The bustling town of Mehatpur, near the mighty Satluj River on Highway 21 just over the border from Punjab, is an alternative route for travelers on their way from Chandigarh (120 kms) to Dharamsala or Chamba to the North. Food options are limited to dhabas dotting the rural roadsides making the discovery of Hotel Menon, a newly built location in the heart of Mehatpur’s main bazaar, a welcome stop.
Spotlessly clean inside and out, Hotel Menon is a young upstart in an area surrounded by farm fields and old traditions. Fresh faces greet new customers from behind the front counter before directing hungry patrons to the bar and Indian restaurant immediately off the lobby. A shift in the atmosphere is quite noticeable as one passes through the double doors separating the lobby from dining room. Heavy iron fixtures more suitable for outdoor patio settings are squeezed into a room finished with marble flooring and a stark contrast of green and white painted walls. Lacking any wall hangings or other character pieces, the dining room feels almost like a funeral parlor.
Hotel Menon’s kitchen (located up a small flight of stairs and shoved into one corner of the dining room) only adds to the quirkiness of the unusual dining decor. One waiter toward his elder years was providing service for the entire dining room, fortunately not very full. And to make things more interesting, this friendly and efficient man also doubled as the only cook. This scenario wouldn’t be so unusual in a rural dhaba, but in a modern appearing hotel of India you would expect a bit faster turnaround on orders. A simple meal of potato parantha and paneer omelet plus chai was on par with any other restaurant in North India. A more intriguing test would be to try some traditional Indian food dishes listed on the menu on a repeat visit.
Out of curiosity I asked to see some guest rooms before departing. Both young men staffing the front desk were happy to take a break from their routine. Guest rooms vary from budget starting at Rs 800 to generously sized suites beginning at Rs 2500. Colorful wall paint mixed with window curtains are the only decor beyond simple furnishings in each room. Voices easily echo off high ceilings void of noise dampening carpeting or rugs. Clean ensuite bathrooms offer the basic western amenities any tourist would need.
Don’t expect frills from Hotel Menon. Simple seems to be the motto for this latest and greatest budget hotel. And that worked great for my appetite, and definitely for my wallet with a bill of just Rs 67 + tip. Travelers will especially appreciate the spacious neat and clean toilets located behind the lobby.