Mamata's Ganesha unveils new-look Great Eastern

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 20.11.13
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The Lalit Great Eastern was inaugurated on Tuesday evening by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, 173 years to the day when the hotel was born.

The new luxury hotel will take at least two more weeks to be up and running again. It will have three blocks — Heritage I, Heritage II and a new block. The heritage blocks were part of the old Great Eastern.

The Lalit Great Eastern will become operational in two phases. In about a fortnight, the new block and the Heritage II will be thrown open, while the Heritage I will take another six months. “The entire restoration work cost about Rs 375 crore. Restoring the two old buildings was longest and most painful,” said Jyotsna Suri, the MD of Bharat Hotels Limited, promising Calcutta cakes from the hotel’s fabled bakery this Christmas!

FIRST PHASE

Bakery: The new bakery is located exactly where the old one was. It will be visible from the road. Open for both walk in and buy, and sit-down clientele.

Tea Lounge: For refreshments.

Alfresco: Restaurant around a lily pool.

Legacy Lounge: A dining area for those in the hotel’s executive rooms.

Rooms: 195.

Spa: 8 therapy rooms.

Swimming pool: 20 metres long, surrounded by all three blocks.

SECOND PHASE

All-day dining facility. (All the dining areas in phase I will shut by midnight. )

Maxim’s: The bar

Mamata Banerjee proved yet again at the opening of The Lalit Great Eastern hotel that she has mastered the art of instant painting. Here’s decoding her Ganesha-in-20-minutes.

Three boxes of acrylic paint are kept ready for her.

She begins with a floral motif and turns it into a symbol of auspiciousness.

Uninhibited by any formal training, she paints two bright marigolds. Then the leaves appear. The marigolds sprout eyes. A red flower blooms above. Red lines delineate the nose, two eyes and then the third. The marigold grows a trunk.

Ganesha materialises out of nothing, to mark an auspicious beginning. Complete with a white sacred thread and a mouse with an improvised tail from a trickle of paint.

A swastika and an Om complete the canvas, before she signs off in blue with the full date (19.11.2013) to underline its significance in the hotel’s history.

THE WATERLOO STREET FACADE

It was a trip down nostalgia lane for Calcutta on Tuesday evening as the Great Eastern Hotel was reborn as The Lalit Great Eastern.

Mamata Banerjee, accompanied by the likes of Firhad Hakim and Derek O’Brien, took a tour of some parts of the hospitality address that blends the old with the new.

“We bought the hotel in November 2005 at Rs 52 crore, because it was a heritage property. We had to remove 500 trucks of muck. We started work in 2007,” said Jyotsna Suri, the managing director of Bharat Hotels Limited.

“We are opening with the Tea Lounge, Legacy Lounge, the Bakery, the Spa, 195 rooms, banquet…,” she said, adding, “a hotel business in India requires about 70 different licences, we have got many but we still require some. We will open at the earliest.”

THE BAKERY OLD & NEW
THE ATRIUM
THE LEGACY LOUNGE

We used to go there quite a bit. The food was fabulous and they had many restaurants. Their competition was Princess at The Grand. They were very well known for their cabaret shows and musical programmes.

People used to go to the hotel especially for that. Their cabaret shows were really the best and those two girls, Lynn and Lyss, were a rage. It was a top hotel back then, a very upmarket place…

Sunita Kumar, who attended Tuesday’s opening with husband Naresh Kumar

Pictures by Amit Datta and B. Halder