A real retreat from the heat and noise of Delhi are its grand hotels. I love the Leela for its opulence, the Oberoi for it’s hushed and gleaming black marble foyer and Hermes store inside, and the Taj Ambassador for the times I have spent cocooned in its apartment-sized suites soaking-up its charming 1940’s ambience or meeting friends for cocktails at its Art Deco bar straight out of a Scott Fitzgerald novel.
But I also have a special fondness for The Imperial on Janpath. From the moment I step inside there is a sense of entering another world, a story told by the walls covered with paintings and engravings steeped in the history of the Punjab. It’s linear Art Deco influenced architecture provides the backdrop to a succession of spaces, from its iconic entrance path flanked by twenty-four palms planted when it first opened in 1945, the airy Atrium with its 1930s ambience to its lush green gardens and azure pool. Its wonderful French patisserie and range of restaurants also means its easy here to switch from a relaxed afternoon high tea to evening drinks at its 1911 bar.
In the rooms there are always so many special touches, from the pretty silk dressing gowns to complimentary boxes of Forest Essentials toiletries, Porthault bed linen and lovely-light filled suites with huge marble bathrooms. The hotel has been undergoing some updating so when booking ask for one of it’s newly renovated rooms.
There are also superbly “girly” touches like swans-down-soft pink towels, pretty flower arrangements, and large wardrobes furnished with padded hangers which are an often overlooked element even in five star luxury hotels. A range of Fragonard toiletries also compliments huge marble bathtubs. There is thick, creamy stationery and postcards of the Imperial, which just demand you, close your laptop and send a message the old-fashioned way. Although I love things like pillow menus and having rose petal baths run for me, it’s all the small subtle details plus smart and practical things like a truly well-equipped desk that make all the difference to the 5-star experience. The grand heritage rooms have spacious seating areas and a desk is perfect for catching up on emails and work, with useful things like a draw that pulls out to reveal a line of plug sockets, and rows of all the big daily national and business newspapers.
The Imperial is a wonderful hotel to walk around. Its labyrinth of corridors are hung with art, which reveals the rich history of Delhi and the Punjab. Its range of restaurants-including the fabulous afternoon buffet at the 1911 restaurant and the peripatetic culinary offerings of The Spice Route, allow for variety without having to leave the hotel which can be nice when a long working day is behind and the heat pushes you to the pool. The famous atrium is a light airy space to read newspapers and enjoy snacks such smoked duck on bruschetta accented with eggplant pearls and nicoise gazpacho. The Brazilian Cerrado coffee they serve in large cafetieres is properly made coffee, rich and strong, perfection. The hotel houses India’s only Chanel boutique as well as a newly opened spa which offers hamman like space and a range of Ayurvedic and Western massages as well as hair and beauty treatments. So perfect for a restorative pedicure if you’ve spent hours on your feet at Delhi Fashion Week!