When Ajay wrote about Marriott’s all-inclusive offer at resorts across India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, it caught my eye. Many times, when both of us get bogged down by the city chaos, we head out of the city to spend of a couple of days together and unwind. If you know us, it is less about doing exploring, and more about rest and recuperation at a gorgeous retreat, with everything taken care of.
Earlier this month, to escape the Mumbai heat we decided to head up to the Sahyadri hills and make good use of this package. Mahabaleshwar is a 6 hour drive from Mumbai and I’ve always wanted to go back to the Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa ever since we first visited it in 2015. The greens were calling, and we had to go to one of our favourite Mahabaleshwar resorts.
Given it was the last weekend for school holidays around Mumbai and Pune, it was pricey. But given both Ajay and my own schedule was packed after, we pulled the trigger. Like you would see, the resort was almost sold out, and if you look at the difference between the regular prices and the all-inclusive prices, it was minimal. In the middle of a forest, literally, so, an all meals inclusion would have any day been preferred because we were not going to step out of the resort. So, we went with it. Additionally, for those with kids, kids stay and dine free.
Prices are more in the line of about INR 10-12K per night for the rate code 2AL now, which includes all meals (minimum two nights).
We left Mumbai on a Friday morning at 7 am. The drive to Mahabaleshwar with 2 stops on the way took us about 7 hours and we reached the hotel at 01:30 pm, just around lunchtime.
As our car pulled in at the reception area, the front office staff, along with the General Manager were already waiting for us with orchid garlands and a welcome drink. This is a nice touch for this resort, that you always get to meet the leadership team if they are on the property to welcome you, if you are coming about in the afternoon.
The resort is built over 27 acres of forested land with 10 acres of gardens, 10 acres of forest preserved and with only 7 acres of construction. That means that the 122 rooms and villas have so much green cover around that it almost feels like one is living in a forest resort.
Each villa hosts 4 rooms. Some pool facing villas host 8 rooms. The ground floor rooms are labelled as Forest View, while the top floor rooms are labelled Valley View. Our villa, Number 3 was a short 10 minutes walk from the reception area. I was not very happy about it initially and wanted to stay far from any civilisation in sight.
Although when I walked inside, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that we were going to have the best suite they had. It is moments like these that redeem our faith in Marriott Bonvoy, and Ajay’s stints away from home. 😉
Our home for the next 3 days was the massive Serenity Suite, that came with a living room, a dining room, a plush bedroom with a balcony, a private terrace overlooking the forest and an outdoor open shower area.
Our suite did not just have an outdoor shower but also a private spa set up.
The living room had a large dining table which was laid with some fresh berries picked from inside the resort to welcome us. The next day, we were sent some delicious mango preparations.
There was a nice choice of amenities for Marriott elites, but we just went with the points.
There was a refrigerator and a microwave both of which I didn’t even touch, given our stay, included all meals. The living room had a comfortable couch facing a smart TV. But who wants to be connected to the world when you can sit on the terrace and listen to birds chirp all day round. My favourite nook was the private terrace, I would wake up early in the morning, make myself a cup of green tea, sit on the terrace and listen to the song of the forest.
Birds humming and the leaves rustling; I don’t remember the last time I had been up close and personal with nature. I was so impressed to see that minimal trees and branches had been chopped to construct rooms and facilities. My villa terrace had space for the branch to grow. Throughout the resort, the low hanging branches were wrapped in tape to caution guests from banging into them.
My second favourite space was the big bathtub to soak myself in. One of the days, the housekeeping was nice enough to prepare the bath for us when we got back from breakfast.
Dining at Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort and Spa
Since we arrived just around lunch, we headed straight for lunch. Buffet lunch everyday was included at the all-day diner Latest Recipe. As we would find out later, the resort hosted a Saturday Brunch instead of a Sunday Brunch, given most people would check out on Sundays.
The lunch buffet was a great mix of fresh and cooked dishes offering steamed fish & spouts salad, chicken and potato, steamed fish, and an array of vegetarian salads.
There was an Asian counter where one could pick their choice of vegetables and noodles and make themselves a nice noodle broth.
While chatting up with the chef, we learnt that the hotel attracts a large number of Jain guests, which explained the separate Jain counter on the buffet. Not only were there no onion, no garlic variants of vegetables but also Khakras and papad.
The highlight of the buffet though for me was the desserts from blueberry cheesecake to chocolate cake and brownies, semolina with fresh strawberries. The table was so enticing that I broke my no sugar fast and was in sweet heaven. Most desserts were bite sized, which allowed me to try many of the sweets laid out. I started my Friday lunch with some gajar ka halwa and finished it off with a slice of cheesecake.
Oh, and Marriott Bonvoy membership had its perks. Members and their children could pick up Movenpick Ice cream, which was exclusive to members.
Like I mentioned ahead, the special weekend brunch is hosted on Saturdays. The spread is enormous. I stopped counting after 46 dishes. The Saturday brunch had a number of regional delicacies, apart from the usual suspects. In spite of living in Mumbai for 5 years, it was the first time I tried dal amboli, a Maharashtrian delicacy. It was gluttony at its best. As the chef tossed out fresh appams, I gorged on them with chicken stew, dal, mutton and every curry I could spot. Saturday was an extravagant and an exhausting lunch affair. (Pro tip: park yourself next to the chef’s Appam live station)
The Chaat Counter was where Ajay hung around all Saturday afternoon.
And the Desserts were endless again.
