In a Nutshell:
A beautiful set of temples carved out of stone 1400 years back at Mahabalipuram – what an amazing amalgamation of art & science.
A wonderful experience of a stay at a cottage by the beach – great property, soaking in just the bay of Bengal & the pristine private beach. Priceless. The stay in the main building of the property was quite ordinary though. Not worth the price. Asif, the man in charge, made our stay special – with his warmth & super efficient dealings. Loved the food at Bayview restaurant – they do a better job of western dishes than Indian. Same experience at the coffee shop
Address & other details: Taj fisherman’s cove
Disclaimer: All restaurants / eateries / Hotels reviewed by YUMMRAJ were visited by YUMMRAJ himself & he has paid for the full Bill & tips also. http://www.yummraj.com does not have even one featured / sponsored reviews. YUMMRAJ believes in going to a restaurant in anonymity, as a normal guest, experience everything & give a honest account of the same to you.
Please find the Bills of food at bayview restaurant below
Each section of this post has headers, so that you can skip a section if that does not interest you. Here is a jist of all the sections:
· How we got to know about Taj Fisherman’s cove
· Reaching there
· About Mahabalipuram
· Our experiences at Mahabalipuram
1. The temples
2. Sculpture school & artisan shops
3. Crocodile Park
· Our experience at Taj fisherman’s cove:
3. About the property, the people & our experiences at the property
4. Day 1 at the main building
5. Day 2 at the cottage next to the beach.
6. Food at Taj fisherman’s cove
· Bay view
· Coffee shop breakfast
How we got to know about Taj Fisherman’s cove:
We read about this property long back. In 2016, when we planned a trip to Mahabalipuram & other places, we decided to drop in at this hotel for a lunch. We were absolutely thrilled sitting by the beach at bayview restaurant then & we loved the look & feel of the place. It was that day that we decided to come back here to stay on a weekend.
Read our earlier review here – Bayview restaurant
This part was quite easy. We were thinking we have to book an ‘outstation’ ola or uber but we realized that this hotel actually comes in the city limit defined by taxi operators. So it was quite easy to book an ola/uber taxi from the hotel as well as the airport.
The drive to the hotel was very smooth. Good roads. A bit of traffic in the city though.
The property is 22 km north of Mahabalipuram. The roads are very good. So it takes 20-25 minutes in the morning to go to the Mahabalipuram temples.
Mahabalipuram is a town, 60 km from Chennai, is a UNESCO world heritage site, where the kings of Pallava dynasty (approx. 1400 years back) had commissioned & experimented with realistic human & animal forms, contrary to the artistic forms in many other temples of that era. Mahabalipuram was the second capital of the Pallavas who ruled Kanchipuram.
This place was earlier also called Mamallpuram after king Narasimha Varman I, who was a great warrior. He was given the title ‘Mamalla’ which means ‘the great wrestler’.
Mahabalipuram is also called ‘open-air museum’ as most of the interesting sculptures can be seen from the main road & of course the rest are after one enters the building.
The tradition of stone carving is still alive in & around Mahabalipuram. As we drove to mahabalipuram, on the east coast road, we saw huge shops on both sides, selling stone carved idols.
This place was also a major port in those days.
Our experiences at Mahabalipuram
Entrance to the monuments is thru a ticket. Earlier there used to be ticket counters & a human being used to issue tickets. Post COVID , ASI has replaced these people with a barcode scanner in all locations. Like in most places, the barcodes were not reading most of the time. Like most of the interfaces created by NIC, this one was also super lousy & extremely user unfriendly. We wanted 15 minutes to get our e tickets of ₹35 each, thru this process.
A man standing nearby was offering to get tickets done for ₹100 per ticket!!! For those unable to do it themselves.
1. Shore temple
The shore temple is located near the sea. Due to the nature of the stone used in building the temple, the temple is decaying naturally due to moisture in eth air & the sea water. Earlier, there were seven such temples & only one is left now. The temple complex has both Vishnu & Shiva. Nandi bull idols still look as good after so many centuries.
2. Arjuna’s penance
Arjuna’s Penance is a beautiful & huge open air rock carving, depicting stories of gods, asuras, characters from the mahabharata, birds, animals and nature. The lower part of the relief also has stories for children like the story of the ascetic cat…..
I was amazed at the accuracy of the proportions of the huge elephants & how realistic it was made.
3. Set of five temples – pandava rathas:
Five rock-cut temples, named after the five Pandava brothers and Draupadi & they look like Rathas (chariots). These are all rock cut (monolithic) & not assembled.
