We stayed here for three nights 30th January to 02nd February as part of a 3 week trip across South India.
The hotel/resort is set on and around a hilltop overlooking Madurai in expansive and idyllic grounds. One could spend a few days at this hotel without ever leaving the resort and enjoy long walks, beautiful gardens, wildlife, excellent food, relaxing by the pool being waited on by attentive and truly genial staff and enjoying a glass of wine or cocktails on the veranda of the old colonial mansion which comprises the main part of the hotel. However when one has the fascinating city of Madurai at the foot of the hill with all its treasures and life to experience, then the Gateway act’s as the perfect retreat after long hot hours spent on Madurai’s streets.
Although this resort does give one the impression of private seclusion it is actually close to all that Madurai has to offer. If guests/clients do not have their own car and driver, one can be arranged by the front of house staff. Alternatively they will call an ‘Auto-Rickshaw/Tuk Tuk’ for guests which will take you to the particular attraction in Madurai you require for little more than the equivalent of two or three British pounds.
Prior to our visit I contacted the management to inform them that one of my party was aged and so I required two adjacent rooms on ground floor level. Upon arrival I discovered this request had been fully actioned, assigning us rooms 16 as a single room and 17 as the double for my wife and I which are set in a separate small building of only three rooms with their own small patio area which has a spectacular view over Madurai. The rooms were only a thirty seconds walk away from the main reception but because of the setting felt like we had our own private area of the resort. I was informed by Mr Vinpugal, the ‘Front of House’ manager that these rooms had been allocated for us because of my request and was offered first to view the rooms and if not happy I could have other rooms inside the main building. The rooms assigned for us were ideal for our needs and I commend the management on their choice and also for offering an alternative choice if we were not happy.
Our rooms were spacious, airy and quite luxurious with an old colonial feel. The bathrooms were also large and well appointed. I have placed some photographs at the end of this review including photographs of our room interior.
We ate at the hotel restaurant for breakfast on the three mornings and for two of our nights there. We enjoyed the buffet breakfast with it’s many and varied choices and we ate from the ‘A La Carte’ on the evenings. All meals were excellent quality, served perfectly. I love to cook and attempt to create innovative food back home in my little French kitchen as a way of relaxing after a day spent working at my computer and on the phone, so I asked our the two waiters Saravanan and Rajesh Kumar, who had incredible memories for our likes/dislikes etc and always served with a smile, if I could speak to the chef and commend him on his cuisine. His name is Mr Nagappan and he was so pleased that we loved his food that he offered me a cooking session with him in his kitchens. Unfortunately, as much as I would have loved doing just that, there was not enough time; so I have promised myself a retrun visit and will ensure I make time for Mr Nagappan’s kind offer.My one small complaint about the restaurant was the lack of any real butter at breakfast; instead a rather dry tasting ‘spread’ was all that was available. Toast needs real butter!
The pool area of the resort is once again set in beautiful gardens with wild peacocks, which have become accustomed to guest, wandering around. The pool area is served by staff who attend to every need such as towels, ordering and delivering drinks and arranging sun beds for guests.
Just inside the main building and adjacent to the reception is the bar and lounge area, which has, for India, an extensive choice of alcoholic beverages, wines and spirits as well as cocktails and non alcoholic ‘mocktails’ to offer. One can sit inside the bar which comprises the main reception room of the old mansion, or have one’s drinks served out on the shaded veranda or the lawn area in front.
For those requiring interaction with the rest of the world when staying at the Gateway, there is a resort wide good strength WIFI internet service available. The cost for this service is high and I believe it churlish to make such a charge for what is fast becoming a necessity. After speaking to a manager I was informed that following a companywide review, a plan to provide free WIFI will be rolled out shortly at all Taj hotels.
The resort was until the 1950’s a Colonial Mansion which harked back to the days of the British Raj in India and much of the atmosphere from those days has been retained by sympathetically renovating and re-using much of the mansion.
All the staff we interacted with during our stay were exemplary and were excellent ambassador’s for the Gateway. Being part of the ‘Taj’ group of hotels the management at the Gateway promote a strong client/guest based culture amongst all the resort staff. There are obvious well structured training programmes and an ethos based more on the reward ‘carrot’ style of managing rather than the fear based ‘stick’ method of attaining the best from staff. These systems seem to me, to be working very well. All the staff I spoke with seemed happy to be there and were easily forthcoming with praise for their employers. This type of management will always engender loyalty in staff whom will then willingly and enthusiastically do their best for guests/clients. The number one asset any business has is it’s staff. Without staff loyalty all business’ will eventually fail. The Gateway has very loyal staff.
