August 10, 2015
The memories of Coimbatore’s first luxury hotel, Hotel Surya International, are still fresh in the minds of old-timers. It was on the posh Race Course that Hotel Surya International came up in the early 80s. It soon became the talk of the town because it was the first five-star hotel in Coimbatore with all the modern amenities. Leading film personalities, who until then stayed at Hotel Guru or Hotel Alankar for film shoots, soon switched their preference to Hotel Surya.
Ramesh Rudrappan, a resident of Race Course, recalls the golden days of Hotel Surya when the area itself was very serene sans traffic. “I still remember some Bollywood artistes staying in Hotel Surya when were on their way to Ooty for shooting. The tall building with its multi-cuisine restaurant, Samudra bar, and Oberoi hair dressing saloon, were much popular. Conferences, parties and get-togethers were organized at the Hut, and Rotary Clubs used to meet up there. The lawn was very popular with businessmen and youngsters those days. The State Bank of India operated out of the hotel,” he reminisced.
“Surya was the first hotel to serve live Rumali rotis for the customers,” said Rajesh Govindarajulu. “One could see the chef throwing the roti up in the air and catching it skillfully. It was a novelty in those days. Chicken Shaslik and Chicken Stroganoff were first brought to Coimbatore by this hotel. Their Appam, Idiappam with Chicken Chettinad was quite popular. Vegetarians could savour corn augratin or vegetable augratin. The sizzlers here were liked by one and all. The rooms have seen many VIP guests of those days. Several celebrities, actors, politicians, and businessmen were frequent visitors to this hotel”, he noted.
Foreigners who used to source textiles from Karur, Erode, and Tirupur made it a point to stay at Surya for days together. Hotel Surya turned out to be the centre for Rotary International’s youth exchange programme students, who enjoyed the cozy comfort besides its tongue-tingling food. A number of wedding receptions have taken place here and carnatic music performances were in vogue on those occasions. Several companies used to conduct their press meets at the Hut. In those days, Initial Public Offers of shares at par were quite popular. The issuing company’s management, during its visits to Coimbatore, would invariably stay at Surya, in order to host its conferences. Surya was also a popular destination for marketing promo events.
The Oberoi parlour was well known in Western Tamilnadu and people from all over used to come here for having their hair cut. The proprietor of Oberoi, Palaniswamy was quite a popular hair stylist those days.
The air-conditioned bar was a novelty and rum along with coke was a preferred drink for youngsters. The chef at the hotel used to teach the newly-married women a few not-so-familiar but extremely tasty dishes.
Surya was the earliest to serve food in proper western etiquettes. Napkins, good cutlery, clean table covers was the order of the day. The food varieties that were popular included butter chicken, rotis, palak panneer, egg curry, chicken fried rice, egg fried rice, fish and chips, panneer makhni, malai kofta curry and navratan korma. The rooms were aesthetically designed and the larger suites were popular among business delegations.
The iconic Surya Hotel established by the tea estate owners of the Nilgiris gradually became defunct due to lack of patronage and the rising overheads in maintaining the hotel. Subsequently, the hotel was demolished and Vivanta by Taj now stands tall in its place, at Race Course.