Even though the latest Leela in town is called The Leela Palace, this is not yet another luxury hotel housed in a refurbished, antiquated palatial fort or haveli creaking at the seams. For one, there is no impressive, long-winding driveway leading up to a grandiose structure. The entry gates sit on a roundabout, roads from which lead to Sarojini Nagar, a housing colony for government officials, the still under-construction colony for members of Parliament and their staff, and Chanakyapuri, the diplomatic enclave of the Capital. Yet the two giant elephants carved in sandstone shouldering a condensed porte-cochère (carriage porch) make for a magnificent entry and extend a somewhat “royal” welcome.
The Leela Palace hotel sits on land that was sold four years ago at a government auction for Rs 700 crore. So if you are looking for history lurking in this “palace’s” nooks and crannies, keep in mind that it will hardly be more than a month old. The building, in true Leela style, has been fashioned out of pinkish-beige-coloured sandstone and is shaped like a butterfly. The hotel has 260 rooms out of which 123 are Grand Deluxe, 79 Royal Premiere, 39 Royal Club, eight Executive suites, seven Luxury suites, two Grande suites and one Royal, with private plunge pools each, and one 4,300 sq. ft Mahajara suite.
The left wing of the building houses the ball rooms on the ground floor and boardrooms on the first and second floors. The right wing encloses the Library bar, the signature Leela restaurant Jamavar, which serves North-West Frontier cuisine, on the ground floor, and the Jeffrey Wilkes designed Espa, complete with a spa café, on the first and second floors. The rooms and suites are housed between the third and ninth floors, with the 10th floor—the rooftop—exclusively reserved for a plunge pool for guests. Prepare to be surprised by the huge size of the Polish embassy spied upon from here and the sight of miniature “pink” government flats on one side, reminding you of Jaipur.
Like The Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon, this property too displays the work of various Indian artists, prominent among them being Satish Gupta, Satish Gujral, Paresh Maity and Laxma Goud. Most of the art for the hotel has been specially commissioned for the property, hence the two recurring motifs—the elephant and lotus—liberally dot this three-acre property. A giant brass and gold-plated mural of 1,000 lotuses in various stages of flowering by Gupta decorates the porch attached to the lawns; elephants are etched throughout the outer and inner facade of the building near the roof; a 10-piece lotus painting also by Gupta flanks an entire wall in the lobby. Every room has six or eight framed black and white photographs by various artists showcasing Delhi.
While none of the pieces displayed at the lobby level is a show-stopper, one piece that will draw attention is a “Devi” sculpture by Gupta. About 10ft tall, this bronze and copper sculpture is strategically placed beyond the French windows that face the entry doors in the lobby and sits amid green landscaped gardens and a profusion of drooping stems of dahlias and daisies…very different from the usually manicured gardens of most hotels.
At 550 sq. ft each, the Grand Deluxe rooms (Rs 25,000 plus 10% tax) have an iPod dock through which you can control the functioning of the suite, from dimming the lights and ordering room service to playing video games on your suite’s plasma TV. Another unique feature is that a guest can catch up on TV time while luxuriating in the bath, thanks to a mirror TV positioned in front of every bathtub.
Currently, two restaurants are functional: Jamavar, and Qube, the all-day dining eatery. The other two—Megu (Japanese cuisine) and Le Cirque (classic Italian and contemporary French cuisine)—are scheduled to open in April after The Leela Palace opens officially.