Words: RADHIKA LALLA
GREAT FROM New Delhi
GREAT FOR Celebrating a special occasion
Picture yourself in a period drama – Downton Abbey if you like. Imagine there’s a weekend party, and everyone’s gathered in a grand mansion that’s been spiffed up for the occasion. It’s the event of the season, and you’ve been anticipating it for ages. Your mouth’s watering at the thought of all the feasting to come; all the pampering that’s part of the do, and the chance to shine in your Sunday best. Sounds like a great escape, doesn’t it?
If you’re Delhi-based, this escape is as easy as checking yourself into The Imperial in the heart of Central New Delhi, which was built as part of Lutyens’s plan for the capital. As you head down the driveway off Janpath, past the royal palms that have been here since the hotel’s opening in 1936, you see the white Colonial structure beckoning. As you’re escorted out of your car, you’re instantly enveloped in the understated luxury that The Imperial exudes. The marble floors are polished to a shine, and your eyes wander, distracted by the artwork, as you’re shown to your room for the next few days.
There’s a whole lot of it to be distracted by, for the walls boast a wealth of artwork, as befitting any English mansion worth its salt. But, as your guide tells you, there’s time for that later. First, savour your spacious room for a bit, maybe squeeze in a soak in the bath before heading down for lunch. Pick from an oriental feast in The Spice Route, or a lighter repast off the international buffet at the 1911 Restaurant.
After sating your tummy, it’s finally time to take in all that art. The hotel takes pride in its collection of period art, and it’s best explored through a guided Art Tour, which concludes with a high tea 7). You’ll be taken through the hotel, and you must try not to look like a gauche plebeian and gape as you’re shown the architectural details – a delightful mix of Colonial and Art Deco influences – and the artworks that line the walls. The art is categorised by period, and the corridors are themed – here you find paintings of the Himalayas, there, depictions of Indian religions. You make mental notes to return to the galleries, as there’s just so much to see, and the hours have flown by.
Now, it’s time to head to the spa for some pampering. There’s a range of treatments to choose from, and you’ve got a dinner reservation to keep. The award-winning San Gimignano hosts the crème of Delhi society. It’s a meal you’ll remember, quite unlike the Italian fare available elsewhere. Signature dishes include a sinful parmesan soup with white truffle oil, homemade pappardelle pasta with melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked lamb, and a life-changing Chilean sea bass in white wine with capers, cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives. Full to bursting but not wanting to retire just yet, you head to the very British 1911 Bar, named for the year in which the capital was shifted from Kolkata. Ask if you can check out the collection of military gallantry awards in the private room – before settling down at the bar with your poison of choice.
Tempting as it is to sleep in the next morning, a yoga session awaits, followed by a buffet breakfast at 1911 Restaurant, considered to be one of the best spreads in the city. It’ll soon be time to return to the real world – you’ll be returning lighter in the pocket, but, for a bit at least, you’ll have had a taste of the good life.