If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, then you’d know the kind of importance the “City of Nizams” hold in my life. Apart from spending close to half a decade in this city, it was the perfect launchpad for a food and travel writer like me. My journey started with reviewing restaurants on Zomato, to getting invited to Zomato meet-ups; then came invites to star hotels for preview of food festivals, staycations and the rest is known to you. It was also when I became a Zomato verified reviewer- back then it meant something.
After I moved to Bangalore, I made it a point to visit Hyderabad every year during the holy month of Ramadan. Without a doubt, it is the best time to visit Hyderabad- if not anything, at least for the Haleem. There are outlets that serve Haleem throughout the year but personally, none that were notable. Otherwise, the Biriyani, the kebabs, the Mandi, the meaty Shawarmas- they’re all available throughout the year.
But unlike every year where I drove down to Hyderabad with my loved ones, this year, I was invited to a weekend getaway. A staycation as I would call it at one of the few five-star hotels in the vicinity of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. Novotel Hyderabad Airport Hotel (Novotel Shamshabad in short) is spread across a vast real estate that houses 289 spacious rooms and suites, 70,000 sq.ft. of flexible banquet space, a sports arena, state-of-the-art gym, a spectacularly enormous spa & multiple options in terms of food.
The hotel is about 5 minutes from the airport and although the city is 30 km from the hotel, it is connected via the ever-convenient Nehru Outer Ring road bringing down travel time to 20 minutes. It is also well-connected to IT-hubs such as the Financial District and HITEC City. No exception when it comes to tourist attractions like Charminar, Hussain Sagar lake, Birla Mandir (and many others) either.
I was greeted at the airport by the concierge team and then escorted to the hotel. As the Novotel mark shows up on the horizon, you can be sure that the property is clothed in greenery. This is beside the landscaping that you will see on your way to the hotel; it’s said that it changes every season. The check-in process was effortless and I was joined by Harshvardhan who is the Marketing & Communications Manager- he also happens to be a good friend.
I was given a quick tour of the property and one of the things that caught my attention was the massive area of the spa. To be honest, this is by far the largest spa that I have seen among the star properties that I have visited. I believe this itself will serve as a perfect USP for consumers who are looking out for potential hotels to spend their weekends, go out on a day excursion or even for couples planning a destination wedding.
Although, I did not get to visit the spa, I’m pretty sure that it would be as per AccorHotels’ standards. As for the accommodation, the room that I stayed in was amply spacious and clean. In terms of in-room essentials- everything was on point and I did not find the need to request for anything additional. I did call room service for my timely cup of tea and their service I found to be prompt. On top of the study, I noticed a hand-written note by the General Manager of the hotel wishing me a pleasant stay.
Novotel’s bar and coffee shop is called The Bar and it is located adjacent to the lobby; a corridor away from The Bar is the all-day dining restaurant- The Square. For recreational activities, there is a swimming pool which is visible from most of the rooms of the hotel. They also have a sports arena which comprises of a basketball, tennis and badminton court. If you’re on the fitness route, they have a relatively large gym that you can use. Throughout my stay at this property, I most certainly could not ask for anything that wasn’t there already.
The Square had a special menu curated for the month of Ramadan and we were treated to various delicacies that featured on this menu for dinner the day we arrived. The following day we were treated to quite an interesting breakfast at a mini-organic farm within the confines of the hotel. It was rejuvenating to sip a cup of tea with a portion of Eggs Benedict in the morning, surrounded by the fragrance of fresh produce all around. Not to mention, I was recovering from lack of sleep and a later-nighter- so, a much needed indulgence.
As part of the staycation, the team at Novotel also organized a Ramadan food-walk curated by Zubair (aka @hyderabadfooddiaries). It started with a visit to one of the Haleem food factories of Pista House. This is one of the factories where 2000 kgs of Haleem is cooked, packed and sent to outlets of Pista House all over the city. Although, I have stayed in Hyderabad for a long time, I never got an opportunity to visit such a locale.
To some, maybe after seeing such a factory might give them even more reasons to try Haleem. Since we all can agree that not everyone likes Haleem the first time around but over time, tasting more portions, it tends to grow on you. After this, we drove to “Old City” which the locals dub as “Charminar” and visited numerous eateries- some famous for the kebabs, some for their Biriyani and others for their desserts.
The Ramadan food walk was pretty much the last thing on the itinerary and some time before the food walk concluded, I decided to head to the city to catch up with old friends at a local speakeasy. That night was hazy but I do remember telling one of my friends, that come what may- I want go back to my hotel room to sleep. You can’t blame me- it was almost peak summer and the mercury was consistently hitting 40 plus. But as we got out off the city, the temperature tends to cool down a bit- making it somewhat pleasant.
I hardly got any sleep though; not because the bed wasn’t comfortable because it sure was. Just that, I had an early morning flight to catch and the thought of somehow dragging my drunk-AF carcass to the airport and onto the flight was not something I’d want to do again (Yea! like I learnt a lesson??!!).
Anyways, moving from one city to another is always a welcome change but leaving behind half a decade of memories isn’t. I don’t know how life would have been if I had not lived in this city; I would have visited Hyderabad as a tourist and Novotel made me experience that part of my life that never happened. It’s called- living in Hyderabad like a f***ing tourist!