The Imperial Hotel New Delhi, Luxury Escape
The Urban Mum chats with The Imperial Sr Executive VP & GM – Mr Vijay Wanchoo
I speak often of my ongoing curiosity for a peek behind the scenes of the world’s great hotels.
To that end I also love to ‘chat’ with a General Manager . The person responsible for maintaining not only the services and standards of these landmark properties, also the very essence of what makes them standout.
Ensuring guests enjoy a luxe experience
My stay at The Imperial New Delhi began our journey in India. First impressions count for everything, that I left India longing to return – I thank Mr. Vijay Wanchoo, Sr. Executive VP and GM, and his team at The Imperial. When my request for an interview with him was accepted, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about New Delhi through the eyes of a local (read on as secrets to this city are revealed)…
Visiting India was the culmination of much reading and dreaming over years. I first longed to visit the country at the impressionable age of eleven; my best friend’s artist Mother returned from an extended trip to India with a gift of a marble trinket box and stories of all she had seen…I was hooked.
I confess my vision was rose coloured – whilst I consider myself well travelled and a realist – when it came to India my dreams were of afternoons sipping tea on wide verandahs, rainbow hued saris, the heady scents of tropical climes and the throng of metropolitan populations. I wasn’t disappointed as I experienced all this, yet it was a feeling of discovery I took home.
New Delhi India, Luxury Escape with a Local
The Urban Mum, Monique van Tulder (MvT): I am a morning coffee drinker, my first cup becomes a ritual that anchors my day. Which are you, coffee or tea drinker? Where do you enjoy your ‘first cup’?
Mr. Wanchoo: I am a tea fan and ‘Darjeeling’ is my favorite. I take it black with no sugar and the first ‘cuppa’ is at 8 am daily with my breakfast.
MvT: Regardless of corporate branding, great 5 Star Hotels take on the mantle of the city in which they are located. Tell us about New Delhi, how its flavour reflects in the The Imperial?
Mr. Wanchoo: The Imperial is a hotel which was witness to History of New Delhi and India being made. The hotel opened in 1936, more than a decade before our Independence. The various meetings between the Indian political and National Leaders were held at the hotel. Pictorial references are available which show the leaders sitting in 1911 Verandah of the hotel.
The hotel was a part of the original master plan of the city and the design of the exterior relates to all the old buildings of that era hence, the flavor of the city carries through.
MvT: Tell us about your New Delhi.
Mr. Wanchoo: New Delhi- a city where you can find a fine blend of tradition and modernity. A sprinkling of romance of the past, wide tree lined avenues and a mixed profile of inhabitants. Being closer up north, the hills are not far off. One can see clear signs of modernization. The government runs firm here and hence the city is the seat of power. The youth are very progressive and move with the times. I was born here and have lived all my life in the city. For me this is where I will always live.
Not to be missed ‘local’ food experience…You can find typical Delhi cuisine in Old Delhi. This was the area which existed before New Delhi really flourished. Hence, the cuisine is authentic and flavorful.
Favourite Café… I am tempted to say The Atrium at The Imperial being the best Tea Lounge in the city (Mr Wanchoo pictured above enjoying his tea), apart from that I would say United Coffee House, which has been an intrinsic part of Delhi since 1950s and also my all time favorite.
‘Hottest’ fine dining experience in New Delhi…I am quite fond of Olive Bar & Kitchens for Mediterranean cuisine (image above via Olive Bar & Kitchens). If one is looking for unique European dining with live music I would definitely suggest Nostalgia at 1911 Brasserie at The Imperial – taking you back to the era of Jim Reeves, Louise Armstrong, Audrey Hepburn and the like – mesmerising you with live piano music in the background.
Your tailor… I usually use Paul Corporate Fashion. Sandeep Paul the owner is a friend and he is the best.
MvT: India is on the ‘list’, locations like New Delhi are popular and well visited. What is a little known location people should consider for their next India holiday?
Mr. Wanchoo: India has many attractive spots. Rajasthan, Kerala, Agra are the three prime attractions. Yet, there are several other locations for one to see especially in the lap of Himalayas like Uttrakhand. Kashmir, Laddakh, North East regions and Khajuraho are interesting too.
