Glenburn Tea Estate is one of the most special and unique places in India. The former quarters of a British tea estate owner has been meticulously restored in grand style and its lounges, verandahs, gardens and rooms are the perfect place to relax after traveling around India. At Glenburn, the hospitality is genuine and your every need is taken care of.
You may like to stay in the Planters’ Suite with a bed so high you’ll need steps to get into it, or the Kanchenjunga Suite with a view of the third largest mountain in the world. If you’re a woman traveling alone, the Simbong Butterfly Room is the perfect choice; it is pink with butterflies everywhere – on the pillows, paintings, and curtains. In this room even the bathtub is painted pink and its four-poster bed peppered with pillows made me feel like a little girl again.
Neena Pradhan is your hostess and makes sure that you are very well fed and happy. For instance, she sent a picnic lunch for me (complete with hot Glenburn tea) with the driver that picked me up in Gangtok (3 1/2 hours away). Upon arrival she will greet you, find out what you want to do while you’re here and seamlessly arrange everything. She oversees all the special touches such as fresh flowers in the rooms and guests being greeted with trays of drinks upon return to the lodge. The owners, Husna-Tara Prakesh and her husband, live in Calcutta and visit when they can. Husna-Tara was there when I was and is attentive to every detail and always is bringing in new improvements. She is Indian but grew up mainly in England and takes the best from both worlds.
One thing that makes Glenburn unique is that guests all share dinner together around a very large dining room table. The evening begins with drinks and hors d’oeurves either around a large bonfire in the garden or on one of the terraces or verandas of its two houses. A full range of drinks are served as well as Indian wines, and once dinner is announced and the party is brought inside you get the full Glenburn treatment. The table is elegantly set for up to 16 people with fine china and linens brought from England and place cards with each guests’ name on them dispersed around the table for you to find your seat. People who come together are separated and the result is interesting and lively conversations all around.
Dinner is served in formal style by gracious waiters carrying trays from which you serve yourself. It is an extravagant affair. On my first night dinner was a continental feast of many courses. We began with a delicious soup followed by herbed fish, roasted potatoes and onions, green beans, carrots, and crepes with mushrooms and cream. That was followed by apple crumble with both custard and fresh cream and yet another course of local cheeses with sliced apples and tea to finish. Toward the end of the evening dinner conversations were continued out on the verandah with night-caps as others headed off to bed. It felt like a timeless occasion; if you didn’t hear the details of our conversations we could have been in the British Raj era or some other much earlier period in history.
The food is excellent and very clean. The usual precautions of eating in India do not apply here. Normally, you’re told not to eat raw, uncooked foods like salads or even sliced fruits because they’ve been washed in the local water which carries all kinds of bacteria and can leave you very sick. Glenburn uses fresh salad greens from their gardens and washes them in mineral water, so you don’t need to worry, and after traveling three weeks it was so nice to eat salad! Of all the gourmet foods and preparations Glenburn served, their simple salad was my favorite.