I wish to emphasise that every member of staff I interacted with gave professional and courteous service, many going far beyond there required remit, and I would wish to see all of them duly rewarded. There were a few members of staff whom are worth special mention because of their attention to detail and the extra special touches that made smile and caused me to wish to return to Gateway any time I am in Madurai.
One lady was cleaning the lawn and garden area around the sides and front of the original mansion area comprising the bar. I must apologise for not taking her name but maybe my excellent bar man Mr Moorthy will remember her name and pass this on to management when reading this short tale. I sat in the shade of the veranda out of the baking sun on a number of occasions admiring the beautiful gardens and green lawns and noticed the smiling lady tending to the cleanliness of the grounds happily working away with the traditional hand full of twigs being used as a sweeping brush. This lady worked for hours in the hot sun but whenever we passed her she always had a smile and a “Hello Sir/Madam, how are you today”? She was truly happy to be working for the Gateway and genuinely interested in our well being and happiness. I always like to reward exemplary service and I asked this lady if she would allow me to buy her a cool fruit juice and take a short break in the shade. She was of course reluctant because it is not really allowed but I insisted and informed the bar manager to pass on the fact that this request was totally at my behest and that I wished for the manager of this lady to understand that this was the wish of a guest/client who simply wished to show some small reward and praise for the exceptional enthusiasm that this individual staff member shows daily. The lady thanked me, she stayed for a few minutes whilst we chatted and then she gladly returned to her duties.
The second person I would wish recognised is a lady named “Tu Ponnu” whose remit was to keep the grounds around our room area tidy and clean. Again this lady was always smilling and very friendly to all three of us. On one occasion during her day she had found a long beautiful Peacock feather which she kept with her until she saw me and handed it to me saying “This is for Madam”. I gave it to my wife and we have it here at home with us still. On another occasion Tu Ponnu also brought to us, whilst we were having a coffee on our private patio, a small posy of flowers she had collected and put together. She did not look for any reward other than our smiles.
Our room attendant was a young chap named “Morgaa”, (I am uncertain of the spelling). His diligence and attention to detail was again exceptional. Each time we returned to our rooms after they were cleaned/serviced we found them spotless and very well cared for. There were also little individual touches that made so much difference. For example, the very careful arrangement of my wife’s many, many pairs of shoes, which she had clumsily left lying in a large heap. Morgaa had laid them out and in pairs on a sheet of cloth organised in style and colour order. He also on other occasions placed beautiful rose petals in a pattern on the bed and on the dresser and arranged towels to resemble swans.
I spoke to the House Keeping Executive manager Mr Nallamuthu at the time of our visit to commend him on his housekeeping and grounds staff and he did seem genuinely very proud of his staff, which reflects well on his own management practices and style.
I have already mentioned the excellent Bar Person "Mr Eswara Moorthy" but would now like to thank him for his unstinting efforts to ensure I was able to work away on my laptop in the bar area with a cool beer. He moved tables, arranged chairs, found me an electrical socket to work from and kept me well supplied with drinks and snacks. I felt almost as though I had my own personal ‘butler’ attending to my every need.
Although I had work to do and did not find time to use the pool, My wife and her mother wish to mention “Mr Bala” from the pool area who again in my wife’s words, “provided excellent service”, attending to every need they had and going that bit further to ensure they could relax without a care in the world.
I would recommend this hotel/resort to all types of visitors, be it a lone business man requiring comfort, peaceful surroundings to relax in following a day’s meetings and good reliable internet access, to romantic couples of all ages and families looking for a safe clean haven for them to enjoy a holiday with children. The Gateway has something for everyone. I will definitely be returning to the Gateway.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The hundred year-old celebrated colonial property is perched atop the Pasumalai hill, amidst 63 acres of landscaped gardens, colonial buildings and natural bliss. The hotel offers a panoramic view of the famous MeenakshiTemple, Madurai City and the Kodai hills. It is a 15-minute drive from the famous Meenakshi temple and City center. Accessible by road, air (Madurai Airport – 15 km) and train (Madurai Jn - 5 km). ... more less
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