Mvt: What makes a Luxury Escape for you?
Mr Wanchoo: The ‘feeling of luxury’ is enhanced with the location, natural settings, and unique dining options – the little extras extended to guests, such as personalized service – these are the key factors which will make luxuriousness shine.
Experiential luxury is crucial, establishing a legacy which stays with the guests forever
MvT: What is your number one tip for getting the most out of a stay at your Hotel?
I would suggest take a staycation for you to get the complete flavor. Experience your favourite cuisine (The Urban Mum will add that The Spice Route is renowned as one of the top ten restaurants in the world…two words ‘eat there’…); indulge at The Imperial Spa with customised holistic and luxurious rituals; or simply take a walk in the hotel to breathe in India’s unique history (and the indulgence of the jasmine scented lobby).
Thank you for your time Mr. Wanchoo, I loved taking a Luxury Escape with a New Delhi local.
It is well worth mentioning the role ‘Art’ plays in this grand hotel – leading to The Imperial to be known as ‘India’s Museum Hotel…’
…There are long vistas of corridor and rich carpets, delicately shaded wall lamps, chests and brass pots, prints and paintings. Insistence on the authentic has led naturally to research – here a set of old photos taken by a guest, there an unregarded corner little interfered with since the 1930s. A search of rooms, stores, corridors and hallways produces hundreds of pieces of original furniture from antique to art deco.
Each floor in the Hotel is dedicated to an artist whose original works adorn the walls of the rooms and the corridors. Suites are named after personalities such as Lutyens whose names are associated both with the Hotel and Imperial Delhi. Meticulous care has been taken to recreate the room décor and ambience of the period of Raj. The rooms offer a choice of marble or parquet flooring with artistic borders and exquisite Persian hand-knotted carpets. Each room also has unique antique pieces of furniture and paintings from the art collection of the Hotel.
A hotel with an in-house Chanel Boutique – say no more!
The Urban Mum’s New Delhi Highlights
Our stay was brief, however we booked the Hotel driver for a full day of adventure, culture and shopping – New Delhi style…
Ride in a Rickshaw – it was with a soupçon of trepidation that we hopped on a rickshaw on the outskirts of Old Delhi, within moments we were assailed with the most incredible sounds and sights – a wonderful way to immerse yourself head first into the sensation that is India.
Stopping to look around Jama Masjid (Old Mosque) – 300 rupee entry’s each – head covers and removal of shoes mandatory.
Old Delhi Markets – Chandi Chowk. Laneways so narrow we left our rickshaws and continued on foot. Generations of textile sellers, food shops and traditional jewellery lined the passages. The electrical wiring needed to be seen to be believed – how they sort out the electricity bills is anyone’s guess!
Next stop Sis Ganj Sahib (the Sikh Temple). A beautiful experience (again head covering and no shoes, these were left with a shoe check at the side of the building). We observed Worshippers enjoying the sounds of traditional musicians (you are offered special ‘blessed’ food at the exit, you do not need to accept).
The Red Fort – time only to enjoy the vastness of this incredible structure from the outside- next time this UNESCO listed complex will get my full attention.
India Gate , an ‘Arc-de-Triomphe’ styled archway – when viewed silhouetted against the dusk sky it is breathtaking…
Khan Market – described as the Double Bay of Delhi – maybe not, yet lots of fun. My pick of the shops;
Cafe Coffee Day – up the rickety stairs for a great iced Coffee.
‘Dilli Haat Delhi‘ handicraft markets, entry of rupee 20 per person) – showcasing products from various regions throughout India. The stalls change every five weeks, we met some of the Artisans and discovered quality items at reasonable prices. Several hours later, several baggage kilos heavier, highlights included;
Miniature paintings on silk
Cashmere and silk pashminas
Leather hand painted lampshades and brightly coloured decorations for children’s rooms
Sagar Ratna – part of a restaurant chain with the best Dosa…
Learn More About New Delhi…
The Imperial Hotel New Delhi, Luxury Escape