Hotel Review: Dune Barr House, Verandah in the Forest, Matheran
December 5, 2018
Both me and my husband are never too keen on celebrating occasions like birthdays, anniversaries etc. But, this year when our sixth wedding anniversary approached, we decided to go for a nice weekend getaway for two reasons – first, it was a long weekend and second, we wanted to spend some quality time together.
Both of us absolutely love Matheran. It is undoubtedly one of the greenest hill stations near Mumbai.
The main reason we love Matheran is because it is Asia’s only automobile-free hill station. So, we love to breathe the cleanest and freshest air in Matheran while mapping the various trek routes covering multiple view-points.
So, it was decided: Matheran for our wedding anniversary!
We have been to Matheran twice before and covered almost all the trek routes. However, this time was different; this time we simply wanted to relax and have a good time doing nothing.
Most of the properties at Matheran are located near the main market area. We specifically didn’t want to stay closer to market area because it becomes extremely crowded and noisy especially during weekends.
So, we were looking for some property away from the hustle and bustle of the market. The problem was – most of the properties, which were not very close to the market area, were either pretty basic or were crowded.
I knew, The Barr House, a heritage property now managed by the Dune Wellness Group, was perfect for me; if only a room was available there.
In my earlier visits to Matheran, I had seen The Barr House, but every time I could not get availability. But, this time I was lucky 😊
Things that make Dune Barr House to really stand out
Truly a heritage property
Dune Barr House is a beautiful 170 years old British mansion that was built by Captain Barr as his summer house. It is probably the only property at Matheran that still boasts of its original construction. The management has made sure to maintain the original building without any structural change, except basic repair work. So you still get the authentic British era charm here.
The rooms at Dune Barr House are not numbered; instead, in order to pay homage, the rooms here are named after the famous British families of Bombay, the Parsis and the Bohras, who contributed to the development of Matheran and Bombay.
Committed to environment
Considering the eco-sensitive area of Matheran, Dune Barr House constantly strives to reduce its carbon footprints. Thus, they do not have air conditioning (AC), TV, Phones or minibar; but trust me, you don’t really need all those things to enjoy at this majestic place. They also use solar hot water systems, LED lighting and organic linen in the rooms. I didn’t see use of plastic anywhere; they used glass water bottles in rooms, tiny glass bottles for toiletries and steel buckets in the bathroom.
Perfect place to unwind
As Dune Barr House is located at an almost secluded spot away from the main market area, it provides the best environment to unwind. It gives a little luxury amidst the serene nature. Right from the rooms to the common courtyard and the garden area, everything provides the calm environment where your stress level drastically drops and you get closer to nature.
When you arrive at the Barr House, after crossing the garden area, the construction of the main building is such that you are directly taken to the first floor. It begins with a front courtyard with small dining tables on one side and lounge chairs on the other side of the courtyard passage. The entire courtyard is decorated with old artefacts.
The centre of the building is a semi-circle courtyard with stairs going towards ground floor from both sides. In front of the semi-circle courtyard, lie a common area that is apt for spending few hours chit chatting or playing board games/carrom.
Inside the common area is a grand dining area with a huge wooden dining table, covering the entire length of the room, placed at the centre.
Distinct features of these common and dining rooms included the high ceiling, which is typical of the old colonial architecture, coloured glass windows, antique wooden furniture, numerous mirrors on almost all the walls of the rooms and elegant bone china crockery.
We stayed in Jahangir (Heritage Superior room) at the ground floor. It was a big pastel green hued room twinkling in the subtle amber lights. Typical of the colonial era, the room had a separate dressing room, bathroom and classic wooden furniture that I admire.
Verandah in the Forest, the restaurant at Dune Barr House
Although breakfast was already included in our room package, we had all our meals here only. In fact, we have had the best food in Matheran at Verandah in the Forest, the restaurant at Dune Barr House.
Their commitment to provide the best quality food is evident from the fact that they take lunch orders immediately after breakfast and dinner orders immediately after lunch so that they procure the freshest ingredients as per the orders.
