Maison Perumal

The Tamil Quarter, Pondicherry, India Book from IRs6000

Recommended awaiting i-escape review
A lovely colonial-era house in the seldom-explored Tamil quarter, where staff treat you like royalty
Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) is famed for two things: its 17th-century French colonial past, which has left an architectural legacy and the feeling of being in a Provençal town on the bay of Bengal; and its Sri Aurobindo ashram, which draws yogic devotees from around the world. Most people don't know about its Tamil past, or about the Tamil quarter where Maison Perumal stands, and that's a good thing. When you arrive after a 3-hour journey from Chennai, it feels like you've found a jewel in the dust.

Once a registry office, the building was lovingly restored by CG Hearth (the brains behind SwaSwara) to create an elegant 10-room hotel with the feel of a private dignitary's house. In the morning, the sun shines through stained glass to create extravagant patterns on the whitewashed walls; inside, sepia-toned pictures tell of the past and vibrant silk cushions lie on elaborately hand-carved wooden beds.

You're walking distance from central Pondicherry's main sights and the exceptional staff bend over backwards to help with every need. We haven't visited yet, but we've heard such good reports that we wanted to let you in on it before we do.

Highs

  • The beautiful building - its Tamil personality comes through in its courtyards and verandahs; the fluted pilaster and arched windows give it a French charm
  • The excellent staff - warm, courteous and happy to cater for your every whim
  • The ambiance - charming and elegant. It's like being a guest in a friend's home, if that friend is a 17th-century Tamil dignitary
  • The location - it's a short walk to everywhere in Pondy, including the beachfront promenade and market
  • The super-fresh Keralan food, with an emphasis on seafood

Lows

  • The bathrooms are small and not particularly luxurious
  • Not much storage space for unpacking
  • Street noise might occasionally disturb you, but only occasionally

Best time to go

The best time to visit is between mid-December and early March when the weather is dry and sunny; avoid October, November and December when there is heavy rain. There are festivals in Pondy throughout the year, including an international yoga festival in January, Bastille Day on July 14 and Diwali in October-November.

Our top tips

Take Yann Martel's Life of Pi with you to read. The novel begins with a depiction of the protagonist's life as a child growing up in Pondicherry before he's plunged into the Bengal Sea with a host of zoo animals.

Great for...

Beach
City Style
Eco
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 10
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Courtyards
Room:

Rooms

The 10 rooms are all different and various sizes (though the same price), with hand-carved wooden beds and desks, cream lamps, uneven mustard-yellow or red floors, TVs and air con. The CGH team spent a lot of time reviving old crafts and researching into woodworking to create just the right atmosphere and carefully restore period detail. Six rooms are on the first floor and 4 are on the second; there are 2 twin rooms and 8 doubles.

The base colour palette is cream, offset by bright fuchsia, purple, turquoise or green pillowcases and curtains. And we particularly like the little details: jute slippers in small handmade bags made from newspaper, speckled white soap from Auroville, and shampoo in ceramic pickle jars in the shower bathrooms.

We're told it feels like you're staying in someone's regal retreat, but this goes 2 ways: you're at leisure to explore the rest of the hotel and relax in the courtyards on the wooden swing, but you also probably won't want to hole up in your room - they aren’t really big enough or luxurious enough for that.

Features include:

  • Terrace
  • Wifi internet
  • Phone
  • Tv
  • Internet access
  • Wifi internet
  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Toiletries
  • Slippers

Eating

Dining here is relatively informal so it feels like you're being catered for individually. Meals are served in either the courtyard dining area, half open to the gardens, or in the landscaped gardens themselves. You can choose from the menu for lunch, plump for a set evening meal or have a chat with the chef about what he recommends. He’s passionate and eloquent about his Keralan-style food, much of which is based on his family recipes.

Breakfast is either Continental-style with croissants and toast plus cooked extras, or South Indian with idly and dosa (rice and lentil pancakes served with gravy and chutney). There is an à la carte menu for lunch, with lemon rice and grilled prawns, fried chicken curry with tomato rice or prawn or fish curries.

Evening meals have a fixed menu, with a starter, soup, a fish platter including perhaps calamari and prawns, dessert, and tea and coffee to finish. Everything bought and cooked is fresh, local and seasonal - it has to be, as the hotel has no freezer.

The hotel also has a small bar, ideal for a post-sightseeing Cobra beer. There are plenty of other places to eat within walking distance; staff will happily recommend a couple.

Features include:

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Breakfast
  • Walk to restaurants
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll along Pondy's famous Provençal beachfront promenade and admire the bright plaster houses, flower-laden balconies and blue enamel street signs

  • Take a heritage walk around the city. The local tourist authority has several walking routes to follow around the Ashram area, the Tamil quarter and French quarter

  • Go shopping. Pondy has particularly good textiles, leather and pottery goods. MG Street, JN Street, Misson Street and Romain Rolland Street are the places to look

  • Hire a moped or borrow a bike to get out of town. Serenity beach, within cycling range, is a quieter, cleaner beach than the main stretch

  • Take an early morning boat trip to see dolphins off shore

  • Visit the ashram of Sri Aurobindo, one of India's most famous ashrams, for yogic contemplation and meditation, or just sightseeing

  • Take a trip to the utopian society of Auroville. Established in 1968 to bring people together in peaceful and progressive harmony, it's 8km from Pondy and still doing well

  • Go horse riding. The Red Earth Riding School at Auroville, just outside Pondicherry, offers lessons and guided walks

  • Go temple crazy. Gingee/Jingi Fort is just outside Pondicherry and has a temple complex; there are Chola temples to explore in Tamil Nadu, complete with temple elephants; Chidambaram has temples to Shiva about 1 hour away and the UNESCO-listed rock temples of Mahabalipuram are 2 hours away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • History religious
  • Horse-riding
  • Museum
  • Plantlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Yoga
  • Shopping
  • Heritage walks
  • Temples
  • Ayurveda

Kids

Extra beds are available for children and cots can be arranged for babies. Babies and children 5 and under go free; children 6 and up are charged a supplementary rate when in the same room as their parents.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

This hotel has not yet been reviewed by guests