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May 9, 2013

The New India at The Park Hyderabad

By Chris Boyle

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Hyderabad is a text-book nugget of the new India. The nation’s ecomonic boom in the past decade can be seen all over this effervescent city, not least in the smart flagship hotel by The Park group.

The Park Hotels Group has 12 properties in ten cities across India, and offers an antidote to the big name resorts for which the subcontinent is famed. The Park brand as we see it today was conceived by Chairperson Priya Paul, who has applied a keen eye for design and not a little business acumen. The result is India’s foremost chain of luxury boutique hotels, scattered with works from Paul’s own contemporary art collection, and brimming with kudos among the young and upwardly mobile.

Like many business leaders in India today, Paul was educated in the US. She majored in economics at Wellesley College, and went on to complete the Owner President Management Program at Harvard Business School. Returning to her motherland, Paul began her career as Marketing Manager at The Park in New Delhi under her late father, Surrendra Paul. When Surrendra died in 1990, he handed the reins of the company to his daughter. She was 23 years old. Since then, this plucky entrepreneur has ranked in Forbes as one of the 100 most powerful business women in India, and last year won her country’s highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.

The tranquility of The Park Hyderabad belies the breakneck pace of the surrounding city. Overlooking Hussain Sagar lake with its iconic Buddha statue, the 267-room property stands loftily above the dusty streets, offering a cool sanctuary for business guests and the local glitterati. The design borrows from the decadence of the Nizams, the former rulers of Hyderabad who make the Sultan of Brunei look hard done by—the last Nizam Osman Ali Khan was considered the wealthiest man in the world in the 1930s.

The hotel’s sleek aluminium composite façade takes inspiration from the Nizam jewelry collection, with apertures maximizing natural daylight. For the indoor spaces, Priya Paul commissioned native artists and designers from the worlds of interiors, fashion and textiles, as well as international designers from Conran & Partners, Blacksheep (UK), Skidmore Owings Merrill (New York) and Chadha Siembeda (Australia).

Gourmet restaurant Aish serves exceptional fare from the Andhra Pradesh region, with traditional biryanis taking center stage. A rice-based dish served with meat or fish and a rich sauce, a biryani combines a medley of spices: nutmeg, mace, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint, ginger, onions, garlic and saffron. Another highlight is the Hyderabadi haleem, a thick stew of Arabic origin made from meat, lentils and pounded wheat, and garnished with cashews, mint leaves, fried onions and lime juice. The dish famously ends the day’s fast during Ramadan, and here you’ll taste it in its finest form.

For more casual dining, Verandah restaurant overlooks the outdoor pool and lake beyond, and serves international cuisine all day. After dark, guests can head to subterranean discotheque Kismet, which has become quite the local nightspot with its shiny VIP bar, club space and private function room. For more salubrious pursuits, the hotel spa Aura offers an encyclopedic list of treatments, as well as a large Jacuzzi, laconium, gym, salon and relaxation area.

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Urban India has been tripping over itself to modernize in recent years, and happily The Park Hyderabad strikes the right balance between innovation and the charms of tradition. Let’s hope the new Park properties follow suit, as the brand charges boldly on to Jaipur, Kochi and Pune.

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