India’s 20 Most-Charming B&Bs

Our idea of a Bed and Breakfast is largely borrowed from the West, where they serve as travellers’ inns, providing those on the road with a clean room in which to sleep, and a delicious, hearty breakfast before they’re on their way again. Usually, Bed and Breakfasts are quaint properties, without the specialised facilities (spas, gyms, multiple restaurants) offered by five-star hotels and smaller, professionally managed chains. A B&B may not have an infinity pool, 24-hour room service or a concierge desk that can get you a reservation at the local ‘it’ restaurant, but it provides a far more intimate and homely atmosphere. Its owners often live on the property, caring for their guests’ every need—from cooking breakfast and acting as local guides to providing insider tips about the city they live in. Using these elements as our yardstick, we’ve picked India’s 20 most charming B&Bs, where spending a night (or four) will be an experience to remember.

 

NORTH

The Rose, New Delhi What makes it special? Surrounded by a mishmash of art galleries, antique furniture shops, restaurants, bars and boutiques, this hidey-hole in South Delhi’s trendy Hauz Khas Village is a world away from the rest of the city. Owner Pio Coffrant decorated it himself with homeliness in mind. The ambience is relaxed and the décor personal; each of the 11 rooms has its own character and a view of the Hauz Khas Village Rose Garden. The beds are supremely comfortable, with luxurious quilts and sink-your-head-into pillows. CNT tip: The staff members go out of their way to entertain requests such as flight bookings; they also provide travel advice, so make the most of their help. Signature breakfast dish: Banana pancakes, straight up. They’re thick, sweet and packed with banana-y deliciousness. Sadly, the chef refuses to reveal his secret recipe. (www.therosenewdelhi.com) Doubles from Rs4,300

Bed&Chaï, New Delhi What makes it special? This delightful spot, a 10-minute walk from one of Delhi’s best markets (M Block, GK1), offers the city’s best chai on tap. Owners Clara Kanner and Coraline Joveneaux, from Lille in France, arrived in India four years ago and fell in love with the country. They set up Bed&Chaï a year and a half ago. Both live just five minutes from the guest house and are very hands-on, assisting Madhu, their friendly 20-year-old Nepali chef with the cooking, and guests with anything and everything (travel bookings, city advice). Thoughtfully decorated, the bathrooms have mosaics made with Jodhpuri tiles and the five bedrooms are fitted out with furniture inspired by Indian handicraft and recycling—a lamp made out of a teapot, a sofa draped with a sari. CNT tip: There’s an open kitchen so guests can cook for themselves. Alcoholic drinks aren’t served, so guests should bring their own to sip on the rooftop or one of the two terraces. Signature breakfast dish: The healthy Western breakfast, including toast, fruit salad, eggs, juice, coffee and chai. Their scrambled eggs are famous. (www.bedandchai.com) Doubles from Rs1,900

G9 South Extension, New Delhi What makes it special? Designer Jivi Sethi—he makes furniture and jewellery, and is often the best-dressed man wherever he goes—owns this gem of a place along one of South Delhi’s quieter localities. Mixing art deco with contemporary pieces, this one-bedroom apartment also features a terrace garden. CNT tip: Sethi recommends his guests explore the lively Thursday market near his house for good deals on fabric and furniture. Signature breakfast dish: Pickled feta-stuffed paratha served with olive raita and a tomato-basil salad. (www.justjivi.com) Doubles from Rs6,500

On The House, New Delhi What makes it special? This B&B in the posh Safdarjung Enclave is all about the design. Owner Aradhna Lanba is also an interior designer, which has resulted in each of the eight rooms featuring a different theme and colour scheme, and bric-a-brac ranging from Warli art and brass idols to phulkari headboards and colourful mirrors. Lanba is a Taj protégée, which means she has the ABCs of hospitality down pat. Also available to guests is a well-stocked library of rare coffee-table books and DVDs. CNT tip: On The House is particularly safe for female travellers, thanks to a 24x7 security team and three caretakers on the premises. Besides, Lanba is always on hand to organise guests’ transport and offer sightseeing recommendations. Signature breakfast dish: The oatmeal and cottage-cheese pancakes, which are made by blending egg whites, vanilla, cottage cheese and oatmeal. They are nutritious yet utterly delicious. (www.bedandbreakfastnewdelhi.com) Doubles from Rs3,000

Jai Vilas, Jaipur What makes it special? Jaideep and Archana Singh, a young couple, expertly manage their five-bedroom ancestral home in the heart of the bustling state capital. All rooms have a vintage appeal, featuring four-poster beds covered in bright Rajasthani quilts, and the bungalow has a terrace with a fountain at its centre, which is the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon read. The food is a highlight at this property, so make sure you’re around for dinner, which includes succulent safedmaas (lamb pieces in a yoghurt-based gravy with almond, poppy seeds and cardamom inflections). CNT tip: Be part of the city’s social scene by attending a polo match, where you can mingle with Jaipur’s fun-loving crowd. Polo season is in the winter months, starting from January, and avid sportsman Jaideep will be happy to arrange game passes for you. Signature breakfast dish: Those with a sweet tooth will love the jalebi milk on offer. (www.jaivilas.com) Doubles from Rs3,000

