When the Oberoi group announces a new hotel, it isn’t hard to predict what awaits you. It’ll be luxurious, of course. The location will be spot on. The aesthetic will be defined largely by traditional architecture, opulent chandeliers, Italian marble underfoot, elegant furniture… Or maybe not. The Oberoi Gurgaon — the group’s newest arrival — is, quite literally, a dazzling departure from the brand’s carefully cultivated identity of sumptuousness and grandeur.
Get past the toll gates to Gurgaon, turn off the NH-8 towards the Trident (the hotel’s older sibling) and you’ll soon find yourself on an ascending, serpentine driveway flanked by soaring vertical lawns — as if to evoke the hills. City life is, indeed, deceptively miles away. Moments later, you pull up in an open bare area, so unassuming that you’re not quite sure you’ve arrived yet. Until you focus on the shiny steel-and-glass edifice that looms right before you. Invisible doors slide open soundlessly in anticipation of your entry. The atrium — a blindingly bright space of light and glass — is the focal point of the hotel, from which it seems the rest of the property takes its cue. Functionality is clearly key: the only elements in this vast lobby are the reception desk, a few modernistic seating arrangements in red-and-black and two gigantic globes of crimson flowers that, together with the furniture, stand in striking contrast to the stark white colour scheme. But the highlight is really the transparent walls that dissolve all boundaries between inside and outside, giving you a sense of infinity. In skyscraper-crammed Gurgaon, this is no small achievement.
While this isn’t the group’s first stab at a contemporary-style hotel (the Oberoi Mumbai was perhaps the first real example of the brand shedding its old persona in favour of a minimalist aesthetic), this level of edgy modernism is definitely a break as well as what looks like an overt attempt to be the last word in urban sophistication. And guess what? It works.
My room was ample (in most other hotels it could have been a suite, really), understated and monochromatic without sliding into anonymity. Everything was at the flick of a button; electronic blinds glided upwards to frame a view of the pool below. The stand-out was the bathroom, though, with a correspondingly generous amount of space devoted to it and a free-standing bathtub backed by pretty views of treetops and Gurgaon’s skyline in the distance. Interestingly, all the rooms and suites (aside from the presidential, I suppose) offer the same décor and amenities — they vary only in size, with some of the larger suites accommodating 17m pools.
I spent the afternoon in my room, alternating between napping and channel surfing. Somewhere in between I was informed by my very own Jeeves (again, they come with every room) that my dinner appointment had been fixed for 8pm at Amaranta.
A big part of the Oberoi experience is dining, and it isn’t taken lightly here either. Amaranta, their upscale seafood restaurant, brings the flavours of the coast — from Gujarat and Kochi to Orissa and Kolkata and every port in between— straight to your plate. Emphasis is on fresh ingredients with seafood flown in every day from Kolkata, Kerala and Visakhapatnam as well as an aquarium for live lobsters and crabs that have made the long journey from Lakshadweep. Each course arrives pre-plated and the chef makes an appearance to check on your meal or pair a wine/champagne with it. My meal was constructed with excellent crab cakes, a juicy lobster slathered in butter-pepper-garlic sauce, twice roasted duck and pork stir-fried with coconut. The desserts aren’t neglected either and, regardless of your sense of adventure, you can’t dine here without ordering the chocolate dosa.
A less formal affair is 361°, a spin-off on the wildly popular 360° at Oberoi New Delhi. The glass-and-light theme continues from the lobby above, enhanced by a soothing expanse of indigo water ahead. Opposite, a glass-fronted shopping arcade is set to open soon. Unlike 360°, however, the spotlight isn’t on Japanese. Instead, individual sections present Indian, Oriental, Italian, sushi and teppanyaki — though the winners are the sushi and the wood-fired pizzas.
For all its attention to detail, however, there were minor glitches. Steam rooms that didn’t work after a well-executed spa treatment; room keys that wouldn’t unlock my door and some brief, random power cuts. But I’d put them down to teething issues; the hotel is after all barely two months old. And knowing the Oberoi, these snags are probably already a thing of the past. As are a lot of our old associations with it. Oberoi Gurgaon is the next generation of hotels and certainly has more than the brand to recommend it.
Where: 443 UdyogVihar, Phase V, Gurgaon (contiguous with the Trident)
Accommodation: 202 rooms and suites: 20 deluxe rooms, 39 luxury rooms, 128 premier rooms, 8 deluxe suites, 3 luxury suites, 1 premier suite, 2 premier suites with pool and 1 presidential suite with pool
Tariff: Rooms: Rs 32,000 (deluxe), Rs 36,000 (luxury), Rs 40,000 (premier). Suites: Rs 70,000 (deluxe), Rs 1,00,000 (luxury), Rs 1,30,000 (premier), Rs 1,50,000 (premier with pool), Rs 3,00,000 (presidential)
Contact: 0124-2451234, oberoihotels.com