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Small is beautiful

Small is beautiful
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First Published: Thu, Sep 27 2007. 06 32 PM IST

Mallik uses the money he earns to support ecologically-friendly programmes in the Himalayas
Mallik uses the money he earns to support ecologically-friendly programmes in the Himalayas
Updated: Thu, Sep 27 2007. 06 32 PM IST
The capital city’s hotels are bulging at the seams. With occupancy rates at 78% according to hospitality consultancy company HVS International, hotels—especially four-star and above—are capitalizing on the tourism and business visitor influx, and raising rates quickly. The room rate has gone up 38.3% in the last year alone. The average room rate is now pegged around Rs9,705 a night plus taxes. As hotels in New Delhi become higher priced and overbooked, finding a place to lay your head here is more of a headache than ever.
But savvy travellers are now turning their noses up at the large hotel chains and searching for hidden gems in the city: boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts or guest houses. Vikram Sharma, a New York-based businessman, often travels between India, Dubai and the US, establishing call centres for US companies. “When I used to come to Delhi in 2003, getting a room at a five-star hotel would cost around Rs5,000-6,000,” he says. “Now I have to pay Rs10,000 minimum.” Since his job requires him to stay in New Delhi for months at a time, he was fed up of the skyrocketing costs. A friend referred him to On-the-House, a bed and breakfast in South Delhi. “It costs Rs2,500 a night and it’s a great place to stay. The caretaker is a chef and cooks breakfast for me. I don’t even want to stay in one of the five-star hotels any more.” Sharma is not alone. For the many frequent flyers to New Delhi, here are five spots, each with their own reasons, that will keep you out of the five-star hotels.
Merkha Lutyens
Mallik uses the money he earns to support ecologically-friendly programmes in the Himalayas
Baljit Mallik, poet, jazz aficionado, world traveller, ecologist, father, guesthouse Don. To visit the Merkha Lutyens is to enter Mallik’s world. A high-ceiling Lutyens bungalow, spread luxuriously over three-and-a-half acres of fertile gardens, Mallik’s family home has ample space for a few extra guests. Eleven years ago, tired of meeting the same faces in New Delhi, Mallik decided to invite guests on a business basis. Now, he has a constant flux of visitors stopping by for a few nights’ stay. If Mallik is enjoying a glass of wine, he will likely invite you for a glass. Sit and listen to him talk about the time he danced with a 20-year-old Nina Simone, how he bartended at the same spot in Copenhagen where Dexter Gordon used to play, or how corporations are exploiting his beloved Himalayas. Eclectic art—such as a porcelain statue of a sax player—decorates the main living and dining room of his home. And guests can browse and borrow from the bookcases lining two of the walls. In the morning, enjoy the peace and quiet of a morning chai on his back terrace, overlooking an expansive garden. Though the bedrooms are typical of an older Indian home—sparse furnishings, simple, attached bathrooms—you can’t beat the price. Rs2,500 for a single room and Rs3,500 for a double comes with Mallik’s impeccable hosting skills plus dinner and breakfast. The delicious, home-cooked food can be modified to guests’ tastes, as long as the cook has the right ingredients. Even when the cook doesn’t, though, Mallik will do his best to accommodate you. When a guest mentioned his love for sausages, Mallik quickly ordered some from a farmer friend for the guest to take with him the next morning.
What you get: AC, clean sheets, good water pressure, no Internet, dinner and breakfast included. Pay by cash or cheque.
Booking: Call in advance at 91-11-2338 5270
Murad and Tannie Baig converted their fourth-floor bedroom into a room for guests
For the intellectual epicure, look no further than Murad and Tannie’s guest room. The couple opened their fourth-floor bedroom to visitors just over a year ago when a travel agent friend could not find space for a client in a hotel. From 2003 until this year, they had run a guest house in the Himalayas, so they were well versed in hospitality. Since they sold the guest house, they’re happy to have the freedom to take in guests when they’re at home in New Delhi. The Rs3,500 bedroom is spacious, with an attached, blue-tiled bathroom. It opens on to a large rooftop garden, perfect during winter. The Baigs also occasionally rent out their study, a small room with two beds and a bathroom for Rs2,500. The price includes a night’s stay and breakfast. For any guest who “shows any enthusiasm for good food”, Tannie—author of 16 cookbooks and a chef who conducts classes in her kitchen—is happy to whip up a meal. Murad, a history and religion buff and author of Reflections in a Sacred Pond, can rapidly fall into a religious dissertation, should the guest feel so inclined. He pulls out references to 14th century Muslim saints in the same breath as the cowboy culture of the US’ West. While very friendly and likable, the couple prefer like-minded guests. So, visitors ought to be prepared to make new friends. Luckily, the Baigs do seem like friends, with quite a few benefits.
