“As you take a sharp left off the main road and begin your ascent up a steep, stone lined track, the years peel away and worries of modern day life are left behind. Owner Paddy is an exemplary host, welcoming guests into the colonial bungalow her father-in-law bought in the 1950s, with culinary treats such as lemon tart (lemons picked straight from her garden), freshly baked loafs with piping hot soups and other hearty dishes. Forget bottled water: here it is filtered from the local spring. Rooms evoke a bygone age. The drawing room is lined with paintings collected over the years and shining antique glass and silverware. Curl up next to the fire with a book from their well stocked library. Rooms remain almost untouched: no superfluous modern day luxuries, just verdant views and a comforting hot water bottle at night. Just five and a half hours from Delhi (a short drive in these parts) yet a world away The Retreat is ideal for those wanting to escape daily distractions and get back to nature. Located in Bhimtal, within Kumaon's Lake District, on a former tea plantation owned by the famous Colonel Bertram Owen Jones. There are plenty of walks directly from your front door and either Paddy or one of her helpful children will gladly show you the way. A homestay in truest sense. Top drawer. ”
Written by Megan Lambert
“Why do people love staying in your hotel?
They love the personalised service (family always involved), the great food, the forest estate that affords opportunities for long forest walks (without seeing a public road or anyone except the occasional villager collecting grass or wood), the heritage colonial bungalow (not merely authentic but real!), and the great birding opportunities at The Retreat (nearly all the birds of Uttarakhand can be spotted here).
What is there to do in the area or on site?
On the property: Birdwatching, hikes through the forests of the estate, swims in the mountain lakes Sat Tal and Panna Tal (all within or bordering Jones Estate), campfire barbecues, lazing and reading, ‘real’ camping.
In the area: Paragliding, rowing, kayaking, longer hikes and treks, rock climbing, absailing/rappelling, valley/river crossing.
We also conduct Himalayan high-altitude treks. They depend on weather conditions and seasons, so please book at least a month in advance.
What kind of breakfast do you offer?
Fresh fruit (a variety), cereal (oats and cornflakes), milk, tea, coffee (real not instant), eggs to order (poached, scrambled, fried, omelettes), Indian bhujia/ vegetarian or vegan alternatives, toast, butter, home-made preserves and local honey, often a side-dish of pancakes/crepes/rosti, etc.
Do you offer other meals? And can you recommend good places to eat out locally?
We offer lunch and dinner (3-course Indian/Continental/family recipes. I bake fresh bread for dinner if it is continental/family recipe food. Our thin-crust pizza is rated as excellent by all.
Some things you might eat here:
Salads are great - fresh veggies and delicious dressings
Soups: Mulligatawny, French onion, pumpkin, lentil, and many more.
Main course: pot roast chicken, roast chicken with stuffing, fish baked with lemon, butter and herbs, goulash, pasta, pizza, cheese-paneer croquettes (a Retreat recipe), kebabs (both meat and soy – also delicious), and much more.
Sweet course: Lots of lovely stuff – chocolate mousse, banana and apple fritters, jam tarts, apple pie, lemon pie, fruit salads, blancmange, cakes, cheesecake, fruit-based desserts of my own invention…
Local places to eat: The “dhaba”eateries by Sat Tal lake; cafes like Brownies, Café Italiano, I ‘Heart’ Café; proper meals at The Garden Valley Resort (for 9-course meals, various cuisines; need to book a day in advance); various minor restaurants around the lake, all serving generic Indian restaurant food.
Which are your most popular room types, and why?
Just three rooms, so not much choice! I usually allot rooms per guests’ requirements. However, the Yellow room is perhaps the best – large, lots of windows, its own sitting area, enormous bathroom.
What facilities do you have for children and can you fit extra beds in your rooms ?
The place is just what every child needs – open grounds and wilderness, trees and dogs.
Extra beds are in the “annexes” – the second room attached to two of the bedrooms. One annexe has two beds; the other has a two-bed bunk bed and room for squeezing in another cot. The Yellow room can take extra beds, if we remove the armchairs and desk.
What message would you like to give Hotel Guru readers?
If you like birds and trees and wilderness, if you want to swim and walk in forest places, if you enjoy old houses that breathe history (and hosts who can relate it), if you appreciate good food cooked with passion – if you like these things, then come to The Retreat, Bhimtal.”