Buffet breakfast generally includes two hot freshly prepared items like parathas, poha, upma, poori sabzi, etc. along with fruits, cornflakes, eggs (made to order), toasts and coffee/tea.
Lunch and dinner are made-to-order. They offer Indian and European fusion cuisine as well as some-Parsi and Bohra specialities. Both veg. and non-veg. items are available. Their portion size is also good.
Breakfast and lunch are served in the open front courtyard, whereas candle light dinner is served inside the common dining area.
Most of the items like bread, jams, ice-creams are homemade. We relished their lauki/dudhi ka halwa as dessert after all our meals.
In fact, their homemade ice-creams (especially chocolate flavour) are extremely smooth and rich in flavour and are highly recommended; they are real ice creams (and not frozen desserts) made using real milk and fruit/coco.
Points to remember
Be prepared to get completely disconnected from outside world as there is no mobile network in Matheran (only Vodaphone has patchy coverage near market area). Also, there is no wifi, no internet and no TV at Dune Barr House.
Dune Barr House is located a little away from the market. In fact, it is not even visible clearly from the (mud) road. So, carry all your essentials; it would be difficult to go back to market to buy anything once you reach Dune Barr House (of course unless you don’t mind walking again).
Although there are signages telling about the route, they are very few. Also, some portion of the road is not lit at all. So, better to reach during day time.
It is a prime property which gets sold out quickly. So, book in advance. Instead of booking through websites like makemytrip or booking.com or goibibo.com, book the room directly from the official website of Dune Barr House and get the best and cheapest quote/deal.
Carry comfortable walking shoes because reaching Dune Barr House and exploring Matheran would require lot of walking.
Due to limited network connectivity, credit/debit card swipe facility is not available at Dune Barr House; so, carry sufficient cash.
Alcohol is not available at the Barr House; so if you plan to indulge in some, bring your own.
Yes, it is absolutely toddler/children friendly property. But, be sure to accompany them as the property is surrounded by dense trees all around and the ground is rough.
How to reach
Matheran is around 90 kms from Mumbai. We drove down to Dasturi, the last stop till where automobiles are allowed, and parked our car in the paid parking area.
You can also reach Dasturi by public transport. Take a local train from Mumbai till Neral station. From Neral, you will get shared omni cars till Dasturi.
There is an entry fee to Matheran. After entering Matheran, the main market area is roughly around 2-3 kms (30-40 min) from the entry point (Dasturi).
You can either walk till market (just follow the rail track) or take a Toy Train from Aman Lodge. Pony rides and porters are also available.
From market, Dune Barr House is another 2-3 kms (25-35 min) towards Charlotte lake, a famous point in Matheran.
Best time to go
Being a hill station away from hustle and bustle, Matheran is an all-year destination. So, basically, you can go there any time of the year. However, the feel of the place changes in every season.
Although this time when we went there (end of November), we enjoyed great cool weather with clear sight and crisp leaves, the manager told us that during monsoon (July-September) and winters (December-January) the entire place changes drastically.
Until I visit this place during monsoon or winter, I can only imagine sitting in the courtyard, feeling a little chill in the air, rain playing with the wind and trying to reach me, when all I could hear is the thunder of clouds filled with water while having hot pakodas; or I can imagine myself sitting in a courtyard having hot chocolate in a misty morning while trying to locate in the verandah the evergreen trees that are playing hide & seek in the winter fog.
This is a place I would love to come back to. And I know, I will!
Apart from the colonial charm, one thing that made us fall in love with the place was the outstanding service of the manager and the staff; each one of them were always on their toes to make our stay comfortable and special.
Although I feel the rates here are a bit on the higher side as compared to other properties at Matheran, considering the costs involved in the maintenance of such a heritage property at such difficult location, they are justified.
So, if money is not the limiting factor, Dune Barr House, Verandah in the Forest, is highly recommended; it is the best heritage property at Matheran.
NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. I selected this property on my own and I loved it so much that I wanted to share with you all!
Have you been to Matheran? Do you like to stay at heritage properties? Which heritage property is your favourite? Have you been to Barr House? If yes, what was your experience? Let me know in comments.