Feeling the heat? Check into Kurseong’s newest boutique property

What time would you like to wake up tomorrow for the trek to Sherpa’s Peak?” My heart skipped a beat. The last trek I signed up for was Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan, which took my breath away, quite literally. Was the unfit me ready for another arduous hike, this time in Kurseong, the good old hill station of the eastern Himalayas, nestled midway between Siliguri and Darjeeling? 

  • Published 16.05.18
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Allita Hotels & Resorts is a luxury resort targeted at a niche clientele

What time would you like to wake up tomorrow for the trek to Sherpa’s Peak?” My heart skipped a beat. The last trek I signed up for was Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan, which took my breath away, quite literally. Was the unfit me ready for another arduous hike, this time in Kurseong, the good old hill station of the eastern Himalayas, nestled midway between Siliguri and Darjeeling? 

Deciding to go for it, we woke up at 6am and our guide Yamini was ready with a picnic basket in the hotel lobby. 

At the 35-room (left) Allita property you can spend your mornings and evenings in the spacious lounge chairs beside the lawn (centre) and enjoy your meals at the Tree House (right), which wears a completely different look by day and by night

Allita Hotels & Resorts 

Where: Kurseong  

Rooms: 35, divided into Deluxe Heritage (15), Executive (11) and Suite (9). 

Room features: AC (heating and cooling), mini bar, 40” LED TV, in-room safe, Wi-Fi, hair dryer, electric kettle. 

Amenities: Full-service Orchid Spa, gym, banquet for corporate and social events, library, piano lounge, games room, tour of organic garden, airport transfers, meal plans, sightseeing and day tours.  

Cuisine: Indian, Continental and local meals at Tree House restaurant. 

Tipple: Coming soon. Till then, sip on mocktails at Tongba Bar. 

USP: Chia Bar, a lounge bar dedicated to tea, or what the locals call ‘chia’. Sip on a refreshing Moroccan Mint or a cup of first flush Darjeeling tea spiced up into a modern mocktail avatar.

Price point: Introductory price of Rs 6,999 for Executive, Rs 7,499 for Deluxe Heritage and Rs 9,999 for Suite. GST extra. 

Website: www.allitaresorts.com

MUNCH

A royal English breakfast at Tree House restaurant 
A pahari meal of gundruk, a fermented green vegetable found in Nepali and Gorkhali households
The first thing we ordered on arrival was momos 

Home away from home 

Home for two days, Allita Hotels & Resorts looked even better in the A.M., against a backdrop of clear blue skies and cool green hills. The evening before, when we had arrived at the 35-room property, an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Bagdogra airport, it was shrouded in mist, the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops keeping beat with our steps. What instant relief from the scorching heat of the plains! Cup after cup of tea, from Moroccan Mint to Kashmiri Kahwa, from the hotel’s best-kept secret — Chia Bar, a lounge dedicated to tea — kept us chatting outdoors till late. When it was finally time to retire, we trudged reluctantly to our rooms! 

Sherpa’s Peak is a private viewpoint atop a hill that is part of the expansive 22-acre mountain land belonging to Allita Hotels & Resorts, probably the only hotel in Kurseong to boast of one. My usual go-to habitat in Kurseong is Cochrane Place, the restored colonial home of Percy John Cochrane on Pankhabari Road. This time, the modern amenities of Allita, including a gym and spa, and cuisine that covers all tastes — Indian to Continental to Pahari — was a welcome change. Rebranded as Allita in January, it belongs to the family of Ramesh Chandra Parekh Jewellers, helmed by Jaysukh Parekh, thus bringing in a Calcutta connect. “This is a luxury resort targeted at a niche clientele. We would like more travellers to make Kurseong their base, and not just a stop en route to Darjeeling,” said Vinod Menon, VP, operations.

Sous chef Ravi had prepared sandwiches, cookies, steaming flasks of tea and coffee, and packed oranges from Mirik into the picnic basket. The trek to Sherpa’s Peak was, surprisingly, not half as tedious as we had imagined and took around 20 minutes, the fragrance from bright yellow ghanti phool urging us on. “On a day that’s less misty, you can see right up to Bhutan!” said Yamini, as I climbed a rock in pursuit of a better selfie, wondering which Instagram filter would work better — Juno, Ludwig or Rise? 

Suddenly, the sun rose from behind the clouds and the mist began to clear. Ah, just in time for some more clicks! 

Moroccan Mint (top) to Kashmiri Kahwa, from the hotel’s best-kept secret — Chia Bar (above) — kept us chatting outdoors till late

Mountainside meals 

We headed back to the resort, where a royal English breakfast at Tree House restaurant awaited our hungry selves. Built with glass walls and surrounded by trees, Tree House is stunning, and wears a completely different look by day and by night. The Indian cuisine outweighs the Continental, and even though the Fish in Wine Sauce and in-house bread were delicious, the Mawa Kofta Curry was the star. But do try at least one pahari meal of gundruk, a fermented green vegetable found in Nepali and Gorkhali households, Chicken Mooli (chicken with radish) and Tibetan delicacy Phalay, like a deep-fried momo. The best part? Great desserts, from the Orange Gateau on Day One to the Nutella Walnut Roll on Day Two. And good desserts are always so hard to find in hill stations, leave alone ice cream!

On the lower level of Tree House is Tongba Bar, where Tushar stirred up a smashing mocktail (the bar licence is awaited) with just as much passion as he brewed a cup of tea at Chia Bar. 

Seed capital 

The organic terrace garden of Allita is called Chef’s Garden, and it is located left of the cave temple Satkanya Mandir. This is where specialist Sudhir Bhitrikoti plans to grow enough produce to meet the needs of the resort, and perhaps more, to sell to clients. “We follow what is called Square Foot Gardening developed by late civil engineer Mel Bartholomew, and I was fortunate to spend three weeks with him while working in an NGO,” said Sudhir.  

Square soil beds of coriander, lettuce and parsley lie next to each other inside the greenhouse at Chef’s Garden. Sudhir follows rotation between root crops and leaf crops, which allows for complete utilisation of the bed, “unlike traditional farming, where the bed is left empty for months after harvesting”. Some of the vegetable leaves have holes and he explains: “If you find bugs, it means your vegetables are good. If they were sprayed with chemicals, the bugs would not be there. The most organic way to control bugs is to look, take it out and stamp on it”.  

Pamper point

Stamping out the rigours of the morning’s trek, the spa masseur’s nimble hands brought feeling back into numb limbs. Orchid Spa is where you can surrender yourself to Balinese, Aromatherapy or Swedish massages. 

The Kurseong of tomorrow

If Darjeeling is too crowded, and Kalimpong has a lot of competition, Kurseong offers the right balance. “We have a lot of plans for the 22 acres of land, of which Allita occupies only 4.5 acres. Let’s see how the first year goes,” Jaysukh Parekh of RC Parekh Jewellers told t2 over the phone. Other hospitality giants from Calcutta also have plans for the region. In the pipeline is Ambuja Neotia’s Chia Kutir, an 80-room luxury boutique resort in Makaibari Tea Estate. Plus, work on a passenger ropeway between Kurseong’s Giddapahar and Rohini has started. 

Text: Karo Christine Kumar

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