Apart from Latest Recipe, the resort has another 2 restaurants and 2 bars. The breakfasts on both days turned out to be lazy affairs, again at the Latest Recipe. We would catch ourselves a quiet table outdoors overlooking the green cover.
The breakfast spread was gorgeous. There was a lineup of bakery items with different kinds of freshly baked bread and breakfast desserts such as pancakes and waffles.
The continental spread had sausages, crispy bacon, grilled vegetables and eggs to order. Ajay tried his favourite Eggs Benedict and the chef passed with flying colours.
I mainly stuck to the Indian spread which included local delicacies like Misal Pav, Poha, Pongal and Chole Poori. One morning, to satisfy my north Indian cravings, I requested the chef to make some aloo-pyaz paranthas and they were yum.
Those two days we under food coma but for the health conscious, the spread had a variety of fruits, including Jamuns picked from the trees, a variety of breakfast cereals, yoghurts and spreads with no additives.
Marriott’s offer includes all meals at the Latest Recipe restaurant, and dinner at the Indian restaurant next door. However, we wanted to try a different restaurant for dinner and the chef was extremely accommodating. The first night, we were surprised with a dinner date on a tree top in the forest. During good weather, the resort offers an outdoor dining experience where they set up a barbecue in the woods, and the restaurant is called Woods. It’s a perfect setting for small groups and families.
We had a table set on top of a machaan and tried the seafood and vegetarian grill platter. The seafood platter included barbecued mutton, chicken, fish and prawns. To my surprise, the vegetarian platter was not an overload of panner, but also had some lentil kebabs, mushrooms and hariyali kebabs. The portion size of the platter was quite good and in hindsight, we would have been fine sharing one barbecue platter between us. To top it off, there was a serenader floating around, performing songs for various tables. And when it was all quiet, you could dine to the sound of a stream flowing near by.
On the second evening, for dinner, we tried the Indian restaurant Chingari. The well travelled chef, who had also worked at the Taj, was around, and told us about his signature dishes. This was probably our best meal. I could not fault any of the dishes we tried. For start, I was amused by the salt and pepper
shakers, crushers, silbattas.
The Galauati kebabs, chicken cooked in vinegar onion and the Dum biryani were all finger licking good, and in spite of having my fill in the evening at the bar, I was at my greedy best. But save the best for the last, because the desserts were absolutely smashing. There was a baked bundi Gulab Jamun that Ajay wants to drive back to Mahabaleshwar for.
On the Saturday evening we were there, we were also slipped an invitation to join the GM for drinks. I’m guessing being a Marriott Elite and the Suite got us in.
Drinks and appetisers were served at the bar, Longitude 73 on Saturday evening. The lounge served 2 vegetarian and 2 non-vegetarian appetisers and we could choose from an array of beverages. There was also a cheese board on a side table that almost was untouched. The bartender did offer to whip up one of his signature cocktails but I stuck to a glass of Chenin Blanc.
The GM and some senior hotel staff were also around, mingling with the guests and entertaining them. We got to hear the stories of the GM of the hotel, Sanjay Sood, from his times managing hotels in Africa.
Activities and Experiences at Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa
Evenings at the resort were my favourite. There is a high tea for all guests every evening in the open lawns, along with entertainment for the children. One day there was a puppet show and another day a juggler to entertain us all.
We could also feed ducks that wobbled around in the gardens.
After that, they would host Housie for everyone which was so much fun. Ajay had never played before, and he won the full house and we got some complimentary F&B coupons for our win.
The hotel has enough to keep everyone engaged 24/7. One morning, we went on a guided hiking trip to Helen’s viewpoint to see the misty mountains in the morning which is organised by the resort.
In the evening we did a forest walk that is conducted by hotel staff. We walk is inside the premises and we learnt about the trees, flora and fauna that thrive within. it was interesting for me to learn that not only are there over 2000 Jamun trees in the resort but also that the forested area is protected and there is a census conducted by the forest department every 2 years. I noticed that all the trees on the property were numbered.
Apart from the kid’s play area, there is also a small adventure park where children and adults can do climbing, rope walking and other activities in a guided environment. If that wouldn’t keep one happy then you could do archery and horse riding.
We were lazy to the fullest, therefore for the both of us the pool and the spa were on the must-visit list. The infinity pool at the resort offers some stunning views of the mountains.
The Spa looked inviting, and we both went for the signature treatment.
There is also an entertainment centre, where you can play table tennis, pool, or just some old school carrom board. We never managed to play a game of pool, in spite of planning for it.
Two nights went by in a jiffy. We never felt the need to step out of the resort premises. True to the Le Meridien brand style, the resort focuses a lot on creative arts. There was a discovery in every nook and corner. We walked around the resort, lazed in the pool, pampered ourselves in the spa and gorged on some delicious food. It was a perfect weekend to unwind, relax and recharge. The fact that we brought along the rains was a great add-on as well, because Mahabaleshwar is beautiful during the rains.
Designing a resort in the middle of a forest also gave the hotel an opportunity to be able to add Instagrammable curios across the resort which would make for a cute picture.
On our way back, to bid good bye, the hotel packed us boxes of berries picked from the farm. Overall, it was a beautiful weekend spent and a perfect getaway from Mumbai and perhaps the best of the Mahabaleshwar resorts.
Overall, this was a great break, and a good value for money with the all inclusive package. If you would like to know more about the package and how to book, head here. For Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar, head directly here.
Have you been to the Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa? What has been your experience with this hotel?