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A river runs through it

Tuck into olives stuffed with chilli and pesto and crumb-fried in the earthy comfort of your expansive suite, or just loll in a snug easy chair on the balcony, listening to the rhythmic cadence of the river lapping underneath your feet.

At Ganga Kutir, the new 16-room premium boutique hotel in Raichak, which sits next to its much bigger cousin Ffort Raichak (earlier Ffort Radisson), you can’t escape the river. And you won’t want to, since the quaint Rs 10-crore nature’s nest has been conceived to maximise dialogue with the river. So much so, that even immersed in the intimate, sharp-edge swimming pool, the boats float just below your eye-line.

Very vernacular and very basic, Ganga Kutir is elegant, not ostentatious, and feels good under your feet, like khadi luxury — meant to “ah!” and not awe guests. “It’s not celebratory but introspective, and you can use it as an envelope to simply be yourself,” says Harsh Neotia whose Ambuja Realty (the same group behind the Ffort project) has developed Ganga Kutir. For the Ambuja group, this is the first step after a long hiatus. The 2-acre property offers a majestic river view and would have lent itself to a grand resort. “This was originally planned as a company retreat. Now it’s like a hermitage, more minimalist, less austere, while not compromising on comfort,” observes Sri Lankan architect Channa Daswatte, who designed Ganga Kutir.

Daswatte has brought in some Sri Lankan elements, but there is also plenty of rural Bengal in the architectural vocabulary, glimpses of what you see on your way to Raichak. There are traces of Frank Lloyd Wright influence and that of contemporary masters. However, the modernist elements are tempered with artefacts from Bengal, like a lot of terracotta and tiles from Santiniketan.

“I have deliberately made it a little wild (like the laterite pathways and courtyard), with a strong vernacular content,” says Daswatte, who has been mentored by his celebrated compatriot Geoffrey Bawa. He worked with sculptor Ashish Ghosh, a teacher in Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan, and with Rahul Modak for the interiors, while Shamlu Dudeja’s kanthas embellish the library walls.

The strong coastal Sri Lankan influence enables you to enjoy the rain from your room, while you can actually watch the cows being milked in the morning at the in-house go-shala, which nestles in a nook of the riverside retreat campus. The predominantly wooden furniture and panelling adds to the earthy feel.

“As a business, we are looking at a different clientele profile with Ganga Kutir. The Ffort Raichak vision was to create a complete leisure and conference destination. At that time, the market wasn’t mature for a niche product like this,” says Neotia, confident that even though tariff is pegged at a stiff $200-250, almost twice that of Ffort Raichak, there are enough takers now for the “exclusive” format. In sync with the profile of Ganga Kutir, the F&B spread has been designed to be “quite different” from Ffort as well. “There will be three types of cuisine — Continental with an Italian leaning, Oriental with a Thai bias, and home-style Indian food,” reveals Davide Cananzi, the corporate chef of the group.

Innovations are being worked out in presentation as well. For instance, salads will be served in a conical papad or chicken tikka masala in bell pepper.

The Pub, Ganga Kutir’s watering hole, which sits on the river’s edge, will offer an eclectic menu including Frankfurter sausages with sauerkraut, fish ’’ chips in brown paper in a basket, prawn wanton and fried canopies with Wasabi mayonnaise… “Of course, there will be classic kebabs and an exhaustive wine menu,” adds Cananzi.

While the group’s strategy is to make a cluster of different products, like the Ffort, City Centre, Swabhumi and the farm cottages in Raichak, Ambuja Realty now plans to roll out three to five similar hotels of 30 rooms elsewhere in the state over the next three years.

seven steps

• 6 rooms (including two suites)
• The Pub, the watering hole
• Conference hall facing the river
• 35-seater multi-cuisine restaurant
• Small library with books on history, literature and nature
• A go-shala with cows
• Treatment room

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