — as personified in a haunting act by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining.
As I stuck my head out of the window of my Uber, pulling up into the cobbled driveway of the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay Mamallapuram, I could almost feel Nicholson’s frightful visage creeping into my head. Thankfully, I had two days of outright R&R to look forward to, and erase every psychic flashback from the Torrance’s (fictional) Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies.
For my stay, my hosts at the prominent luxury resort had lined up their newest offerings — a spread of the finest seasonal dishes at their restaurants, and an array of spa treatments presented by a knot of expert therapists and masseurs.
But first, I got to settle into my ultra-comfortable chalet, with a private balcony, and the Bay of Bengal barely a pebble’s throw away from my doorstep. Sure, the more plush Pool Villas or the premium Sea View Chalets might give you reason to bite a grape of jealousy (the complimentary fruit basket is well-stocked), but there’s little else to be sour about around here.
Ayur in for rapture?
There ought to be reams written about the resort’s 45 acres of lush manicured gardens, a 27,000 sq ft meandering pool that’s great fun for families with children, a magnificent infinity pool, and 148 elegantly appointed villas, chalets and suites.
But I have to begin with a rare few minutes of right-down bliss in between, which found me contendedly dead to the world, snoring on a padded massage table, given the tranquilising benefit of dripping hot oil on my forehead.
The therapy in question was the Shirodhara at the in-house Bodhi Ayur centre. Recommended for destressing, and for curing insomnia and headaches, the treatment involves luke-warm, herb-infused Ayurvedic oil steadily poured on the forehead in a steady stream.
A slip down into a vivid stream of dégagé consciousness, decked with begonias, petunias and any flower (or anything else) your mind can conceive of, is almost guaranteed. The Shirodhara treatment was combined, for me, with the Sarvanga Abhyangam — a signature therapy, of more medicated oil smeared all over the body, to ease muscular tension and joint pain.
Together, the two treatments statedly “enhance life and slow down the ageing process”. You’re assured a state of deep relaxation and inner peace, and I certainly wasn’t complaining, with my head in the clouds, and my limbs being carefully kneaded in hot oil, by a trained pair of hands.
If every hard week of work entailed a few minutes like this, the world would seem so much better a place; but these are the thoughts you’re inclined to drift away with, as an immediate after-effect of all that aromatic anointment.
Bodhi Ayur, the resort’s Ayurvedic centre, offers a host of other treatments such as the Prshta Abhyangam (to rejuvenate brain cells and the spinal region), the Urouthpada Abhyangam (to improve blood circulation at vital points in the lower limb) and the Kundalini Abhyangam (to treat back problems).
To complete my personalised package, I’d also been signed up for a handful of sessions at the adjoining Bodhi Spa, which specialises in holistic therapies, overseen by naturo-pathy doctors and therapists.
Before I turned to the spa, however, I chose to tuck my ravenous self into the Water’s Edge Café, picking out choice dishes from the updated inter-continental menu, to go with the sights of splashing water from the meandering pool. Here, it was the turn of the Kung Pao Chicken, the Cajun Grilled Fish and the Kozhi Milagu Curry to tingle my senses, before a well-earned nap, cradled deep in a cosy hammock.
Bodhi, mind and soul
At the Bodhi Spa, I was babied into more warm towels for further soul-quenching, rejuvenating remedies. Of the many offerings at hand, I picked the Madras Malli full-body therapy aimed at overcoming lethargy and dullness, dispensed with jasmine essential oils, and wrapped up with
a purifying masque.
The spa also offers couple packages such as one named Majnu & Laila, involving a sensual aromatherapy ritual of bathing in fragrant fruit and floral extracts, with soothing salts, followed by a herbal steam. But I was here by myself on this occasion, and the other ‘perfect romantic’ routines, of candle-lit dinners, and gourmet spreads served by the seaside, had to be resolved for another visit.
By sundown, I found myself playing guest to the amiable Chef Michael Saju at the revamped WHARF 2.0, salivating over a slow-course spread of seafood, grill-fired steaks and assorted seasonal produce, while taking in a bracing sea breeze straight off the waterfront.
For my tasting, I was served portions of various Indian and fusion preparations, including the spiced-up Guntur Mamsam (mutton), the light Coconut Fish Curry, and crunchy Lobster Olive Empanadas to go with a pour of my choice of single malt (you’d do well to pick a fine wine too).
For eats on the side, I got to dig into helpings of the tangy Aloo Shakarkand, and the scrummy Chilgoza Ki Tikki (pine nuts). The Tuscan Brick Chicken for a main course was fit for royalty — a juicy block of meat prepared in a fiery sauce, and served like a fortress of strong flavours. While the highlight of my meal was undoubtedly dessert, the Organic Turmeric and Palm Jaggery Frappe Mousse, inspired by native South Indian elements.
Chef Saju makes it a point to elaborate on his concept for the new WHARF 2.0 menu, capturing the essence of five elements — Earth, water, air, fire and space. The one element that unites all of his creations is the good conversation he offers, to go with each helping. The chef is all about epicurean delights, and he’s quick to emphasise the importance of an after-meal siesta!
As all of that prepared me for another work week, I was already looking forward to brave the ECR traffic with a devilish Jack Nicholson grin stretched across my face.
Ask for the seasonal suite deals. Room packages start at `6,800.
— Jaideep Sen