The Cottage, Jeolikot, Uttarakhand What makes it special? As a little girl, owner Bhuvan Kumari dreamt of owning a stone, ivy-covered cottage. Her dream came true in 1994, when she bought a cottage in Jeolikot, with an eight-acre orchard teeming with wildlife such as barking deer, birds and pine martens. Although this ‘shabby-chic’ B&B initially had just one room, it now has six—all very homely and decorated with colourful quilts, oversized lampshades, durries on the warm, sheesham floors and doors made from vintage Kumaoni wood. The owner lives there, so is always on call to advise guests on local activities, from sailing on Naini Lake and bird-watching at Pangot, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary and Naukuchiatal to boat rides at Saattal and treks in the Kumaon hills. CNT tip: On arrival, you’ll be given a scrumptious slice of freshly baked chocolate cake. You’ll also be spoilt with the complimentary tea, coffee, lassi and lemonade during your stay. Signature breakfast dish: Fresh, seasonal fruit and homemade aloo parathas with yoghurt, pickles and fresh-mint chutney—served under Kumari’s cheerful supervision. (http://thecottagejeolikot.com) Doubles from Rs4,000

 

EAST

 

Thengal Manor, Jorhat, Assam What makes it special? Constructed in 1929, Thengal Manor is a heritage mansion that offers guests a rich taste of North-East Indian hospitality. Owned by Padma Shri Award winner Hemendra Prasad Barooah, this five-bedroom house was repaired and refurbished in 2000, and kitted out with colonial furniture and fixtures. With fireplaces in each room, an expansive drawing room and recreational activities including carrom, chess, croquet and fishing, this historic house has everything you need for a comfortable stay. CNT tip: Make sure you visit the homes of the area’s indigenous artisans and weavers—the staffwill happily arrange for tours. Signature breakfast dish: Pitha, a typical North-East Indian dish, consisting of small pouches made out of rice flour, then filled with dry fruits or jaggery and slow-roasted over the fire, are a particular highlight. The egg bhurji and poha are also popular with guests. (www.heritagetourismindia.com) Doubles from Rs6,500

Rosaville heritage guest house & resort, Shillong What makes it special? This heritage, no-frills, neo-colonial house was built in 1935. The owner, Rosa Kamte, has managed to preserve its original architecture and extended the annexe to include seven guest rooms. Now managed by Kamte’s neice Tapoti Rynjah Bawri, the house is immaculately appointed with period furniture and knick-knacks. You can choose from one suite, two standard rooms and four deluxe rooms. CNT tip: Barooah is always very much on hand to help guests out if they require anything—and take them to local markets to pick out sweets or handicrafts. Signature breakfast dish: The egg bhurji, made in-house with a secret blend of spices, is particularly popular. (www.rosaville.in) Doubles from Rs2,200

WEST

Ccaza Ccomodore, Alibaug What makes it special? Built in 1993 as a retirement home for Navy Commodore Surinder Mongia and his wife Neena, this boutique villa (which was Alibaug’s first full-service luxury pool villa) is now run by their son Nitin. Food is a strong focus on the property, most of it sourced locally and cooked with bold flavours. Activities available are sailing and treks to nearby attractions, such as the Kankeshwar temple. CNT tip: Nitin’s latest gourmet venture, Kiki’s Cafe and Deli, is only 10 minutes away from the B&B and offers wholesome and delicious meals. Signature breakfast dish: ‘The Whole Hog’—which includes a three-egg, double-cheese masala omelette, sausages or bacon, pancakes with warm honey or maple syrup, fried toast and tea or coffee. (www.ccazaccomodore.com) Doubles from Rs12,000

Arts Reverie, Ahmedabad What makes it special? This restored haveli in the historic quarter of Ahmedabad now functions as an international centre for artists and craftsmen, promoting the work of the local population. Classified as ‘remarkable’ by the city’s heritage department, the house is a winning combination of traditional structure coupled with modern amenities. CNT tip: The establishment offers arts, architecture and handicraft tours of the city and its surroundings. Signature breakfast dish: The bajrina rotlas, served with hand-churned white butter, are the most sought-after items on the menu.(www.artsreverie.com)  Doubles from 5,500

