A born again iconic hotel checks in

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 09, 2018

The lobby in the Oberoi Delhi gives one a sense of height, light and space

Ta Ta Travertino, Namaste Omya - Changing Flavours: In place of the Italian restaurant, the Oberoi Delhi now has an Indian restaurant

A watering hole with a smart roof - It's a cocktail of tech and heritage at Cirrus9, the rooftop bar, with a view of Humayun's Tomb and a roof that slides out automatically when it is too hot or windy.

The blue walls of The Premier Plus Rooms draw inspiration from the peacock

A sneak peek at the Oberoi Delhi, which re-opens with some new flavours but retains a strong sense of legacy

It’s the most awaited hotel opening – or reopening – in the Capital. On January 1, when the trendsetting Oberoi Delhi throws open its doors after a two-year shutdown for a top-to-bottom overhaul there's lots that’s new. But the multi-million dollar renovation of the hotel that dates back to 1965, has been combined with comforting continuity and a sense of legacy.

It’s a risky proposition to close a hotel for so long especially when there are heavyweight competitors close by. Perhaps that’s why the Oberoi raced to get it opened three months ahead of schedule, with over 1,000 workers toiling 24x7. Every little detail was personally okayed by P R S (Biki) Oberoi, the Oberoi group's executive chairman.

The most striking feature when you walk in is a beautiful art work with clock-like features made with mirrors, agates and other stones that acts as a screen, giving privacy to check-in guests. The intricate art work that has an ethereal lacy look, symbolises different time zones. The idea is to denote that Oberoi is at the service of the guest no matter what the hour.

The swimming pool that the lobby and the Club Bar near the entrance overlooked, has gone – in its place is a lovely water body accessed by a dramatic spiral staircase edged with gold.

Equally dramatic is the elevator, which has touches of gold in a Lutyens-inspired design. The guest rooms too have delicate inlaid gold work on the floors in the same Lutyens motif.

It may be coincidence but the golden touch was there right at the start of the Oberoi Delhi’s journey. The story goes that when the founder, the legendary M S Oberoi, built the hotel, his wife Ishran Devi laid the foundation stone and she slipped in five gold coins into the pit.

Although very contemporary and chic, there is a sense of heritage in the way New York-based Adam Tihany, who has done the interior design, has played with the Lutyens theme here and there. It is evident in the chairs in the restaurants, and especially seen in the cigar lounge, a new addition behind the Club Bar – a masculine preserve with its plumped up sofas.

There’s also smart use of technology with the Oberoi Enhance app in rooms that allows guests to know who is outside the door, control temperature, TV and also view pictures of the food. There are mirror TVs in the bathrooms. At Cirrus9, the rooftop bar, there is a smart roof equipped with sensors that draws the covers when it is too sunny. With stunning views of the Humayun Tomb, and some edgy cocktails on the menu, this could well become Delhi’s favourite watering hole.

Given Delhi’s polluted air, the reincarnated Oberoi has also made clean air a priority, putting in place purification systems that it says uses technology that is ahead of everyone else. The indoor air quality will be top notch it says. It may be noted that rival ITC had announced Indoor Air Quality that meets WHO standards at the Maurya just a few days ago.

Changing Flavours

Instead of the old Italian restaurant, there is an Indian one – Omya, steered by Alfred Prasad, the youngest Indian chef to get a Michelin star. Omya, uniquely, offers a gin pairing with the food. Prasad says he has drawn inspiration from the city of Delhi to create food that is not only pleasing to the palate but to the eye.

Old favourite, the all-day dining threesixty, is intact. The iconic golden tree of life at the lobby remains and is now the theme in the guest rooms and elsewhere.

There are eight categories of rooms, and they're all bigger than before, which means the numbers have come down – from 283 to just 220. There’s a lovely story behind the colour scheme on the walls of the rooms. When Tihany was brainstorming with Biki Oberoi at his farmhouse, a peacock flew down, providing the inspiration for the brilliant blue on the walls.

When it comes to views, it’s the guest who occupies The Presidential Suite – Kohinoor – who gets the best deal with the sprawling Delhi golf course on one side and the Humayun Tomb on the other.

The city’s corporate honchos cannot wait for the hotel to open. Rajendra Pawar, chairman and co-founder NIIT, says since he was deemed worthy enough to be a member at the elite Belvedere back in the late 80s (till date membership is possible only if the chairman sends an invitation), the Oberoi has been his regular haunt. “Wherever I go, whether Kolkata or Mumbai, I always stay at the Oberoi,” he says. And luckily, he says, when the Oberoi Delhi shut down for renovation, around the same time he moved residence to near Gurgaon and started using the Belvedere at Oberoi Gurgaon. But meetings in town have not been the same, he says, expressing his eagerness to see the reborn hotel.

It’s certainly contemporary, elegant with a wow factor. But in the two years that the hotel has been shut, the Leela in Chanakyapuri has managed to get a lot of old Oberoi faithfuls into its doors. Can the Oberoi now woo them back?

Published on December 30, 2017

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