On our second stay in Chennai on this trip we wanted to be more in the center of town than the Radisson Blu at the airport could offer. There were a few options available to us towards the center of the sprawling metropolis and, on the recommendation of a good friend, we chose the GRT Grand hotel.
The GRT Grand is a mid-range, utilitarian business-class hotel located in a reasonably busy area of town. It is not far from a number of western branded hotels (we could see the brand new Hyatt from our window and had drinks there on a couple of the nights) but doesn’t suffer from the same pricing issues those seem to (we were in for about $130/night including tax via hotels.com; could have booked slightly cheaper as a non-refundable rate directly with the hotel but wanted the flexibility). Not being a western brand also means a bit of character that I nearly always find lacking in those hotels, charms I usually enjoy.
The hotel itself is pretty big, with three restaurants, a night club and a huge atrium that extends up the entire interior of the building.
The check-in process was a bit frazzled as they were swapping our room and that of another guy around because he needed an extra bed but it was eventually squared away and we were escorted up to our room on the 6th floor. I’m not sure if they have upgrades or suites but the superior room we were booked in to was decently sized, with a separate tiny couch (both of us on it was a bit tight) and desk area.
Yes, the décor is a bit dated, but it was a pretty comfy bed and the desk had outlets above, not below, for charging my gear.
The bathroom was similarly dated in style but functional in its facilities.
We had meals at all of the restaurants on the property. Breakfast each morning (included in the rate) was a at the all day lobby buffet. It was passable, barely. Cooked to order eggs was a bit of a saving grace there, really, giving us enough sustenance to get out on the road and find other options.
We dined at the Indian restaurant for lunch on two days. The menu is vast, inspiring great curiosity in how all of it could be good and challenging us to guess at what might be. I don’t know that we guessed right either time but we also didn’t guess particularly wrong. The food was fine, though hardly memorable. I actually don’t remember now what we had, but I know it wasn’t so great that I needed to.
Finally, they gave us coupons at check in for the Mediterranean restaurant in the hotel. Figuring that we wanted a bit of variety (but not so much that we were willing to venture out into the rains of Cyclone Thane) we gave it a try. It was surprisingly delicious. We learned why about half-way through the meal when the chef came out to say hi and ask how things were. He’s a native of Turkey and has spent a few years in Uzbekistan, too. The menu here was even broader than in the Indian restaurant; it is literally a bound book about 80 pages long including sections on the history and cuisine of the various countries around the Med that they are serving from. We were, again, hesitant, but the choices we tried were all delicious. Oh, and there was a weird stage show at various points throughout dinner where a young woman came in and danced a bit in a relatively skimpy outfit. Best we could figure is that it was their version of the Moroccan belly dancer option; it was a bit strange but didn’t detract from the food.
My only real complaint about the property was some frustration that I had with the travel desk and concierge services. Not surprisingly they don’t like their guests going out of their purview for day trips or really anything else and they were less than helpful in making arrangements. When it came to things like getting movie tickets – something that I was told the hotel guys should be able to handle quickly and easily – it actually turned into a bit of a fiasco with promises of seats three different times which were never delivered upon. We eventually figured that out on our own via a pretty web booking engine; I’m shocked that the guy didn’t know it existed and they had a computer sitting there for them to use. On the plus side, they did have an umbrella to loan us when we headed out into the Cyclone.
And even on the day trips front, the driver was less than stellar. Our tour was supposed to include all tolls and parking. The driver insisted we pay. I didn’t mind as I was collecting the receipts and that would be enough to get it handled back at the hotel. But I also called to make sure I understood the tour correctly as I didn’t want any more surprises. When we got back in the car the driver insisted on paying us back immediately (admission of first attempt to screw us) and then tried to short-change me on the reimbursement. Funny thing is that trying to screw me out of 10 rupees cost him 50 times that in tip; I had intended on giving a rather generous tip but that plan went out the window in a hurry as soon as the guy tried to short-change me. On the plus side, he did a great job of getting us to and from our intended destination without any incidents on the road.
Overall the hotel was pretty much exactly as I expected and it was perfectly functional and the price was right. Even the couple minor inconveniences were trivial relative to the value we got. I still think that the Radisson Blu was a much nicer property near the same price point, but the location – all the way out at the airport – isn’t great for being a tourist in town.
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