Those who love traveling are always ready to impart their recommendations to anyone willing to lend a ear. At least, that’s the way it happens in my family. We’re an over-enthusiastic bunch of wannabe travelers in constant search of an excuse to hit the road, and to come back and exchange (what we believe is) crucial information. Conversations usually begin with “You must go here!” and “Don’t bother going there!” followed by a ruthless description of the place. Upon hearing great praises about Ilbert Manor, I packed my bags one fine day and headed to the hotel in Mussoorie.
The drawbacks of visiting a hillstation on an extended weekend cannot be emphasised enough. After a couple of hours at the periphery of Mussoorie, I finally found myself in the midst of absolute chaos. A noisy mix of agitated drivers, stationary cows (bang in the middle of traffic, no less), confused police officers and pedestriations walking at their own sweet pace were enough to get me to call the hotel. 15 minutes later, we were picked up by their hotel staff in the only car that could slide through the narrow, steep lanes leading to the hotel- a Wagonr. The hotel is located far from the chaos of the mall road, albeit the thin roads leading to the hotel are situated right in the middle of the madness. A 3 minute route downward by car, we arrived at a beautiful white hotel with large wooden windows and bright red flowers adding character to the hotel.
Ambience and Decor
As I walked into the cozy reception area, I finally felt I was in the hills. I can’t tell whether it was the fresh air of the hills breezing in from one side, or the antique wooden flooring and large chandeliers in their long corridor in the other side that took me back two centuries (perhaps a mix of both), that took me back to the British Raj in India. The narrow but long corridoor was dimly lit and I felt that for early morning, the lighting was a little too depressing.
Welcomed by a cheerful manager, we were escorted to our cottage by their staff. Although the property is a charming old-world mansion, its maintenance and upkeep is disappointing. The cottage given to us was a typical cottage-in-the-hills with its wooden flooring, tall lamps, coffee tables and fluffy beds. Unfortunately, cleanliness was not one of its plus point. Stains on the bedsheet, towels and curtains had me running out of the room at top speed. Additionally, the room was far too small and due to a defect in the door, it was extremely cold as well. I was moved to one of their Victorian Rooms, and found to my relief that it was a lot more comfortable, though the stains on the bedsheet had followed me there as well.
Throughout my stay, I was disturbed with the lack of lighting (in bedrooms, dining rooms, corridoors) and the slightly dampness in the hotel. There seemed to be something amiss in the hotel, courtesy its dullness.
The Washrooms are basic (shower available), though they do not lack in essential ammenities.
– The hotel is ideal for a short stay, and could work well as a budget hotel. A small library with a limited but interesting collection of fiction, travel and memoirs is located in a cozy (but cold) corner of the hotel. I was instantly transported to another era, and the library became one of my favorite places in the hotel.
– Each evening a bonfire is lit for all residents of the hotel with dinner and drinks available on order. A comfortable seating arrangement is also provided.
– Considering the hotel is located a steep and long climb away from the main hustle bustle, a car is provided (free of cost) to pick and drop guests at any given time.
– A basic outdoor dining area with a view of the hills is a great place to enjoy the evening tea and snacks.
I usually find that my judgement of a particular hotel is heavily influenced by the food they serve. Mercifully, the food at Ilbert Manor tastes good. Although select dishes went seriously wrong (tea, lemonade, chicken salad, Maggi), most dishes were quite delicious. Food takes time to arrive, but when it does, it is served by happy faces, piping hot. This hotel is not the place for gourmet food, but most items on the menu are enjoyable. The breakfast buffet is extremely disappointing, with limited dishes that taste sad.
Breakfast buffet: Fruits, Cereal: plain and chocos, poori bhaji/parathas, boiled eggs, toast
Recommended dishes: Chicken Kathi Roll, Gobi Aloo, Kadhai Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Methi Chicken, Chicken Sandwiches, French Fries
The “staff” is a group of 8-10 people running the entire show. A bunch of amiable people, happy to help at all times. The staff does their best to ensure their guests have a comfortable stay. This kind of genuine hospitaity is one of those subtle reasons that added the “homely” feeling to my stay at Ilbert Manor.
If you can live outside the comfort zone of a luxurious hotel with central heating and extravagant interiors, you might find Hotel Ilbert Manor is a hotel with character, and one that is a different experience altogether.
For those traveling to get a feel of India, especially the yester years, this is a place that truly reflects the look and feel of the time gone by. The place has retained itself through the years, unlike the various 5-Star Hotels in the area that strive to add the same character by reconstructing it artificially.
Cleanliness and Hygiene: 5/10
Customer Service: 8/10