Imagine spending a few days in an old English country house of stone and wood, perched on a ridge overlooking a valley of tea gardens. Kurseong’s Cochrane Place is sure to take you back in time and let you have a taste of the British Raj, and the best tea in the country!
It’s a restored British colonial home in the foothills of the Himalayas with majestic views of the Kanchenjunga. Winding your way through the hilly Pankhabari Road that skirts the carefully trimmed tea estates of Kurseong, you will come across this curious old cottage that was once the home to the magistrate of Kurseong, Sir Percy John Cochrane, MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire).
Cochrane Place, now turned into a heritage hotel, is like a time machine which will make you feel like you are in an old English village inn or a character in a book by Agatha Christie. From the ivy-covered arched entryway to the toy train engine that doubles as the cafe entrance, the gabled roof of the cottage, all the antique wood panelling, and the log and stone wall interiors effectively creates the charm of colonial days.
Carefully placed time-stamped artefacts like the gramophone, fireplaces with iron-grate fenders, the old rotary dial telephone and the big kettle clock are sure reminders of the old world. While the three storeys of this stately cottage are connected by wooden ramps (for the physically challenged) and stairs, every nook and cranny of the place is decorated by objects of art and bric-a-bracs from the bygone time.
The Raj has been recreated in the food as well. Have some great Anglo-Indian and colonial cuisines at Chai Country (mulligatawny soup, Mrs Framgee’s Chicken, the mango curry and much more). They also do Nepali and Tibetan fare. This being tea country (the place overlooks the famed Makaibari tea estate, and is a few yards from the Castleton tea estate), they serve some of the finest tea in the region — from Makaibari’s Silver Tips (hugely expensive) to Oolong and passionfruit to rose and some unusual infusions like beetroot and betel leaf, and even a champagne tea! The restaurant itself is shaped like two tea kettles! Have you cuppa sitting in a orchid-lined gazebo. And do try the tea leaf fritters and mushroom sauteed in tea.
Calling Cochrane Place a museum of some sort of the Raj, the railways, tea and of local culture wouldn’t be too far off the mark. They have works by celebrated local painter Gorey Douglas, a corridor celebrating the art of Hungarian painter Hugo Scheiber, and a gallery of photos dedicated to the UNESCO World Heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (aka the toy train).
Not many people know that Subhash Chandra Bose had spent time in the town in his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose’s home, later converted into the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Museum. It has a rare collection of family photographs of the Boses.
They have 31 rooms priced between INR 2,600+ to INR 6,000+. Their deluxe rooms in the original wing have four-poster beds made of Burma teak, attached bathrooms, sitting areas and a balcony. The family suites have a master bedroom with two single beds, attached bathrooms, sitting area, and a large balcony with views of Kanchenjunga. And the standard rooms in the annex wing are compact and cosy.