Capella, Goa What makes it special? Operated by Jamshed and Ayesha Madon, the owners of speciality Italian restaurant J&A’s, this charming house is located in the Goan village of Parra. A stay here is a homely affair, with the family, staff and pets always around the house and home-cooked meals on request. Accommodation on offer is Heliconia, a first-floor room with hill views; Silk Cotton, an independent cottage in a bamboo grove; and Frangipani, a ground-floor room ideal for single travellers. CNT tip: The owners can organise bird-watching trips for enthusiasts and are happy to assist with other services such as reliable cab drivers, restaurant recommendations and yacht charters. Signature breakfast dish: The banana, strawberry and yoghurt crêpes with honey are a highlight. (www.capellagoa.com) Doubles from Rs4,000

Sunbeam, Goa What makes it special? Designer Jivi Sethi brings his eclectic style to this heritage home in Assagaon, North Goa. Lush foliage envelops the four rooms he rents out for short stays and the house affords great views of a cobbled lawn and a pool. Staying at Sunbeam is a masterclass in interior design—the house successfully juxtaposes vinyl with the finest brocades, and traditional bronzes with abstract paintings. CNT tip: The terrace-top Mughal Garden, which comes with a bar as well as barbecue facilities, is a great spot for hosting parties.  Signature breakfast dish: A range of fresh fruits alongside a tall glass of tender coconut lassi. (www.justjivi.com) Doubles from Rs6,500

The Only Olive, Goa What makes it special? This beautifully restored Portuguese villa gets its name from the olive tree in the garden. Rumoured to be 100 years old, owner Adrian Pinto believes it’s Goa’s only ‘genuine’ olive tree. Situated on a pretty hillock in the Goan village of Aldona, The Only Olive offers unique experiences, from fishing in the nearby river to sipping feni with the villagers. CNT tip: The local market, Tinto—with supermarkets, bakeries, local bars, restaurants and even a fish market—is just around the corner. Signature breakfast dish: The Royal Goan, including poi and local sausage, served with eggs. (www.theonlyolive.com) Doubles from Rs4,000 for a minimum two-night stay

SOUTH

La Maison, Nilgiris What makes it special? French owners Anne and Benoît have brought their unique artistic touch to this heritage bungalow, located in the middle of a tea plantation in the hills of Kotagiri. The house, built back in 1897 by a Scottish family and later owned by a Tamilian from Ooty, boasts wooden floors, oil paintings, acrylics and antique fittings. Enjoy a delectable range of French-Indian fusion cuisine throughout your stay. CNT tip: The property comes with a jacuzzi, an expert nanny service and plenty of space to play outdoor games, making it the ideal spot for a family holiday. Signature breakfast dish: Their jams, including the delicious orange-and-lavender marmalade, are made with ingredients picked from the organic garden. La Maison is also famous for its poulard omelettes—made by first cooking the yolk and white separately in a pan, then together—that are incomparably light and fluffy. (http://lamaison.in) Doubles from Rs7,920

The Wilds at Northernhay, Masinagudi, Tamil Nadu What makes it special? Ask Ambreen Sait, who co-owns the 120-year-old property with husband Junaid, and she’ll compare a stay here to a ‘jungle adventure’, albeit with all the trappings of modern comfort. At The Wilds, a private estate on the edge of the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, you can well expect to see the park’s residents—black bucks, deer, gaurs, tigers, leopards—march past your balcony on their way to the nearest watering hole. There are four large bedrooms, two cottages, a tree house for nature lovers and three log cabins to choose from. Some rooms have TVs, but the main living room is the place to hang out—here, you can meet other travellers and exchange stories over cups of tea and coffee (the staff will brew them fresh when you need them). If you have time on hand, ask resident naturalist Shantanu Naik to take you on treks and bird-spotting walks. CNT tip: When walking around the main house, pause to examine pieces of Tipu Sultan’s armour that have been part of the family’s antique collection for generations—you’ll feel as if you’re living in your own private museum. Signature breakfast dish: Go for the mutton mince with peas—the mince is made with Sait’s mother-in-law’s closely guarded recipe and uses masalas ground in-house. Also try the toast with bilberry jam, which is created with fruit harvested from the B&B’s orchards each monsoon. (http://thewildsnorthernhay.com) Doubles from Rs3,999

Villa Camelot, Bengaluru What makes it special? In 2003, air hostess-turned-entrepreneur Yamini Khanna built her dream home in Whitefield, an IT hub surrounded by eucalyptus and gulmohar trees. Ten years later, it is one of the city’s most charming escapes. Yamini and her husband, Raghuveer, have done everything themselves, from the interior design to the seed-sowing in the garden. And the result is a truly characterful Bed and Breakfast, with six rooms that have an old-world charm and ooze comfort. Personal touches include handmade paisley patterns on the walls of the living room and mosaic tiling on the spacious terraces, imaginatively created out of recycled construction material. Yamini and Raghuveer do all the work themselves, from cooking and housekeeping to taking bookings for their guests. CNT tip: While there’s no room service here, your hosts will do everything they can to keep you happy—even offering the occasional glass of wine or cocktail on the house. Signature breakfast dish: Home-style masala dosa (the spices are procured directly from village shops and hand-ground by Yamini). (www.villa-camelot.com) Doubles from Rs2,500

