Kalaignar is no more. This is perhaps, no way to begin a hotel review. But things are bound to veer towards the unusual when, on your second night of stay, a five-time chief minister and a beloved figure for a big section of the population passes away, that too in the burning heartland of politics-Chennai. For starters, the Phoenix Market City Mall, within whose complex this four-star luxury hotel is located, cleared out and shut down in the span of a heartbeat at the news of M. Karunanidhi's passing. A gloom was settling in, a lockdown was impending.
With nowhere to go, I set forth instead on an exploration of the hotel, only to find myself immersed deep in the design aesthetics and vibe of Design Hotel Chennai by juSTa.
The 26 rooms here are grouped under four unique, bold and artistic themes. These themes begin outside the rooms, in the four aesthetically distinct corridors, each of which is bordered by a mirror at the end to give the impression of being endless. Nunya, or minimal, is for those who derive power and beauty from simplicity -a sleek corridor in pale wood opens to simply designed rooms on one side. At the other end of the spectrum is the magnificent Maya or a corridor of illusions. Linger long here, and the chances are the glossy red walls, the patterned lighting on a loud ceiling and a seemingly shifting floor will draw you in and keep you hypnotized. The rooms here feature 3D wall paintings, plush leather seating, and smooth grey sandstone flooring.
The third theme stands true to its name-Ati, or excess. The monochrome corridor here has an intricate composition of black inlaid on grey and alternating with white stripes. Beautiful Kolam rice art patterns adorn the floor in the rooms, which are resplendent with gold highlighted ceilings, mirrors, and detailed lighting fixtures. Roop is the corridor of beauty, with the thousand-pillared hall of Madurai's Meenakshi Temple serving as the inspiration for it. It's rooms-one of which was my abode- have curry, flowy wooden walls, without any edges or corners.
While the rooms are well-appointed with every requisite amenity, the hotel also houses a lovely dining space called Annam Cafe serving southern delicacies. The newly opened Wire Room Bar & Kitchen is an extrapolation of the hotel's running theme of the eye-catching design. One section of the ceiling here features 9,600 plumb bobs. The lounge serves a multi-cuisine spread along with some very interesting cocktails that use local ingredients, such as black jaggery, rose flavored soda, nannari root and more. One such cocktail and a few sad but concerned members of the staff kept me company as the news poured in, and the city swiftly slipped into mourning.