ITC has taken over a landmark hotel of South Goa and made it its own. We check into the ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa for a serene weekend. By Team T+L
When you’ve made yearly visits to Goa for over half a decade, it’s difficult for a beach resort to surprise you. And yet, that’s exactly what ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa did to me last November. Even though the hotel opened in October 2018, it isn’t exactly a new property. In fact, it’s been around for 15 years—as the Park Hyatt Goa Resort & Spa. After a 2015 auction, the Supreme Court granted the property’s ownership to ITC in March 2018, and the gigantic gates of ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa were swung open to guests seven months later.
Sprawled over 45 acres by the breezy Arossim Beach in Cansaulim, in the party-free quietude of South Goa, the ITC hotel has retained the wholesome charm of the original property—its Indo-Portuguese style of architecture, blue-tiled fountains and room signage, and the old-world decor of the 252 rooms and suites. Intriguing vintage architecture drawings adorned my suite’s interiors, and larger-than-life rock sculptures hung outside. Freshwater streams meander through the property’s thoroughly manicured greens to trickle down into tiny pools, water lilies dot an artificial pond, bridges arch their backs over lagoons, and gardens call out to seasonal birds and butterflies. This Venetian vibe was the biggest curve-ball at the South Goa property, a revelation for the old-school romantic in me who instantly rued the solo nature of the visit. My corner-suite boasted views of the sea from the plunge pool and those of the waterlily pond from the living room. Elements like old five-blade fans, vintage dressing tables, and a sunken marble bathtub were delightful retentions. I hope they linger on.
What ITC has brought to the table with the takeover are its signature culinary and wellness offerings. Four of the resort’s dining options—Pavilion, Kebabs & Kurries, Tempero, and Ottimo—are scattered around the Village Square, a courtyard that comes alive with local music and dance every evening. While Pavilion lays down a wholesome breakfast buffet, and Ottimo’s Italian cuisine, including wood-fired pizza, risotto, and pasta, is a sumptuous feast, my most memorable meal was at Kebabs & Kurries. Here, a re-imagined menu is carving a new identity for the signature ITC diner by categorising dishes according to their cooking style—tawa, tandoor, angeethi, etc. From galouti kebabs that melt on the tongue to salan that sizzles like an entire sub-continent on a plate and biryani fit for royalty, the place is a haven of authentic flavours. At Tempero, Chef Sarita whips up Goan flavours in a setting that’s drenched in the tropical sun through huge, colonial-style windows. This is also where ITC off ers a cooking class with the chef; mine, however, quickly turned into a watch-and-learn session, thanks to my abysmal culinary quotient.
The cooking class is one of several activities curated by the hotel for its guests. One of these is a trip to the Figueiredo House, a 16th-century Portuguese mansion in Loutolim that
is emphasised to be “older than the Taj Mahal” by its proud owner, Maria de Fatima Figueiredo de Albuquerque. On a guided tour, we were shown around the house, part of which is now a museum exhibiting the antiques preserved by successive generations of the family. Another part has been converted into a heritage homestay.
After a day of history lessons, I indulged at ITC’s Kaya Kalp–The Royal Spa. Who wouldn’t? The spa manager, Dr. Sunil Kumar—an Ayurveda practitioner—gave the menu here a
comprehensive makeover in January last year. When the new management took over, both he and his menu were retained, with a few tweaks to give it the ITC touch. Today, the interiors of the 16 treatment rooms feature deep reds, and the flagship treatments utilise pomegranate in various forms. The signature Kaya Kalp Massage combined Swedish massage techniques with aromatherapy to strain the stress out of every muscle in my body. On another day, I experienced its Ayurvedic antithesis—Abhayanga, which employed medicated herbal oils and long strokes to pump the body with vitality. By the end of it, I felt fit enough to take on an oil-glazed pahalwan in an akhara. Fortunately, I wasn’t meant to. Instead, the soft sands of Arossim Beach draped in sunset hues awaited my happy feet.