We visited Nashik for an extended weekend as a belated birthday celebration for Charles. The idea was to do something relaxed, yet a little different from the usual beach-bumming in sweltering Goa. With a luxurious yet affordable Taj property, the much talked about and way overdue attraction- the Sula vineyards, and all of this just over 3 hours away on a lovely open road. It sounded like the perfect weekend getaway. But manage to surprise us it did; with an experience that surpassed all our expectations. The drive was lovely, especially the winding roads through the hills near Igatpuri and Orange city. We ended up arriving in Nashik at 12 pm. 2 whole hours before check-in time at the Gateway Hotel at Ambad.We entered the Gateway Hotel through large and intricate iron gates that open into an endless driveway that slopes gracefully past royal looking gardens and tennis courts, to end in a small but elegant porch, where efficient valet and bellboys quickly helped us and our luggage to the reception.While driving into Nashik, the courteous reception staff on the other end of the phone had enthusiastically informed us that our room would indeed be ready by the time we entered the lobby. And ready it was, an early check in with a free room upgrade and a quick whisper from the receptionist checking when I would like them to deliver my husband’s birthday cake to the room. (It was done rather efficiently while we were out at dinner that night.) The lobby was open with several clusters of richly furnished sofas and couches, leading to a gorgeous terrace area. The white latticed veranda with it’s white wrought iron furniture and lamps was reminiscent of Jaipur. The setting sun even painted pink lines in the horizon as further proof.Walking down the aisle, on the 2nd floor, we really got a sense of the history and heritage of this hotel that looks like a royal Maharashtrian residence. All the fittings were expensive and old wood. The room was a much needed haven of air-conditioning from the sweltering Nashik heat. The Superior room was a lovely old world room with high ceilings, wood benches, a chest of drawers with intricate brass accents in gold polish, built in cupboards with latticed doors and a soft luxurious bed. No goose down pillows here though.The flip side was the heartburn the new fake looking wood finish flooring stickers gave us. I really wish they had maintained the old flooring that I’m sure they’d had. But the bathrooms were modern. Smooth granite walls and counters, rough granite flooring, and an unparalleled shower experience with shower heads spouting high pressure water at three different levels. The downside here was the lack of a bidet. Rather shocking.
Now it helps to keep in mind that while Nashik is classified as a metropolitan city it is far from urbanised in the cosmopolitan manner of Mumbai or Pune. This hotel, which would probably qualify as a 3-4 star elsewhere, is the most luxurious experience that Nashik has to offer. People are friendly, the place is clean, service is impeccable, but the infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired if you’re used to a lot more. The hotel has a large, beautifully shaped swimming pool with a maximum depth of 5 feet. Set amidst a lush garden with white wrought iron latticed garden furniture and a smattering of deck chairs, the pool is serviced efficiently.
Apart from the tennis courts at the entrance, there is also a small basketball hoop, table tennis court and gymnasium flanking the poolside. There is also a rather basic but clean salon which is most efficient.
As I mentioned earlier, Nashik really isn’t that cosmopolitan, so while considering dining options, it really is your best bet to stick to what they know best – Indian cuisine. Their Indian restaurant – Panchratna has been recently reopened and serves up some good Rajasthani and Mughlai food (some of the dishes are an attempt at fusion plated cuisine a la Vineet Bhatia, but not quite there in terms of the drama of flavours and textures). We tried grilled chicken drumsticks stuffed with akuri, and while it wasn’t bad, it didn’t really impress us. The mains however, was quite literally breathtaking. Khandeshi cuisine is the local Maharashtrian fare, and a really spice mutton Khandeshi left us breathing fire, but enjoying every bite of it. The chef informed us that in order to keep the authenticity of the dishes, they invite housewives who cook it the traditional way to come into their kitchens and cook a few plates of the dish of the day. So it did have a nice rustic feel to it, and yes, that secret ingredient, love. Served with bhakri (a bread made of jowar or bajra) this was most certainly an unforgettable meal. The desserts however sounded rather uninspiring.
The other dining option at The Gateway is their all day dining restaurant called “Gateway All Day.” They serve up a buffet at dinner, which is a quite the medley of South Indian, North Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisine. From the appetizers all the way to dessert, I would strongly recommend sticking to Indian, because, while the Indian food was delicious, well, they just don’t get Continental cuisine.
Further proof of this lies in another experience I had at the hotel. The Gateway has a sweet little promotional programme called “the Chef’s Hat” where they invite guests for a complimentary private lesson with their chef. This culinary class, comprised sauteing pre-boiled pasta in a precooked arrabiata sauce. Another dish was a simple salad, where I “learnt” to mix together some sprouts, chopped carrots, honey, lemon, and salt, and arrange it all on a bed of lettuce. One has to give them points for the enthusiastic effort, but the attempt was pitiful in the least.
Adjacent to the restaurant is Somras – the bar, which apart from a couple of local gents is usually empty. You’ll find the standard Indian and a smattering of the International alcohol varieties here, but don’t expect the cocktails to be anything more than mediocre. The friendly staff however, does make up in terms of a delightful experience. One of them was so saddened that we hadn’t done the tourist attractions like the caves and temples, he even brought us a detailed docket for our next trip to Nashik.
At the end of our two night three day stay at The Gateway Hotel, we were obviously delighted, felt pampered, and pleased with the enjoyable experience. It surpassed our expectations, which is why, although I doubt we’ll ever return to Nashik, I’m glad we went.
The Gateway Hotel Ambad Nashik, P-17, MIDC Ambad, Mumbai-Agra Road, Nashik 422010, India Tel: +91-253-6604499 www.thegatewayhotels.com Doubles from Rs. 5,300/-