What you get: AC, clean sheets, adequate water pressure, Internet. Pay by cash or cheque.
Booking: Call in advance at 91- 9811068234, though rooms can be available the same day. Longer stays are welcome.
The Manor
The Manor claims to be New Delhi’s first boutique hotel
If you want a different pace than the bustling Oberois and Tajs, but don’t want to compromise on luxury, opt for New Delhi’s first boutique hotel, The Manor. This quiet, elegant getaway contrasts sharply with the pomp and circumstance of most five-star hotels. Tucked away on a tree-lined street in Friends Colony West, the hotel resides in a home built in the 1950s. However, a total refurbishment has brought the building firmly into the 21st century. The Japanese interior designer, Shelley Fujika, used a cream, olive and brown palette to create a fresh, modern look. The 10 rooms use dark marble in the restrooms, wood-panelled walls and cream carpets for a spacious appearance, and the attached bathrooms all have showers and baths. Wireless is available in the rooms and there is also a work area for guests without laptops. During good weather, guests can enjoy the acre of land, sharing a cocktail on the terrace overlooking the lawn, or taking tea on the rooftop balcony. A small, sleek bar—the Onyx—has room for 15 to 20 patrons, and a gold and silver chess set. Guests can also dine at the 77 restaurant, which serves an Indian and Mediterranean menu. However, be prepared to pay for the lush living. Standard rooms start at Rs9,000, with the Manor Suite costing around Rs18,000 a night.
What you get: AC, clean sheets, good water pressure, wireless Internet. Pay by cash, cheque or credit card. Booking: Call in advance at 91-11-26925151 or 26927510
This small bed-and-breakfast holds the key to any businessperson’s heart: fast, wireless Internet. At no extra cost, patrons can sign on to the Web on their laptops and spend the night preparing for the next day’s meeting. The second-floor flat, with three guest rooms, can feel a bit cramped in the living/dining area, but the bedrooms are spacious, with room for a seating area, a desk and a bed. After a nightcap in the main room, guests can slip away to their rooms to work, watch television or sleep. The rooms have few frills, but the owner, Aradhna Lanba—who is also an interior decorator—has recently redone them in bright, cheerful colours. The bed and breakfast also has a well-stocked bookcase, obviously chosen with care. And, if you really can’t sleep, you can play Monopoly or checkers or dominoes from the toy closet. The whole place has the feel of your friend’s mother’s home, with family portraits on the wall, and lace doilies on the chairs, but if that’s the case, the mother keeps out of the way and lets you unwind as you see fit. The only downside of this is that some single women may feel a bit uncomfortable without the safety of multiple guards or guests. The price of a single room is Rs2,500 and a double, Rs3,000.
What you get: AC, no top sheet, average water pressure, fast Wireless, breakfast included. Pay by cash or cheque.
Booking: Call in advance at 91-98110 47414, and do mention the time of arrival. If you are likely to check in past 10pm, the caretaker must know, so he is awake upon your arrival.
Amarya Garden
When a place does little advertising and everyone still talks about it, you know you’re on to something good. French owners Alexandre Lieury and Mathieu Chanardof also own the Amarya Haveli, a Hauz Khas hotel. They started the Amarya Garden as another option for visiting friends, but word soon leaked out. While still in the same price range as many five-stars, this building offers large bedrooms, each with its own decorative theme, with wireless Internet, flat-screen TVs and attached modern bathrooms. The furniture and textiles have been carefully chosen by an interior designer to create a young, hip, elegant look—much more happening lounge than guest house. A large living room, done in bright pinks, offers reading material such as Marie Claire and Time Out . After the rains, the garden will reopen, with seating areas and a large outdoor bed. A single room runs to about Rs7,400 and a double to around Rs8,400.
What you get: AC, clean sheets, good water pressure, wireless. Pay by credit card or cash.
Booking:Call in advance at 91-11-46562735
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First Published: Thu, Sep 27 2007. 06 32 PM IST
More Topics: Guest house | Five-star hotels | Lounge |