To spot a dilapidated turn-of-the-century house and convert it into serious eye candy with heritage appeal, you need a certain eye, a woman’s intuition and scads of creativity. Hotelier Megha Agarwal has all that in spades and a family background in construction to boot. She’s young and vivacious and draws from her own travel experiences to make The Corner Courtyard as charming and comfortable as it can be.
When I visited this gem of a hotel in a quiet Kolkata bylane, I could see straight away that this would be one for keeps. One that I would want to visit again and again, gloat over and hesitate to share with the unappreciative and undeserving. That’s the reason this review has been a long time coming. I had several Libran months — not moments! — wondering whether I should tell the world about my excellent experience there or not. But it’s only fair to share, I decided in the end.
Of course, it took quite a while for Megha to get a clear legal deed, acquire it and then set about polishing The Corner Courtyard to the diamond it is today. Even as she bemoans the typical Kolkata attitude of ‘can’t be done’ towards any job, her perseverance shines through in the fact that she DID get it done and got it done well, to boot!
Seven spectacular rooms sit pretty over the upper storeys of this house. Each one has a theme colour and is done up uniquely, using different fabrics, design elements and accoutrements that reflect a different aspect of the city and its culture. Their antique doors open onto what would have been an open courtyard in the old Bengali haveli. Today, it’s covered at the top to keep bird droppings and harsh sunlight out and a cheery, cosy vibe in. Quirky things like ladders going nowhere, books in random nooks, and whimsical walls with views painted on, in addition to the beautifully restored original chequered floor in black and white, make you think of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland.
If, like I often did, you drape yourself over the polished wooden banisters and look down, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the lovely restaurant downstairs. You can choose to be part of the merry melee or just enjoy it from a distance. The happy sounds of laughter, cutlery and clinking glasses emanating from it make you feel like you’re in a quaint European bed and breakfast.
And yet, the luxurious rooms, the beautiful rooftop bar and elaborate hand-painted and carefully crafted menu at The Corner Courtyard are the antithesis of the usually very basic bed & breakfasts. My black-and-white themed room, dubbed Charcoal, is a lesson in creating beauty from monochrome. The high wooden bed not only ensures great sleep quality but also evokes immense nostalgia for centuries gone by.
The slatted windows open out onto the leafy lane below from where you can watch Kolkata’s slow-paced life amble by. The shots of Satyajit Ray hard at work and the antique cameras lend a very arty touch. I especially loved the gorgeous black-and-white bathroom with golden fittings and fluffy white monogrammed towels.
The woman’s touch is very evident in all these choices. The eye for fun with functionality, the emphasis on comfort, the attention to detail, the fact that there are full-length mirrors so you can do a top-to-toe scan… it’s pretty obvious who is behind all that!
I don’t get nearly enough time to thank her for all this as I sit with Megha in the restaurant later, trading travel stories over some heavenly Illy coffee. That’s because I’ve just had lunch and I’m singing paeans to the spectacular menu by then. Created by Chef Rohan D’Souza (of Mumbai’s Silver Beach Cafe and Radio Bar fame), it’s a revelation into what boutique hotels in other cities are capable of. The juxtaposition of ingredients and flavours, the complexity of techniques, the fabulous plating even for room service… it puts paid to all my plans of going out to explore Kolkata’s culinary excellence.
The service is warm, efficient and enthusiastic. As a solo female traveller, I feel very safe and well taken care of. The very capable staff at reception helps me with laptop issues, web check-ins and produces cabs out of thin air when Uber fails me at peak hour.
It’s also conveniently situated in the Lansdowne area so I can visit New Market (Hogg Market) and the Victoria Memorial quite easily. The day I go and splurge at Byloom, I’m able to drop my shopping bags off at reception before heading to Park Street.
Few hotels give you the feel of home and make you actively yearn for them. This one, without any doubt, would always be my first pick over all the bigger and supposedly better chains. I’ve seen how adept Megha is at creating some excellent events to draw in hip locals and make The Corner Courtyard quite the social hub. Great for couples and solo travellers who want their own space, it’s now also a super place to stay if you want to be clued into Kolkata’s cool crowd.
Address: 92 B Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata 700026, West Bengal, India
Telephone: +91 9903999567 & 033-40610145/6
Twitter: @cornercourtyard | Instagram: @thecornercourtyard