Pandava Raths or Monolithic Shrines – four of these five temples are carved out of a single rock, while the fifth is cut out from a small rock. The Draupadi Rath has dwarpalas (door-keepers) at the entrance. The outer walls of Arjuna’s rath have figures of gods and humans carved on it. Nakula-Sahadeva rath stands with a huge Monolithic elephant in front. Bhima’s rath has two storeys and has lion-based pillars. Dharmaraja’s rath is the biggest and has 8 panels of exquisite sculptures.
4. Krishna’s butter ball
Krishna’s butter ball is a huge piece of stone, with just it’s bottom tip touching the base. It feels as if the stone will fall off but in 14 centuries it has remained there!!!
It was amazing to see how engineers were able to split rock like say we cut an apple into half, 1400 years back.
There are many more temples to see in & around Mahabalipuram, some of which we had seen earlier & hence gave it a pass this time.
1. Sculpture school & artisan shops
We saw a sculpture school – we got to know that students come & do multi year course to become sculptors. We met a gentleman who is a graduate from this school. He runs his sculpture school.
2. Crocodile Park
We were pleasantly surprised as we walked into crocodile park. Two reasons –
a. We have not been to a zoo in ages & this park was in a zoo format – open, walled spaces with natural habitat of the animal (crocodile).
b. I never in my dreams imagined that I would see a komodo dragon in India or even an iguana.
The park was very well maintained. Detailed description about each kind of crocodile was a great read. Recommended if you are not in a hurry.
Our experience at Taj fisherman’s cove:
We booked thru tajhotels.com – that was quite hassle free in general. We called the property to talk about something but after 20 minutes of being tossed around by an electronic lady, we gave up.
We reached the hotel on day 1 at around 5 pm. The check in rush was over. No queues at that time. As soon as we entered the lobby, Asif, a senior manger, walked up to us & asked about our booking. We explained that we have done 2 bookings (tajhotels.com does not allow guest to book two different kinds of rooms for two different days). Day 1 booking was in the main building & day 2 (separate booking).
Instead of asking us to wait in the lobby area, he advised us to wait at the beautiful open deck overlooking the pool. He helped us with all paperwork / electronic work there & we were all set in only 5-7 minutes.
Day 2 when we went back to lobby to check in to the new room, we realized that there was a commotion. It was a Saturday & it was around 130 pm. Many guests had arrived at the same time. We went back by 3 pm & we were given our keys.
About the property, the people & our experiences at the property:
The property is located next to the sea. There is a part of the beach that is a private property. We heard that the government leases parts of the beach (next to the hotel) to the hotel for a fee, which adds up to the revenue of the government. If people from outside come here, the security staff request them to leave but do not confront. They call the local police who then come & enforce.
The beach is perfectly clean in the mornings (we saw two ladies from nearby village) cleaning the entire private beach from morning till midday.
Everyday a man from the nearby village sets up a stall on the beach to sell sea shells, conches etc. 7 days 7 different people – so that more people get employment. I thought that was very thoughtful on part of Taj. The collection that we saw at the guy was outstanding. He was charging same as any shop in a metro city would charge, for a similar product – pre bargaining.
The sea beach remained empty from the morning (sunrise) till around 9 am & again after 7 pm in the evening. We spent hours on the beach – just us & no one.
Watching the sunrise was fun. Play of colors of nature was just unimaginable.
The waves of bay of Bengal are higher & fiercer in the beach of Puri Orissa (than here) but the ones here were also pretty impactful (felt much more than the ones in Arabian ocean).
The property had winding walkways that started from the main building to the restaurant & also the cottages. We were at the last cottage in the front row. The walk was not much – however there were golf carts to transfer guests from the main building to the cottages.
The campus was green & had impeccable gardens & lawns.
The pool was quite big but too close to the main building.
Palm trees all around added to the beach feeling.
Day 1 at the main building:
The main building has huge glass windows overlooking the sea. They are called sea facing. Yes, technically correct. But as we walked into the room, we realized that the sea is too far from the room & there is too much between the room & the sea. Unlike the sea facing rooms of good 5 star hotels in marine drive Mumbai, where you just see the sea, here the sea view was a small blue patch amidst too many other things. To see the sea you needed binoculars.
The room was like that of any lemon tree hotel but it was 2.5-3 times more expensive than a lemon tree hotel in a metro city.
The washroom was a bit fancier than the ones at the typical lemon tree. The fittings & everything were of course much better.
The room was small.
I would never recommend this. Total waste of money to stay in the main building.
