Sign Up for Our Monthly Asia Newsletter
To have mistaken the view from my picture window for New York’s Central Park wouldn’t have been totally ridiculous. The sea of green treetops reminded me of an aerial view of New York’s lush sprawl, but with one major difference. In the Upper East Side, unnecessary honking is illegal. In New Delhi, honking is as basic and expected as raising your hand to speak or using your fingernail to relieve an itch.
I was prepared for India’s noise but pleasantly surprised by what I couldn’t hear and could see from my room at Le Meridien New Delhi. At other properties in India, even the luxury ones, the view and soundtrack aren’t always pleasant.
Not so at the 358-room Le Meridien, which is located in Lutyens’ Delhi, the area designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens and the team tasked with building New Delhi between 1914 and 1931. Surrounding the hotel are wide boulevards, including the Raj Path, European-style roundabouts and lush foliage. Nearby are major landmarks such as Rashtrapati Bhavan (the president’s residence) and the India Gate war memorial, which takes unmistakable aesthetic cues from the Arc de Triomphe.
Since there’s no topping the classic Islamic, Hindu and European-style art and architecture of the city’s best monuments, Le Meridien stands out for taking on contemporary style instead.
“The hotel has been architecturally renowned,” said Meena Bhatia, vice president of marketing and operations at Le Meridien New Delhi. “It made history when it opened 25 years ago, bringing to the country the first and tallest atrium lobby and a glass-wall facade. Its renovation in 2011 was another revolution as we pioneered juxtaposing contemporary art and technology to lend a strikingly unique and inspiring ambiance.”
Curved lines; metal; a color palette of white, black and red; and pieces of contemporary art contribute to the overall funky aesthetic of the property.
“Le Meridien hotels globally embrace contemporary art to unlock local destinations for our guests,” Bhatia said. “Our lobby features artwork by leading Indian contemporary artist duo Tagra and Thakral. Their piece ‘Homosapiens’ is a projection on the lobby floor, a digital canvas which is an ensemble of lifestyle icons that interact with guests by following their footsteps.”
While not on the cutting edge of global modern design, the hotel’s look still manages to feels novel. In a nation known for centuries-old mosques and temples, there’s something special about the fact that two white blob-like pieces by British architect Zaha Hadid are on display between a snack bar serving Illy lattes and eclairs and a breakfast buffet serving masala dosas and eggs. The One buffet restaurant tows the line between Western and classic Indian well, serving pancakes alongside hot-off-the-tandoor Indian breads that manage to be crunchy, doughy and charred all at once.
Unfortunately there is no outdoor rooftop space, but there is a bar and a restaurant on the 20th floor. Henri’s Bar, with its selection of liquors and cigars, might very well be the most posh spot in all of New Delhi.
On the fourth floor, there’s a spa offering Ayurvedic treatments, an indoor gym and an outdoor space that includes some lounge chairs and an elevated circular pool. Three rooms with a variety of workout equipment, wraparound windows and easy access to the pool make this gym a true standout.
Though the hotel is large, the staff is efficient and subtle. If I needed anything in my room, during meals, at the gym or at check-in, I was always acknowledged quickly. At the same time, this is not the type of hotel where staffers are likely to schmooze with guests. This efficiency is one way the property is a great fit for business guests.
“The hotel has one of the largest contemporary and technologically smart meeting facilities, so medium to large meetings, conventions and conferences make great business for the hotel,” Bhatia said.
And despite the $6 daily fee to use Wi-Fi, it’s pretty easy to do work here, too. Guestrooms are spacious, comfortable and include design-forward elements. Wood-paneled walls are sleek, iridescent stones make the bathroom sparkle and the ambient blue LED-light projection above the bed sets a cool mood.
Still though, the best place to be is by the window, where New Delhi is at its finest.