BACKGROUND Unveiled just in time for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October last year, the Leela has since gone through a soft opening, with a final launch party planned to take place this month. Real-estate values have discouraged hotel development in Delhi – Leela’s previous new opening here was out in the satellite city of Gurgaon (40km south-west) in 2009, by the Indira Gandhi International airport (for a feature on Gurgaon, visit businesstraveller.com/archive/2009/september-2009). However, the deep pockets of owner Krishnan Nair meant it was possible to make a US$400 million investment to buy the land and build the property. The hotel is the most expensive in the city, some 20 per cent above competitors such as the Taj Mahal and the Claridges. Certainly, the money is on show, with Murano chandeliers, silver-framed mirrors, Chesterfield chairs and a gold-leaf dome
WHAT’S IT LIKE? At a time when many corporations would shy away from letting their employees stay at a palace, the Leela hasn’t been half-hearted in creating one. Taking design ideas from the prevailing Lutyens architecture of New Delhi, the entrance is flanked by a pair of giant royal elephants hand-carved from Qatari sandstone, while two statues of a Hindu goddess welcome you to the lobby. There are double-height ceilings, original artworks and smartly dressed members of staff everywhere – butlers serve higher category bedrooms and there are more than 50 drivers to look after the 24 limousines that are used for guest transfers.
WHERE IS IT? In Chanakyapuri in the Diplomatic Enclave, on the corner of Africa Avenue and Brig Hoshiar Singh Road, and minutes from more than 50 high commissions and embassies. The airport is half an hour away, traffic permitting.
ROOM FACILITIES There are 11 floors, with a swimming pool on the top one. The hotel has two wings, and the bedrooms face out from either the front or back. My third-floor Grande Deluxe room faced the road but the windows were excellent and I heard little noise from passing traffic.
The interiors are understated and well thought out, with excellent technology including an iTouch that controls everything from the Blu-ray player and large flatscreen Sony Bravia TV to the internet (Rs1,000/£14 per 24 hours) and computer games. All the sockets in the rooms are designed for different sized plugs and voltages, and lights can be turned off with a master switch by the bed. Each also has safes, tea and coffee-making facilities, and luxury robes. Bathrooms are huge with a separate shower and tub.
The 56 sqm executive rooms (Royal Club) are on the eighth and ninth levels. Guests staying in these have exclusive check-in and check-out, an in-room espresso machine, free limo airport transfers, a welcome drink on arrival, and use of the lounge, which offers a free five-meal presentation throughout the day and evening cocktails.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS When all are open, there will be four eateries, including Megu for Japanese (opening May) and Le Cirque (opening in June) for Italian food. I ate in the all-day ground-floor Qube restaurant, an elegant glass box surrounded by water. It serves everything from wood-fired pizzas to Thai cuisine. Also on the ground floor is Jamavar, for fine-dining Indian. The Library bar is seductively lit and the sort of place where you can stretch your expense account with vintage champagne. It has a smoking area outside that will have a further 52 seats when complete this spring.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There is about 966 sqm of event space including eight boardrooms on the first floor, and two ballrooms with a combined capacity of 320 delegates reception-style on the ground floor.
LEISURE FACILITIES The Espa-branded spa is on two levels, with a gym, sauna, steam rooms, relaxation lounge and café on the first floor, and eight treatment spaces and a roof terrace on the second.
VERDICT It’s early days but on the basis of the 75 per cent that was open when I stayed, this is one of the best hotels in Delhi. The location, surrounded by embassies, ensures it has plenty of high-paying guests, and security is impressive, with more than 230 CCTV cameras and 700 staff.
- How many rooms? There are 260 rooms, including 121 Grande Deluxe, 81 Royal Premiere, 39 Royal Club, eight Executive suites, seven Luxury suites, two Grande suites with pools, one Royal suite with a pool and one Maharaja suite.
- Room highlights The iTouch by the bed, which controls everything from the TV to the room temperature.
- Price Internet rates for a midweek stay in May started from Rs19,607 (£434) for a Grande Deluxe room.
- Contact The Leela Palace Kempinski New Delhi, Chanakyapuri; tel +91 113 9331 234; theleela.com