Have you ever woken up to find yourself stuck, Kafka-like, inside a cake inhabited with armies of smiling people who seem ready to lay down their lives to fulfil your every desire? It’s all so horribly rich and sweet that you feel slightly gaggy, yet unable to stop eating. There’s no option but to wallow. And then, as the hours pass, you come to believe that this is how things should always be. You could say it’s like acquiring a lifestyle disease, in the best possible way. That’s sort of what it’s like to check into the Leela Palace Kempinski, New Delhi.
They’re very big on luxury. Part of luxury is just that things cost a lot. That embroidery-encrusted cushion cover cost Rs 20,000. The handsome leather-bound first edition and rare books in The Library bar cost £60,000 (over Rs 43.7 lakh). The hotel’s three-acre property cost Rs 720 crore, and the total project investment is Rs 1,800 crore. The walls of the Jamavar restaurant are silvered; the all-day Qube restaurant features walls of mother-of-pearl. The discreet silk and wood panelling in the ninth-floor Royal Club lounge sets off the glint of solid gold; the light from silver Venetian mirrors in the lobby lounge is blinding. The chandeliers are Murano glass. The carpets are Turkish. The art collection is valued at $5 million.
But it’s not just expensive, it is also very nice. Lashings of gold and silver aren’t really my thing, but surprisingly, it’s all working. Each of my senses is pampered to bits. The air is scented with flowers. The give in the goose down pillows is perfect, the bedroom slippers and towels feel silky soft and smell divine. The bathroom is huge (they built the room around the bathroom.) At the far end of the peaceful inner courtyard lawn, the sculpture of three goddesses in one is perfectly proportioned. Music tinkles discreetly. They make the most perfect croissant to be had anywhere in the city. In fact, I’d stick my neck out and suggest that the Leela Palace represents the greatest concentration of creature comforts in New Delhi. It also offers some of the most scrupulous, openhearted service. You don’t have to check in; I’m escorted from the hotel’s front doors straight to my room. The female butler stationed outside my room represents a lovely feature of the Leela — female staffers assigned to ensure the safety and comfort of solo women guests. The warmest thing after the weather is the Leela staffer smile.
At the moment it’s still incomplete. Their super-posh Le Cirque restaurant (the first Le Cirque in Asia) isn’t finished yet, nor is the top-notch Japanese restaurant Megu, so for the moment during the day you can only dine at the Qube, a contemporary space in which to partake of an excellent buffet; and at night only at Jamavar, with its signature lobster neeruli dish from Mangalore. The rooms with private plunge pools open to the air are still being done, and the rooftop infinity pool is temporarily closed for repairs. They’re shooting for August or September to be fully functional.
After a gym workout and a sauna session in the cool interiors of the 6,500 sqft spa, I’m welcomed to my spa treatment with a refreshing drink of cocogel, mint, lemon, sugary syrup and black salt. Then I’m led upstairs for an hour’s delicious massage with an ESPA restorative oil also known as ‘a hug in a bottle’ — a mix of myrrh, orange and lavender — and a pink scalp mud that leaves my hair soft and shiny even if I do say so myself. What can I say? It’s all extremely excellent.
The Leela is not perfect. When I soak in my bathroom tub, I reach for the television remote only to discover that the screen so thrillingly inset into the end wall is placed too high to actually see the screen image. (If there’s a trick to it, I did not discover it.) The water closet offers a ‘wipe’ rather than a ‘wash’ option. In The Library bar, all those handsome books are so expensive that you aren’t actually allowed to take them out of the case, much less read them. At Jamavar the menu offers ‘Appertizers’.
It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close to perfect. If you’re looking for a hotel with a heart, luxury with aesthetics and a bit of character, you could do worse than to check into the Leela Palace Kempinski, New Delhi.
Where: Chanakyapuri, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi
Accommodation: 260 rooms and suites: 123 grande deluxe rooms, 79 royal premiere rooms, 39 royal club rooms, 6 junior suites, 2 executive suites, 7 luxury suites, 2 grande suites with plunge pools, 1 royal suite with plunge pool, 1 maharaja suite
Tariff: Rs 18,000 (grand deluxe), Rs 20,000 (royal premiere), Rs 25,000 (royal club). Suites: Rs 36,000 (junior), Rs 45,000 (executive), Rs 65,000 (luxury), Rs 1,25,000 (grande suite with pool), Rs 2,00,000 (royal suite with pool), Rs 5,50,000 (maharaja suite).
Contact 011-39331234, theleela.com
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