Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Proof of herit-age
In their earlier avatar, Harrison's Hotel did not find any need to advertise their age. When you turned your vehicle into their tree-shaded front yard, you knew that this was an institution with a lot of years behind it. The low round cane tables with their red-and-white-checked tableclothes, circled by cane chairs, out on the verandah of their bar - or was it the restaurant? - proclaimed the elegance of an era that was long-gone even in during the 1980s. Once there, you were transported to some plantation far away from the city. Sadly, even the cuisine was modelled on the spartan aspect of the plantations, so it was truly a 'throwback' place.
No wonder that it was losing out on its clientele in the beginning of the 21st century. So, away went the front yard, and the two-storied structure. In its place came the swank new boutique hotel - Harrisons. Even now there is some debate about what it was called in its pre-renovation days: was it Harrisons, or Meenam (which is one of the restaurants in the new hotel), Queens or O'Papa? All four names seem to have been in use earlier, but today it is unequivocally Harrisons, with the words 'Since 1885' under it.
There does not seem to be any document going all the way back to the 19th century, though. In the lobby of the Harrisons, there is this framed letter dated March 10, 1914, from the then Governor of Madras, Lord Pentland, appointing "Messrs Harrison & Co., to be Caterers and Confectioners in ordinary to His Excellency...". In the new-age lobby, few people bother to even glance at this relic. Those who do might wonder what this has to do with the current avatar - the cursory caption does not really capture the heritage of the institution!