Day 2 at the cottage next to the beach:
This experience turned out to be absolutely the best beach stay in India, in our memory. Wow. We were lucky to get the last cottage in the first row (facing the sea). So sitting in the balcony, we could see the sea. The beach started from just outside the extended lawn of the cottage & then there was the sea.
The cottage was a perfect cylinder. So while sitting inside / lying on the bed also, we could enjoy the sea thru the curved glass window.
The room itself was nice.
The interesting part was the all sides covered, open top bath area.
The bathtub area was also entirely sunlit.
There were options to order food at the room but we chose to eat at the lovely restaurants.
Food at Taj fisherman’s cove
Currently they have two restaurants open – Bay view (opens sides, covered top) & Coffee shop (indoor, with some seating outside).
We had dinner here on two evenings. Day 1 we got a seat in the middle of the restaurant. We requested for a beach view for the next evening & we got it.
What was interesting was that it was full moon & we got an unbelievable view thruout our dinner. What an amazing experience – priceless.
Calamari – We thought of ordering calamari but the options n menu were both deep fried. So we requested our server to request the chef to give us a calamari sans any deep fry.
Loved the calamari – slightly charred at the end, bursting out with flavors, super soft , great to taste, perfect seasoning. This came with grilled veggies that balanced our protein to vegetables ratio.. Rate the dish 4.25/5
We also ordered Seafood trio (lobster, fish, tiger prawns) in ‘bayview signature marinade’, served with flaky paratha. I did not bother to ask what the marinade was. When it came we realized it was an Indian marinade.
This was one of the best Indian version of a seafood platter in my memory – the spices were just enough to make their presence felt but they did not cross over & overtake the taste / flavors of the seafood. Loved the aftertaste of chilly. The result was an excellent grill with perfect texture of seafood & spices adding a twist.
We realized the balance of seafood trio next day, after eating at a famous local restaurant in Mahabalipuram, how one can double murder a lobster (first, after taking it out of the wok & the second, while overcooking cooking the seafood with excess spices).
Rate the platter 4.25/5
Coconut Malibu crème brulee was very interesting. The coconut milk flavour made its flavors felt very well. The crème brulee was very good. Rate it 4.5/5
Ginger magic was a non alcoholic drink that was very good to taste. Rate it 4/5
Margarita was nice too. Rate it 3.5/5
Grilled zucchini was excellent – it gave us a break from the loads of seafood that we were eating in the trip. Crunchy zucchini , lovely seasoning. Rate it 4.25/5
This time we tried Seafood trio in olive oil, lemon garlic. We liked this way better than the other one. Here the flavors & taste of the ingredients (seafood) were beautifully celebrated. Rate it 4.75/5.
The only place I have had better seafood grill is at the numerous places in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
We ordered Kovalam fish curry as the spice mix was from the nearby village we were told – village called kovalam. The curry was good to taste but we had way better (as different as a maruti desire & a land rover) local fish curry at Ishita’s (our friend) house in Chennai the day before. Rate the kovalam curry 2.5/5.
Long island ice tea was excellent. Reordered. Rate it 4.5/5
Mojito was good too. Rate it 3/5
We asked for coconut & palm jaggery pudding (in menu card) on both evenings but it was not on offer.
Overall rating of food at sea view restaurant averages out to 3.95/5
Seagull – Coffee shop (breakfast):
We had the option to have lunch here too but we did not end up doing that. We had breakfast on both the days here.
The spread used to be wide.
The basics passed my litmus test very well – good perfectly ripe papayas, eggs counter could give me an omelette that was soft & runny in the center (it’s such a pain to get this done by most restaurants in India), good oats etc etc.
We were amused to see chicken legs with skin, at breakfast. Loved those.
The upma made from whole wheat was very good – grainy & nice.
The poha was ok. Have had fabulous poha in Indore. No comparison.
Loved the scrambled eggs on both the days. Lumpy, inconsistent, rich, creamy, outstanding.
Loved the excellent, thin, perfectly fried bacon strips.
The idly, dosa & medu vada were good but we have much better at Murugan idly,
The only local food that we liked was Pongal.
Sambar with a lot of veggies was good but we have surely had better.
Loved the filter coffee (though it was served not in the traditional way).
We really liked the bread pudding here.
Once again, the western food was way better than the Indian ones here. Was the Indian Chef on leave? Hence, no supervision? I don’t know…..
Overall, a memorable trip …….. highly recommend the beach facing cottages, even if means having to save for a few months / forego some other purchase/ staying less number of nights etc etc. The main building is just not worth it…
See below images from flight to chennai: