We were warned: the “Fairlawn Hotel”:http://fairlawnhotel.com/ Fairlawn website says “The Hotel is defined by its idiosyncrasies. Should you need the impersonal semi perfection of a large chain, it exists elsewhere in the city.” You can’t say fairer than that. It’s an old building with lots of “history”:http://fairlawnhotel.com/about.aspx and many famous guests.
The first thing we noticed on arrival, was an overwhelming sense of ‘green’. The hotel is centrally located off a busy street in Kolkata, but the private entrance is full of plants and trees. The semi-open area leads to reception with a covered garden area, with yet more plants and green furniture on the left and a communal seating area, with you’ve guessed it, more green tables and chairs.
We stayed here in Kolkata twice: the first time for one night and the second, for two.
Although there are rooms on the ground floor, room 6 was on the first floor (note no lift). We managed to undo the creaky padlock and found a large, spartan room with a simple bed (two singles put together), a large bright blue fridge, rickety wooden wardrobe with newspaper-lined shelves, a small desk, old-fashioned dressing table and in stark contrast, a modern TV. There was no safe but complementary water was available in flasks.
The bathroom was equally large with a free-standing bath that has seen better days and a shower over it, but no curtain or screen, and a fake lawn bathmat. There were no fripperies such as hand towels or toiletries other than a bar of soap. The shower produced a very fine trickle with jets spouting off in various directions all over the floor.
Room 18, again on the first floor, was slightly more modern and instead of a cruddy bath, had a proper shower which was much better.
The hotel had memorabilia, pictures and ‘stuff’ all over the place. On the first floor two large rooms had antique tables and chairs and a huge assortment of cabinets stuffed with bric-a-brac whilst the walls are full of portraits, paintings etc. The regal stair case walls were literally covered in framed portraits, photographs, clippings from magazines and papers, etc. It was a dusting nightmare.
Complementary ‘afternoon tea’, served from 4pm in the garden room, was biscuits and rather good tea from a pot, resplendent in large, beige, quilted tea cosy.
In the dining area, the ten or so tables, were simply laid with ethnic cloths. At dinner, we asked to see the drinks list and was told it was beer only, but more of an afterthought, the waiter mentioned G&T. On the second visit, at first there appeared to be no beer but then we spotted empty beer glasses on a neighbouring table and suddenly a large strong Kingfisher was found. On our third night, we were told there was definitely no beer, which appeared to be something to do with a change of Chief of Police. But the manger then went out and bought a couple of bottles presumably from a neighbouring shop and we paid him directly. This is not a place with consistency.
There was a simple menu but we ate well each time with starters of soups and salads and mains of chilli chicken and cumin rice, Hakka special chow mein, topped with fried egg, and chicken with rice Szechuan style (spicy) – although it wasn’t. Interestingly all the hot dishes arrived at the table covered in foil and the cold, covered in cling film as though they’re brought in from somewhere. There was no mention of puddings either on the menu or verbally and we didn’t ask.
Breakfast (7.30am to 10.30am) was somewhat bizzare. There was no buffet but there was a bowl of bananas on the table and bowls of chopped papaya and toast were brought to the table. We were offered a choice of eggs and for simplicity, both chose scrambled which arrived on plate with a four, semi-warmed up chips, cold baked beans straight from the tin, hot slices of tomato and cold mushroom quarters. It would have been fabulous if the components had been served at the right temperature! We shared a pot of tea (complete with tea cosy) served with hot milk. They don’t seem to have worked out what should be hot and what should be cold and we didn’t think it was our place to tell them!
Fairlawn is not a quiet place. On our first night, we heard incessant loud wailing from a nearby temple which at times became agitated and aggressive. We were fascinated as to what was being said and how many were listening. Apparently, this continued until midnight, although I have to confess I didn’t notice as I was well away by then. Mornings were more muted with calls to prayer at 5am which thankfully didn’t go on for too long.
This is definitely a quirky hotel. It’s old fashioned yet takes credit cards and provides complimentary Wi-Fi.
On arrival, I wished we’d chosen somewhere else to stay. But it’s one of those places that grows on you and now, I wouldn’t choose anywhere else.
I hope you enjoy the photographs!