The Gods of Rain are graceful on the Indian sub-continent from June to September and these are the best times for couples for getaways. It isn’t hot, the weather is just perfect and the topography is green. On this occasion, we picked up a vehicle that Mercedes-Benz categorises as Luxury Tourer for a weekend gateway for Mumbaikars. Recently, we had done a story for weekend Getaway from Delhi, driving to the Himalayas and even a trip to a National Park. This time our destination is Surat, also known as the diamond city in the new B-Class.
The general thought for Surat is its distance from Mumbai, which actually isn’t as much as people anticipate. The total kilometres are 234kms from the outskirts of Mumbai to Surat. Earlier the road was narrow and there was a huge queue at the border of the two states, as heavy vehicles bogged down the traffic for passenger vehicles. Now, that bit has been sorted and there is a division on the road to separate the two. This has made travel a lot simpler and even faster.
The route to Surat from Mumbai is the National Highway 8 (NH8) that is the extension version of Mumbai’s Western Express Highway if you are coming from the city, if you are closer to Thane or Pune, then the Godbunder Road is the easier route to opt. Its advisable to leave the city at dawn and cut out all the possible traffic. Once out of Mumbai, the highway is busy for the next 80-100 kilometres. There are mediocre restaurants and excellent dhabas on this highway.
The moment you enter Gujarat, the traffic eases and you can even cruise comfortably at a speed of 80-90 km/hr. That is ideally what we did in our B-Class. Ours was the 2.2-litre diesel with a power output of 108bhp and this comes mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch self-shifting transmission. At about 80 km/hr, the engine was spinning at 1300rpm in the top cog resulting in the best fuel efficiency.
Enter Surat and the environment changes. There are several two and three wheelers from the part you will enter the town, also the traffic is chaotic and you shall see no one obeying traffic rules. Use more of brakes than horn as the riders and drivers are prone to ignore your honking. One needs to be absolutely patient while driving around the town. The Taj Gateway in located next to a pond, and one won’t be incorrect if he/she calls it a resort as it does feel like one. The Taj Gateway is a business hotel but its location is better than most of the business hotels in the country.
To begin with, the lobby is large and in other aspects too the standards are higher than most other Gateways in the country, at least from the ones we have visited. The rooms have view of either the pond or the entrance of the hotel— city. There are the normal rooms and Suites too. Ours was Executive room with 32-inch TV, iPod Dock, sleeper sofa and lounge chairs.
There are two restaurants and one coffee shop. As Gujarat is a dry state, there is absolutely no alcohol available unless you procure a license to drink. This is valid for 30 days and only for NRIs and foreign citizens. Recently, in the Taj Hotel Awards, the Surat bagged two awards too. Even the Group considers the service of this hotel matching with its standards.
The first restaurant at Athwalines Surat is Spice. It serves lunch and dinner only. Lunch is the authentic Gujarati thali, made by a local Gujarati female to get the visitors a real taste of Surat local food. Speaking to the Executive Chef Sudev Sharma, he mentions, “Most of the places serve you Gujarati thali with some Rajasthani food too, and we tend to think that is the authentic thali, however this is what is the real flavour of Gujarat.” Further speaking to the Executive Chef, we even learnt that some pocket in Gujarat have being consuming non-vegetarian food as a blend to their existing food dishes. He also states that the Athwalines Surat is the only Taj where he has worked with such high consumption of non-vegetarian food. Spice in the evening serves you with Indian food and there is live ghazal too.
The Flow Café is an all-day eatery that has the morning breakfast buffet, multi-cuisine lunch and buffet for dinner too. Taj Gateways offer a special Active foods in breakfast, which serves healthy food without compromising on taste. There is also a segment with dishes made from anti-oxidants for breakfast. Every day one anti-oxidant is picked and different dishes are made from it. These ingredients are available only for breakfast.
We were lucky enough to get pampered by Taj’s Mango specials and the Mango Sundae is just lip-smacking. The mango season will soon wither, before that visit the closest Taj and have the Mango Sundae for sure. Do not miss out on the Aamras too. The cost of each Mango dessert will be Rs 450 and it is worth each and every of your penny.
The hotel located in the heart of the city and access to various places is easy. It is a couple of minutes walking distance from the main highway, this makes the surroundings more pleasant, away from the noise of the city. One can even relax in the backyard, or near the pool side and there is also a view of the pond, where one can relax the whole evening and see the sun go down.
The B-Class was comfortable and spacious. The 108bhp initially did seem to be under powered atleast the numbers did, but when out on an open road, it didn’t feel this way ever. Once on the highway, we used cruise control and the fuel efficiency was just unbelievable. Only on the highway, we saw a number of 20 km/l and even with the city driving, we had a figure of 16 km/l. Considering the size of this Tourer and the engine capacity, the fuel efficiency is just brilliant. The dual clutch box shifted seamlessly and what is better is that it adapts to the driving style.
As ours was the diesel, we missed out on sun roof, other than that we didn’t miss anything. Both the rows of seats are comfortable and spacious too. The circular aircon vents are very retro and reminded by of the old SL, which I had driven on several occasions. The only downside of the B-Class was its ground clearance, which Mercedes-Benz India has now taken care by raising it. The B-Class stood by its Luxury Tourer badge.