WORDS: PRIMROSE MONTEIRO-D’SOUZA
PHOTOGRAPHS: APARNA NORI
GREAT FROM: Bangalore, Mangalore, Chennai
GREAT FOR: A luxurious break
About two years ago, Sumitra and Ravi Ramu decided that the views at Sumitra’s family coffee plantation in Chikmagalur were too beautiful to not be shared. In their first foray into hospitality, they wanted to offer guests a new type of luxury – incorporating all the elements that Ravi had looked for and often never found on his own travels. Chief among his grouses was the fact that hotels bind you down to breakfast from 7am to 10.45am. Which is why time has no relevance at Primrose Villas – your personal butler can serve you breakfast at 2pm, set up a bonfire at 2am, and draw you a bath at any (reasonable) hour.
That bath is another luxury in itself – sunk into the floor before views of the Western Ghats through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Don’t worry about privacy either – each of the six villas is set within its own cocooning volcanic rock cove. Three walls of each villa are all glass too, and the impression is of light and openness.
Luxury comes, too, in the property’s commitment to pampering you. You soak in said bath in water steeped with custom-made bath salts, and climb two wooden steps – like royalty of old – into a massive, old-fashioned carved bed. Each piece of the Victorian and Jacobean furniture has been collected by Sumitra over 20-odd years, and the decor is a meticulously-curated selection of unusual artefacts.
You can totally ask to be driven to your meals in the main house, because it is a hard climb just to eat, but also because it is part of the indulgent experience. It’s easy to forget in all this coddling that Primrose Villas is part of the 700-acre Baganeheddal Coffee Estate, but the presence of the working dogs – Puppy 1, Puppy 2, Mother and New Dog – and of Sumitra’s geese is a hint. Having your letter of welcome and the daily menu handwritten on paper dipped in coffee decoction is another. Being on an estate also means that you can go on coffee trail walks with the very sweet but shy Mohan, or wander the plantation on horseback, your steeds brought in from the family farmhouse near Chikmagalur City…
If you’d rather do something active, an early-morning trek up Rudragiri, the mountain behind the property, is ideal. The climb is steep, but the summit offers lovely views of the two valleys on either side and of the Western Ghats. If you’re lucky, Puppy 1 will accompany you and your guide, and sit around while you enjoy your sandwiches and juice. Other activities include a visit to the Belur and Halebid Temples, about an hour away, and a safari into Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, about an hour-and-a-half away.
Or you could do nothing but lie back, gaze at the view of the hills beyond the bougainvillea in your personal garden, feel the wind whooshing around the tops of the mountains – and eat.
Eating is an important part of the experience here. Sumitra has four chefs on call for Mediterranean, Awadhi, Italian and the local Malenadu food, and the menus are mind-blowing. The staff also tends to push your capacity to the limit, and you will rise from each meal in the huge glass-fronted dining room feeling very rotund indeed. Evenings are for barbecue, and conversations with Sumitra. Sure, you can have the barbecue at your villa, but it’s so beautiful at the main bonfire area, with oil lamps set in the rock wall, that you should not isolate yourself so much.