Monday, October 4, 2010

The Imperial Hotel, Delhi

Some people are plane people and some people are hotel people. I proudly admit to being a hotel person. I will gladly suffer through 24 hours in a middle seat in coach if I can then splurge on the hotel of my dreams. I believe that the right hotel can epitomize a city and it’s people. I can get to know a city by having a drink at it’s hotel bar as much as winding through it’s streets. Now, to do this, it can’t just be a trustworthy Hyatt, hip W, or grandiose Four Seasons. I stayed in a brand new Four Season in Berlin once, for all you knew once you walked through the front doors you were in Cleveland…not that I have anything against Cleveland, but I’m not suffering through a middle seat so I can be in Cleveland. And don’t get me wrong, my chosen hotels are, more often than not, not the nicest, newest, or, usually, not even comfortable, but they are the kind of hotels that for one reason or other are almost indistinguishable from the city itself. I just recently returned from a design trip to India and had the good fortune to stay at just such a hotel. Okay, full disclosure, this wasn’t one of those rough and tumble, seen better days, lumpy mattress places that I just mentioned, but a full blown 5 star goddess of a hotel at which my agent had been able to get me a good deal. So, after 24 hours of travel, all of it in middle seats, I checked in at The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi.

The hotel lobby from above.
Unlike many of the older grand hotels in India that served previous duty as a palace or government building this was built expressly to be India’s first 5 star hotel and opened as such in 1931. From what I've read, it was designed by D.J. Bromfield, an associate of Edwin Lutyens.  However, according to the hotel curator, who was nice enough to give me a guided personal tour, it was designed by Lutyens himself…and since I wasn’t being billed for this private tutelage, I wasn’t going to argue. It was the brainchild of Lady Mountbatton who provided much of the extensive art collection that can be found adorning every inch of the hotel.  It, in fact, is said to have the largest collection of colonial and post-colonial art in Delhi. 

What I liked to call my hallway round-a-bout.
 To walk into the hotel is to walk back in time. Very little has changed – the exact same Persian carpets lay on the exact same Italian marble floors. (I asked how they keep them in such seemingly good shape and I was told that wear is never a problem in high quality carpets…I guess that explains why mine look the way they do.) The same Austrian chandelier hangs from the same gilded dome at the entrance. High Tea is served at 4 sharp in the courtyard and the kitchen staff has kept the English ability to serve a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg at breakfast.
Patalia's Peg
1911 Bar

The hotel’s two original bars still serve Pimm’s Cups. One of the bars, Patiala’s Peg is where Neru and Mahatma Ghandi signed the treaty that formed Pakistan. The other, 1911, celebrates the moving of India’s capital to Delhi. Both look like a page out of a Ralph Lauren Home catalogue, but all original and genuine. As you sink into the leather banquette and sip on a Bombay and tonic after an exhausting day battling Delhi you can feel a little of India’s history seeping into you.

The entrance to 1911 where breakfast was served.

1911 Restaurant

The Pool

1 comment:

  1. Ken, I love your descriptions. They make me feel as if I am right there with you experiencing the atmosphere of India and The Imperial Hotel. Your post reminds me of when we discovered you sitting in a tall wingback chair, reading Harry Potter, and sipping a cocktail on the mezzanine of the Paramount Hotel.