The hotel itself is a collection of simple stucco structures, 13 rooms in a former men's club set on the outskirts of the village and owned by a septuagenarian widow named Meenakshi Meyyappan and her relatives. A dignified woman from an important family, Meyyappan is shrewd and gentle, obviously accustomed to running a fine household. The mottled terrazzo floors of the hotel are immaculate and blessedly free of dust. The paneled rosewood doors are polished to a mirror sheen. The staff, almost all male, are dressed in dhotis and crisply pressed shirts and evince a kind of welcome one rarely encounters in an era of "guest relations'' and computer-programmed amiability. At the Bangala, the cooks use grinding stones to pulverize regional spices, deploying them in masalas for dishes like a sinus-clearing black-pepper chicken, sour-scented tamarind crab curry, king prawns flavored with spring onions, and, in a nod to the nursery palates of British memory, Raj-era dishes like mint-and-potato croquettes. Meals there are taken communally at a teak dining table and eaten from banana-leaf plates with one's hands. Afterward finger bowls are brought to the table, and it is a good thing that they are.