by Laura Ivill, The Telegraph, March 13, 2018
The Oberoi New Delhi’s Kohinoor Suite has long been a preferred choice for the heads of state that regularly visit town, and now its 325sq metres (3,500sq ft) have been given a modern makeover by Indian interior designer Vinod Goswami. Plain and simple in places, the suite's regimented layout is softened by Indian silk panelling, upholstery and scatter cushions. It’s discreet from the outside - simply 'Room 850', found at the end of a corridor – but it's more than a suite on the inside: its vast scale means it feels more like a fully catered apartment within the hotel. The team at The Oberoi New Delhi will no doubt hope this new look will attract an esteemed and influential guest: Nicolas Sarkozy, Giorgio Armani, Queen Mathilde of Belgium and the Dalai Lama all stayed in the Kohinoor Suite before its recent renovation.
It’s the clever configuration of the nine rooms that makes it so popular with dignitaries who want a functional working space as well as a retreat from the heat and clamour of the city. Beyond the hallway, with its (rather creepy-looking) life-size Dimply Menon bronze sculpture of a woman seated on a chair, day guests can be received for meetings, conversation and dinner in a vast open-plan room to the left, which features a living and office space with a floor-to-ceiling sliding door and an eight-person dining room with adjacent butler's pantry. To the right of the hallway are the private rooms – sitting room, four-poster bedroom, en suite bathroom, dressing room and a wellness room with monolithic treadmill and massage table.
The penthouse suite, spread over the eighth floor of the hotel, has impressive vistas across the woodland of Delhi golf course, with eagles soaring around you. A clever back door from the dressing room (for laundry) and one from the kitchen mean that staff don’t need to walk through. Elegance is added by hand-embroidered linen curtains, hand-knotted rugs and carved wooden furniture inspired by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Tech includes five 55" TVs strategically placed so that the occupier need never be separated from world events, and iPads control lighting, temperature and the like. Women butlers are available for female guests.
Conceived in 1965 by the late Mohan Singh Oberoi as Delhi’s first privately owned luxury hotel, the modernist exterior is all that remains of its first incarnation. The recent two-year, $100 million (£72.5 million) remodelling has reduced the number of rooms and suites from 283 to 220. While it was closed, Indian society held its breath, so beloved is the hotel for parties, celebrations and meetings.
Reopening months early, everyone can breathe easily again – not least because it boasts a state-of-the-art air purification system, much needed as a respite from the noxious Delhi smog. The glamorous lobby is as big as an ice rink, where a magnificent lapis lazuli, shell and mirror artwork joins the original Tree of Life carved artwork from the 1960s, the icon of the hotel.
The who’s who of Delhi still gathers in “Delhi’s drawing room”, now remodelled as threesixty restaurant and bar. New additions include a destination rooftop bar, Cirrus9, a lively modern Chinese restaurant, Baoshuan, by Andrew Wong from Michelin-starred A Wong in London, and the ground-floor, slightly overlit, modern Indian restaurant Omya. The elegant spa and business centre overlook a vast courtyard with outdoor dining. The rooms, and especially the suites, are gorgeous – lots of natural light, silks and views – balconies are a bonus.
What to expect
The Kohinoor suite is incredibly peaceful, no doubt due to the tree-top views of the woodland that stretch all the way to the horizon – this is a space in which to fully relax and think. That's when the weather is clear, of course. During my winter stay, it was hard to distinguish the fog from the smog - the nearby UNESCO World Heritage tomb of the 16th-century Mughal Emperor Humayun was obscured.
So big is the suite that I didn’t hear my butler ringing the doorbell, but I was the first to stay post-reopening, and that issue has since been rectified. When I needed tech help, engineers were prompt to arrive and fixed the problem quickly. Service, on the whole, is outstanding. There’s a genuine “one big family” feeling about the place, which sits well with its fresh, elegant and slick new look.
Having an iPad as a remote control is increasingly common, especially in a suite so large, but what's noteworthy here is that it actually works intuitively. Everything is clearly labelled – you turn the lighting off section by section as you retire, and then use it to open the blinds and curtains in the morning without getting out of bed. Room service is ordered by tapping the pictures – if you fancy a healthy breakfast, just tick your options and it’s delivered in a jiffy. As a media hub, there are hundreds of TV, film, radio channels and libraries, and even Radio 4 for some home comfort.
Not so keen
Unfortunately the hotel's enormous outdoor swimming pool is marred by the sound of the building’s powerful air-con units. It’s as loud as lounging on a runway.
It feels a bit like staying at The Lanesborough on Hyde Park Corner – grand and green. With their base set in the heart of New Delhi, both holidaymakers and business travellers have everything on the doorstep – Lutyens’ New Delhi architecture, embassies and shopping districts are all easily accessed.