Being so grandly named, The Leela Palace New Delhi’s Maharaja Suite has a lot to live up to. With a private plunge pool, butler service and a slew of impressive amenities at guests’ disposal, it can justly claim its place as one of the most extravagant places to stay in the city.
The suite: The Leela Palace New Delhi’s Maharaja Suite makes its regal leanings clear from the moment guests enter the door. Right by the entrance hang black-and-white pictures of four late maharajas, all impressively attired in local ceremonial wear.
The focal point of the 1,520sq ft (141sq m) suite is its elongated sitting room, with its vaulted ceiling finished in gold leaf work; copious Indian artworks including first-edition lithographs decorated with semi-precious stones, and sculptural works made entirely of silver; small study area; and an eight-person dining table. Stretching over almost the entirety of the floor, a silk rug is hand-woven and hand-knotted.
Dinner parties can be coordinated by the hotel’s team of butlers working from the suite’s pantry and sundowners can be hosted on the ninth-floor suite’s private terrace, where an oversized window overlooks an unexpectedly lush section of the city.
Sadly plain and aesthetically restrained save for a rug intricately decorated with a floral motif, the solitary bedroom stands alongside a small walk-in wardrobe and spacious bathroom with Japanese Toto toilet and a stockpile of products by English brand Asprey (rather than an Indian brand as might be expected in a suite that pays homage to the country’s heritage).
The hotel:Elegant and efficiently run by charming, switched-on staff, the Leela Palace New Delhi could pose convincingly as a long-established grande dame despite being only six years old. Immaculately attired with custom-made furniture (including chairs covered in shimmering mother of pearl) and innumerable examples of Indian art, it is a beautifully styled space that is enticingly perfumed too – throughout, fragrant floral displays are fashioned from the 16,000 blooms that are delivered to the property every single day (the previous day’s consignment is donated to NGOs who transform the petals into Holi powder and other revenue-generating commodities).
There are further distractions for guests who would like to spend their evenings in situ rather than mired in Delhi’s innervating traffic jams. A member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts portfolio, the hotel houses the city’s only Espa spa; its rooftop is crowned by an infinity pool, and dining options are varied and impressive.
All-day venue Qube stands by a tranquil internal garden; Jamavar serves high-end Indian food; elegant Le Cirque offers French and Italian dishes; at the end of a triple-height curved corridor, stylish eatery Megu serves inventive – and consistently delicious - Japanese food. Request a table by the central dining room’s transparent Buddha, which rests under a sturdy bell that is in fact made of papier-mache, and try the signature shira ae, a flavoursome blend of yellow squash, tofu and sesame, and wasabi cheesecake.
What to expect: All suite guests are provided with access to the hotel’s traditionally styled, golden-hued Royal Club lounge, where complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktails are served at different times of day. It’s a 30-second walk from the Maharaja Suite and provides a gateway to the hotel’s additional services, with a service and concierge desk on site.
Occasionally unintuitive and outmoded electronic devices (as detailed below) irritate, but the space otherwise functions well and butler service is available should guests need assistance at any point. Though the suite’s expansive lounge is positioned as its focal point, it is in fact the private terrace that guests will find themselves repeatedly drawn.
Big enough to accommodate outdoor yoga sessions for two and flanked by triple-height walls that rise to create a James Turrell-like frame through which to admire the sky above, its plunge pool is an irresistible retreat on balmy Delhi nights and provides an intimate private alternative to the occasionally crowded main pool.
Standout feature: Definitely the aforementioned plunge pool.
Not so keen:Technological features could be improved: the living room’s Bang + Olufsen television seems minuscule in such a vast space (and proved unexpectedly difficult to turn off); only Apple devices can be docked on the suite’s small speaker, Android users are ignored. Those who like to sleep in complete silence may find the bedroom’s air-conditioning system too noisy – I needed ear plugs to block the hum. Strange too, that while the bathroom door closes as expected it can’t be locked; a separate guest WC does, however, provide this commonplace feature.
Location:Near the diplomatic district, the hotel is minutes from many of the capital’s embassies and a world away from the clamour of the city centre. Parks and tree-lined avenues surround the building and though the din of Delhi traffic remains inescapable, the setting can be considered relatively peaceful. Connaught Place is about five miles away and the hotel can arrange excellent guided drives for those who would like to explore the city’s attractions or day-long visits to the Taj Mahal for those who would like to see the unmissable landmark without committing to a stay in Agra.
The details:Rooms at The Leela Palace New Delhi (+ 91 11 39331234) hotel start at INR18,200 (£220); the Maharaja Suite costs INR250,000 (£3,000) per night. Rates include breakfast.