A historic and cultural glimpse into Pune, from the lap of luxury
Pune’s cultural landscape is often overshadowed by that of Mumbai. Slices of history peek through the modern vista in this city, but are also balanced by a youthful urban population. We took a short two-day trip to stay at the newly opened The Ritz-Carlton, Pune, the second one in the country, and we packed in a bit of what Pune has to offer.
The pleasures of the city start as soon as you enter, as the airport is a mere 15-minute drive from the hotel, a welcome change for us coming from Bengaluru. Flanked by the Poona Golf Course, the hotel makes for a striking sight. After being greeted by the staff, we made our way to our room, that oozed luxury. A glorious view of the golf course, a king-sized bed, a huge TV and a walk-in closet: what more could we ask for!
Our Friday afternoon began with a high tea at their Tea Lounge. Fine China graced the table as we selected our brew. On offer were Chinese floral and fruity teas, but we stuck to the traditional English Breakfast. It paired excellently with the cucumber sandwiches and array of tea cakes. Sitting under the glittering grand chandelier, this meal truly made us feel royal.
Our next stop was the spa. We were ushered into the room for a signature treatment — a full body massage with black pepper and eucalyptus oil. The warm oils and the expert masseuse eased away all the tension from our body. The cherry on top was the steam and sauna room you can unwind in after the massage.
Dinner was at Three Kitchens and Bar, a buffet restaurant offering the best of world cuisine. Fresh pastas, breads, Asian delicacies and Indian classics were just some of the options that caught our eye.
Saturday promised an exciting itinerary for us — a tour of some of the historic landmarks of the city. We started with the fort Shaniwar Wada, famously featured in the movie Bajirao Mastani. Although a lot of the structure burnt down in a fire in 1828, some of the gates and fountains still stand and impress with their grandeur. Another place to visit is the Aga Khan Palace, built by the Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III, that served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi and his wife in the 1940s. A walk into the local market, Tulshi Baug, proved more fun than we expected. Although super crowded, the street side shops here offer everything from miniature kitchen sets for kids to counterfeit Kylie lip kits.
And, naturally, we also dug into some of the local snacks while on our day out. Sabudana vada is highly recommended, of course. We wrapped up the outing with a traditional thali at the famed Maratha Samrat restaurant. Back in the hotel, we donned our swimming costumes and headed to the pool, for a post-lunch dip. The infinity pool overlooking the busy street and lush greenery just does the trick when you want to relax.
Of sake and scallops
The highlight of our trip, and we saved the best for last, was our dinner at Ukiyo, the fine-dine Japanese restaurant. Named after the Japanese word for a certain kind of pleasure seeking lifestyle, the modern restaurant was pure decadence — stone walls lined with their sake selection, a robatayaki grill and the most exquisite dishes made of choicest produce. We dined on the fresh flavours of seafood and delicate sushi, accompanied by carafes of sake. A customary slice of Japanese Cheesecake and sesame ice cream brought our meal to an end, and unfortunately our holiday as well.
The next day, a quick taste of the regional and international breakfast at Three Kitchen and Bar later, we headed to the airport, bidding goodbye to the city, of which we saw a new side on this holiday. The Ritz-Carlton, Pune pampered us with its ornate decor, warm hospitality and unmatchable
Here are some must-try eateries in Pune:
Vaidya Upahar Gruha: A 105-year-old institution that serves the best and most authentic misal and
pohe in town, we’re told. What sets them apart is their green misal due to the addition of green chilies. At Budhwar Peth
Maratha Samrat: Go straight for the thali at this restaurant and top it up with a glass of solkadhi. The thali, available in vegetarian, mutton and fish options, comes with dishes such as bhakri, tambda rassa and sticky Indra rice. At Camp
German Bakery: You can’t miss the famous Shrewsbury biscuits from this bakery if you’re in Pune. Located near the Osho Ashram, this was also the site of the 2010 bomb blasts. At Koregaon Park
At Yerawada, Pune.
The writer was at The Ritz-Carlton, Pune by invitation.