Asia's first luxury hotel, The Great Eastern had the distinction of being the longest continuously operating Hotel (165 years) till 2005, when The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group bought it from West Bengal government.
The Lalit Great Eastern - a heritage landmark that has witnessed the evolving history of India, particularly of Bengal and its people.
Encouraged by the success of his thriving confectionary shop in Kolkata, David Wilson, an Englishman decided to open a Hotel - the Auckland Hotel, named after the Governor General of that time, on 19th November 1840. It was popularly known as Wilson's Hotel till 1865 when it was renamed the Great Eastern Hotel. What started in the mid 1830's as a bakery and a hangout for the East India Company's officers turned into an iconic legacy of the Raj.
In 1883 it became the first hotel in the country to be fully illuminated with electricity. It was the favourite haunt of the city's elite, members of the royalty and celebrities from across the world like Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II, Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain who referred to it as the 'Jewel of the East' and the 'best hotel East of the Suez'.
Asia's first luxury hotel, The Great Eastern had the distinction of being the longest continuously operating Hotel (165 years) till 2005, when The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group bought it from West Bengal government. In 2006 it was closed for renovation and after 7 years of laborious and painstaking restoration, this iconic Hotel is re-presented to Kolkata on the 19th of November, which also happens to be the birth anniversary of the Founder Chairman Mr Lalit Suri, as The Lalit Great Eastern. From 19th November 1840 to 19th November 2013 the Hotel has been known as Wilson's Hotel, Auckland Hotel, Great Eastern Hotel and now The Lalit Great Eastern. "The name has changed not the tradition of hospitality."
The hotel as it stands today is an amalgamation of the styles of 3 different eras of history - Victorian (1837 - 1901), Edwardian (1901 - 1910) and Contemporary (2006 onwards) reflected in Heritage Block 1, Heritage Block 2 and the New Block respectively. These blocks have been painstakingly and seamlessly connected despite their distinct character and decor.
The Main Lobby of the Hotel is in the New Block. The classic century old piano here has been restored to its original glory. Manufactured by MF Rachal n Company, Germany it was the pride of Maxim's, the legendary bar.
Besides the lobby and The Tea Lounge, the New Block houses The Great Ballroom at the lobby level, Rejuve - The Spa on the 1st floor, The Legacy Lounge & Quorum - the meeting rooms on the 2nd floor and 100 guest rooms. There is also a two level parking in the basement that can accommodate 150 cars.
Heritage Block II, reflecting the Edwardian era is five storied with an atrium lobby and 95 rooms & suites of varied sizes. The corridors are dotted with restored furniture and connected from one floor to the other by the original spiral staircase. The rooms have black & white photographs of the different stages of demolition and restoration of this iconic hotel.
The 8 feet concrete cup standing tall in the balcony, is a replica of the trophy that Mr A.L. Bilimoria, the then Chairman of the Great Eastern Hotel received from Queen Elizabeth II, after his horse won the race in 1961.
The Bakery, another gem from the Great Eastern Hotel, is also housed in the Heritage Block II. The more than a century old oven manufactured in England by Baker Perkins Limited is the focal point of The Bakery. Though not functional any more, parts of the oven have been preserved and adorn the interiors of The Restaurant. The seven containers used for kneading dough now serve as planters in different parts of the Hotel and the bread cans are being used for table decorations. One wall of The Bakery has been left as it was as a tribute to the old bakery. Attached to The Bakery is a vibrant Beer Bar exuding the lively spirit of Kolkata.
Heritage Block I still under restoration will have 49 rooms & suites. This block reflecting the Victorian era hosted dignitaries from across the world, celebrities, aristocrats and Indian royalty.
The famous Maxim's bar & restaurant, again located in this block, was a favourite haunt of the city's who's who. It will soon reopen after restoration, followed by Baluchi - the signature Indian restaurant and 24/7, the All Day Dining.
"The restoration of this iconic hotel has been a labour of love, painful and time consuming but extremely rewarding." - Dr. Jyotsana Suri, CMD, Lalit Suri Hospitality Group.
1. Architects: Architects 61of Singapore who also restored Raffles Hotel (Singapore),
Dulal Mukherjee & Associates
2. Area: 3 acres
3. Blocks: New block, Heritage block I, Heritage block II
4. Rooms & suites: 244(New block: 100, Heritage block II: 95, Heritage block I: 49
5. Dining options: The Tea Lounge, The Bakery, Beer Bar, Maxim's Bar & Restaurant, Baluchi - the signature Indian restaurant, 24 /7 - the All Day Dining & Al fresco
6. Meeting & conference facilities: The Great Ballroom - 8000 sq ft with a towering 30 feet ceiling, Quorum - Business club with 4 Meeting rooms, The Legacy Lounge
7. Rejuve - The Spa: Spread over 8000 sq ft with 8 treatment rooms, Aqua bed, gymnasium, salon & swimming pool
8. Basement car parking
Notes and references
1. Hotel with a history by Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay - Frontline Volume22 - Issue 17, Aug 13 - 26, 2005
2. 'Jewel' gets back its shine by Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey & Subhro Niyog - Times News Network, June 15, 2013
3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia