Patrons of the Zodiac Grill can tuck into camembert souffles once again as the Tower wing of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower opens on Sunday The artefacts are back in place, waiting for admirers and buyers.
evening. The Trident, too, will throw open its doors to patrons the same day, representing the city’s efforts to claw out of terror’s shadow and back to normality.
Both hotels have been shut for the past three weeks for renovations following the damage caused during the three-day siege by terrorists that began on November 26.
The two towers suffered a modest amount of damage. The Oberoi and the heritage building of the Taj, on the other hand, were badly affected. It has been estimated that the Taj will remain shut for anything between seven months and a year and The Oberoi will be shut for between six and seven months. Trident president Rattan Keswani said experts were assessing the damage suffered by The Oberoi and that it would take another fortnight to arrive at a precise opening date.
Keswani said the restoration team had tried to make the Trident appear as it was before the attacks. “All the restaurants will be in pristine condition,” he said. Guests “should not find a single trace that would bring back memories”.
Some of the glass panes that line the Veranda-the Trident’s lobby that serves as a coffee shop- had been shattered. The door of Ranee International, a carpet shop in the Trident’s shopping arcade, had been broken while the hotel’s front porch, marble and wood work had sustained some damage.
Guests will be able to dine at Frangipani, India Jones, Opium Den and Verandah and all 550 rooms will be open for reservation. A multi-religious prayer ceremony will precede the hotel’s opening. There will, however, be significant changes in parts of The Oberoi that were badly scarred. “Some parts of it might look completely different if material has to be changed,” Keswani said.
In comparison, the restaurants at the Taj sustained far heavier damage. Shamiana, which was severely hit, would reopen along with Masala Kraft, Aquarius, Souk, Star Board, Zodiac Grill and La Patisserie. The Chambers, the exclusive club for business executives, will also be opened. During the siege, it served as a place where guests were gathered before being evacuated. The tower’s 268 rooms will also be available. Taj officials said room reservations were fairly good.
Apart from restoration work, both hotels will be concentrating on luring guests back. Keswani said cancellations of reservations had been “reasonably heavy” as travellers were frightened of visiting the country. At this time of the year, the Trident is typically 70 per cent full; but, at the moment, only about 35% of the hotel is occupied.
“Guests’ fear, fuelled by government travel advisories, must be allayed,” he said. “We are working with our business partners and the government of India to get people back.”
Christmas and New Year’s celebrations at the hotels will also be a low-key affair. There will be no elaborate parties or functions. “But the restaurants will have special Christmas menus,” said Keswani.
At the Taj, too, the festivities will be limited. Decorations will be kept as simple as possible and celebrations will only extend to special menus.