All great cities have a great historical hotel full of character. And The Imperial, built in 1931 by F. B. Blomfield, an associate of Sir Edwin Lutyens, is Delhi’s.
The iconic hotel was designed to be one of the finest monuments of Lutyens’ grand vision of the capital city’s original master plan presenting a unique blend of Victorian, Old Colonial and Art Deco styles. The hotel was named and conferred the exquisite Lion Insignia by Lady Willingdon. It was the first amongst the legendary Four Maidens of the East, which some say included The Strand hotel in Rangoon, Raffles Hotel in Singapore and The Great Eastern & The Oriental in Calcutta.
Pandit Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten met at The Imperial to discuss the partition of India and creation of Pakistan. The Nehru family had a permanent suite here.
So, as you would expect, The Imperial is seriously good. You’ll be greeted by giant doormen sporting archaic moustaches finely dressed in richly coloured turbans, ice-white formal dress and the shiniest brass buttons you’ve ever seen. Step inside to find elegant interiors with walls covered in painting and pictures harking back to the British Raj.
Fine art is a hallmark of the hotel. There is a vast number of fascinating paintings, portraits and photographs displaying insights into the colonial era, many being originals from 18th and 19th Centuries. There are also more invigorating artworks including watercolour landscapes and wildlife from across India.
Make no mistake, The Imperial is a big hotel with 235 rooms. But it doesn’t feel big. In fact, it has a cosiness and familiarity to it which you feel as soon as your enter the spacious lobby and are invited to sit on the soft deep red chesterfield sofas for check in, as if in your own home.
Other than your own room, life generally centres around the 1911 bar which is covered floor to ceiling with portraits of soldiers, maharajas and British officers, along with their medals, including a Victoria Cross, and other paraphernalia.
There are plenty of restaurants to chose from: Nostalgia at 1911 is superb multi-cuisine, whilst Daniel’s Tavern dishes up delectable pan-Indian fare. The Spice Route has a broad fan base amongst the Delhi elite who come to dine on the divine Southern Asian cuisine.
The 190 rooms and 43 suites are simple in their understated elegance. You’ll find huge king-sized beds, quality monogrammed linen, thick duvets and a delicate selection of reproduction antique furniture sitting on famous white marble from the city of Udaipur. And perhaps predictably there are more pictures of the glory days of the British Empire.
The hotel’s pool area is fab, a tranquil, refreshing experience, dotted by Royal Palms and nestled in the shaded grounds of the hotel.s It’s great for laps or to cool off after a day’s sightseeing. Our favourite afternoon treat: the steak sandwich and a fresh lime and soda – no sugar! – lying beside the pool. And if you are more inclined to be good to yourself the spa is second to none, along with a well-appointed underground gym along with yoga studio and even a squash court.
PRICE: Punchy but doesn’t blow the budget
RATING: Wow factor
Thoughts on a postcard
On Indian Independence Day, The Imperial staged a magnificent parade of its top brass in military-style ceremonial dress. We were invited to release balloons of hope and then happily tucked into the delicious celebratory lunch!