On the eve of its 20th anniversary, the Manor boutique hotel—once adopted out of its ‘best-kept-secret’ status by Old World Hospitality and set up as a bright small star with the advent of Indian Accent (since shifted to the Lodhi)—has come nearly full circle, back home with the team that you might call its birth parents, Ram Wasan and the interior design team of Shirkey Fujikawa and Vinay Kapoor at studio u+a. Except Asaya House hopes to groom its baby into a more contemporary, yet authentically homegrown experience.
The Manor is still a well-travelled youth, exclusive and nothing parochial. The old terrazzo floors around the Onyx bar (new licence awaited) have been extended as a leitmotif across the property, replacing then-chic wooden floors in some rooms. The oversized gravel-studded cement stratum was executed by Indian artisans trained by the original Italian team from the Manor’s infancy. New furniture and furnishings have a distinct Japanese inflexion, courtesy Fujikawa. There’s a touch of wabi-sabi to the crockery (superb sourcing), handspun cushions and throws.
What’s out: a reception area(!), because what’s the point? The former lobby is now a communal space to work in, meet in, greet in perhaps, and certainly selfie in. The check-in happens right in your room instead. Also gone: the small swimming pool, giving way to a sundeck off the little library on the upstairs landing, and a lawn below that can host ‘small’ sit-down parties of 50 wedding guests or old-friends’ get-togethers, possibly more economically and environmentally sound choices in the national capital.
The annexe, almost entirely overhauled, now houses a Studio 60 gym with fitness classes and a station of ‘power’ snacks and beverages (you will be charged separately for use of this energetic space, so talk to guest services first). Next door is a four-room ‘clinic’ with a more medicalised approach to aesthetics that had me almost run screaming (its menu runs from hymen repair to a hangover drip). More heartening, an Ayurvedic spa will open upstairs by 2020—House of Ayurveda is a partnership with Kairali and may take a leaf out of half-sibling Mekosha, the Thiruvananthapuram retreat Wasan and company launched earlier this monsoon. Noci, an Italy-inspired casual European eatery with an indoor pizza oven and outdoor patio will open on to the lawn come winter. Till then, there’s the all-day Verandah off the bar, with a three-trick comfort-food menu of Indian, Thai, Continental.
Of course, there is no way the current staff, led by GM Akshay Chawla, can avoid the elephant that’s left the building—Indian Accent’s successor In-Q launches this month with a different take on contemporary Indian cuisine. At the helm is chef Aditya Kumar Jha, inspired by regional Indian street foods. We don’t want to give away too many surprises off the decidedly drama-filled tasting menu, but imagine a sweet starter with a fiery explosion and a manmade (Scotch-ish) egg with a distinctly organ-ic yolk. (For the wary and the extra hungry, there is a Pandara Road-ish chicken and naan course, too.)
The rooms, once 14 in all, are now rounded down to a dozen. The two at the back overlooking the railway line, often fielding complaints of loud rumbles and whistles in the night, were shut. The others have added unabashedly local accents: Nespresso machines with Dharkan pods, HillCart Tales teas, and olive oil-baked makhana in the mini bar, tea-and-basil toiletries in the bathrooms. The in-room menu also very hospitably covers most of Verandah’s offerings.
And the hotel staff, to my delight, was a study in positive attitude.
The hotel accomodates 4 executive, 3 deluxe and 3 signature rooms; 1 studio suite and 1 Manor suite.