Gratitude, Puducherry What makes it special? Step inside, past the tall wooden doors of this colonial home in the French Quarter, and you’ll enter a space that’s both silent and serene. The owners of this chic, eight-room Bed and Breakfast are passionate about textiles and pottery, and the house is peppered with knick-knacks collected from their many travels (such as ikat fabrics from Peru and Indonesia) mixed with furniture made by local artisans. Without a doubt, the property’s highlight is its central courtyard and the giant mango tree which dominates it. Settle on the traditional Tamil oonjal (or swing) with a book and you’re bound to doze off soon. Your sleep will be uninterrupted, as the house does not allow children under the age of 14 and encourages residents to keep the volume down, both on their vocal chords and music equipment. There are no TVs in the rooms, but wi-fi is complimentary and the staff will do your laundry for a nominal fee. Co-owner Kakoli Banerjee is amiable and happy to invite guests for a meal with her—the staff will also take them to the local fish, fruit and vegetable markets or Auroville if they prefer. CNT tip: On special request, Gratitude can create a lovely, canopied bedroom on their terrace, complete with white-linen drapes and candle lighting. All you need is a moonlit night to complete the romantic experience. Signature breakfast dish: Paniyaram, a type of dosa that is made with a Western twist. The fermented rice batter is mixed with a liberal dose of garlic and pepper, along with some finely chopped spring onions, grated cheese and butter. The result? The paniyarams come out brown and crisp on the outside, with a warm and moist core. (http://gratitudeheritage.in)RsDoubles from Rs3,500

Les Hibiscus, Puducherry What makes it special? This quaint, 100-year-old, four-bedroom home on the French Quarter’s Rue Sufren belongs to French-Tamil couple, Bascarane and Gladys. Tanjore paintings hang on its living-room walls and in the corridors. The rooms are simply furnished with furniture that has been in the family for generations, and feature flat-screen TVs and kettles to brew your own tea and coffee. The Bascaranes are hands-on managers, so whether it’s restaurant recommendations or travel arrangements to visit the Chettiar mansions of Karaikudi or temples of Chidambaram and Gangaikonda Cholapuram, they are happy to help you. CNT tip: If you don’t feel like stepping out for lunch, ask Gladys to make you her ham-and-prawn cheese bake with béchamel sauce—it’s soul food at its best. Signature breakfast dish: The fat, home-style dosas, fresh off the griddle, are served with a spicy but delicious coconut chutney. (www.leshibiscus.in) Doubles from Rs2,500

Kabbe Holidays, Coorg What makes it special? Kabbe is a slight detour if you’re travelling from Bengaluru to Madikeri, Coorg’s capital city, but the warmth of the welcome you’ll receive from owners Dilip and VidyaChengappa is worth every extra kilometre. Housed on their 50-acre coffee, cardamom and pepper plantation, its two bedrooms and two standalone cottages are furnished with family antiques and come with French windows that offer unending views of the Nilgiris. Spend your days taking long, guided plantation walks with Dilip, learn to pick Arabica coffee berries (if you’re here between November and January), and white-water raft or swim in the Kabbe River to digest the large meals Vidya serves. Evenings are best spent nursing a drink or two in the company of the couple, who will narrate interesting tales of life in the hills. CNT tip: For a peek into traditional Kodava life, ask Dilip to arrange a trip to his family home. The Kodavas are split into clans, each with a house that is the venue for most celebrations. Dilip’s is an imposing, wooden structure that’s been beautifully maintained. Signature breakfast dish: Traditional dishes such as rice rotis are served with sesame-seed chutney that’s mixed with ghee and locally sourced honey. It may not sound very tempting but believe us, it’s a meal you’ll always remember. (http://kabbeholidays.com) Doubles from Rs3,250

Anthraper Gardens, Cherthala, Kerala What makes it special? More than a hundred years old, this house is surrounded by water on three sides and is managed by the five Anthraper sisters, who take turns to run it. Its three rooms have attached verandas affording arresting views of Lake Vembanad. There’s also a private boat jetty, from where guests can embark on sunset boat rides. An early-morning visit to the local fish market on the beach in Arthunkal is a definite must-do. CNT tip: Learn to cook coastal cuisine from the B&B’s expert chefs and gain access to family recipes that have been handed down for generations. The standout dish is the meenpolli chathu, where a freshly caught fish is wrapped in a banana leaf and slowly cooked over a low-set flame. Signature breakfast dish: String hoppers with egg roast—made from steamed rice flour that is cut into strips and garnished with coconut shavings, then served with partially roasted hard-boiled eggs. (www.anthrapergardens.com) Doubles from Rs5,200

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