Heritage Tour of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel
The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel
The crocodile bread, cream roll and the amazing aroma of baked goodies are all that remains of the my fond memory of The Great Eastern Hotel.
I was at the bakery of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, narrating my fond memories of the good old days of Great Eastern Hotel to Madhumita Bose, Manager PR & Macrom.
I have been just been back from a heritage tour of the Great Eastern Hotel and felt nostalgic over a cup of Darjeeling tea and cookies at the bakery.
Sadly there was no cream roll and the bakery had stopped making the crocodile bread.
Every since the hotel reopened, under the new management of The Lalit Hotels on 19 Nov. 2013, there has been a constant effort to bring forward the heritage of the first luxury hotel of the continent and the heritage walk of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel is one such initiative.
The heritage walk or tour starts from the main entrance on the Waterloo Street, on the eastern side of the hotel.
On the side of the entrance are potted palm trees placed in unusual pots, on closer observation it was revealed that the pots were actually dough mixtures used in the bakery of the hotel, a very innovative adoptive reuse.
At the lobby of the hotel Madhumita and I was greeted by Joita Ghosh, Guest Relation Executive, who would be acting as a guide for the heritage walk of the Great Eastern Hotel.
Joita started off with the history of the Great Eastern Hotel, which initially started of as a bakery run by English confectioner David Wilson in 1830s.
The bakery shared its location with the present day bakery of the Great Eastern Hotel and was a favourite hang out for East India Company officials.
It was the golden days of Calcutta and the city was in much in need of a luxury hotel.
It was probably this need that motivated David Wilson to turn his bakery into a luxury hotel.
19 November 1840 the new hotel opened its gates to the public and was christened as Auckland Hotel, after the then Governor General of India. But it remained popular as the Wilson Hotel.
Soon it became the talk of the town and turned into a hub of aristocracy and a favorite hunt for city’s elite.
In 1865 it was renamed as the Great Eastern Hotel and turned out to be an iconic legacy of the Raj.
Great Eastern Hotel came to be known as the “Jewel of the East” and the best hotel east of Suez.
It long list of esteemed guest included members of the Royalty and celebrities from round the world, including Queen Elizabeth II, Mahatma Gandhi, Ho Chi Min, Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain.
After independence in 1947 the Great Eastern Hotel was taken over by the Government of West Bengal and in the late 1970s it started its declining trend.
Once the Great Hotel east of Suez was turned into a shabby shopping complex, with luxurious suites and rooms being converted into shops.
In 2005 the Great Eastern Hotel closed its door to the public after 165 years of continuous operation, the longest by any hotel, any where in the world.
In 2005 The Great Eastern Hotel was taken over by The Lalit Hotels and after seven years of meticulous restoration it was again opened to the public on 19 Nov. 2013.
It came to be known as The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel.
Joita continued saying that today the hotel is an amalgamation of three different eras of history, covering Victorian Block (1837 – 1901), Edwardian Block (1901 – 10) and Contemporary Block (2006 on wards).
With the introduction and history over it was time to explore “the Great Hotel of the East.” Our tour started withe the piano, at the corner of the lobby, a part of the Edwardian Block.
The German Piano was manufactured by MF Rachals & Co., Hamburg and was once the pride of Maxim, the legendary bar of The Great Eastern Hotel. It happens to be one of the oldest pianos in the city and presently is in prefect playing condition.
From the lobby we took the lift and Joita, informed that the hotel got its electricity connection in 1883, thus becoming the first hotel in the country to be lit by electricity.
Our next stop was the Legacy Lounge, the iconic restaurant of Great Eastern Hotel.
The interiors, decors and the furniture still has the old age charm and bound to make an old timer nostalgic.
At the far end of the Legacy Lounge is a small display showcasing different artifacts collected from the old hotel. Brass statues of Lord Buddha and dancing Nataraj are displaced along with colourful statues of peacocks.
Also on display are huge decorative jugs, which had stains of tea on its inside, and its a wonder how the hot tea was served from these huge containers.
The greatest attraction the Legacy Lounge or the entire hotel is the innovative reuse of daily usage things recovered from the Great Eastern Hotel, or may be the Auckland Hotel.
Decorative glass wine goblets are still in use so is the various crockries. The bread molds and irons have been transformed into flower pots.
Joita lead us through a complex maze of corridors and from one block to the other and lead us to the balcony, straight in front was a gigantic urn, a replica of the trophy presented by Queen Elizabeth II to A L Bilimoria, after his horse won the race in 1961.
We continued through the amazing maze making it to the Atrium Lobby, with its colourfull Gazebos. The Atrium Lobby is lit up by natural light at the Gazebos provide an ultimate location for a wine tasting session.
A long staircase leads to the top floor, which was probably used by house – keeping staffs of the old hotel. Bird cage like structures hung above the gezebos, were they used for props in the cabaret show? but no one is sure.
We made our way to the other end of Atrium Lobby and a short descend via a spiral staircase led us to the Bakery of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel.
On displayed in the bakery are old ovens and several other bakery machinery manufactured by Bakers Perkins, London. At one end of the bakery a portion of the old unplastered wall is kept on display along with a couple of riveted iron beams. Finally the walk ended with a high tea session at the Bakery of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel.
Heritage Walk of Lalit Great Eastern Hotel:
- Heritage walk with high tea at Tea Lounge, Rs550 + Taxes
- Heritage Walk with high tea at Gazebo, Rs750 + Taxes
- Heritage Walk with Wine, Cheese & Snacks, Rs1250 + Taxes
For booking of Heritage walk call +91 33 4444 7777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org