“The phoenix rising,” says Sunil Tandon, head of sales and marketing at the newly opened Ramada Plaza on Ashoka Road in New Delhi.
The dramatic metaphor refers to renovating the shell of the old Ashoka Yatri Niwas hotel at Connaught Place to create a marble-and-onyx four-star deluxe hotel in the heart of the city.
The fresco in the lobby has been hand painted by Italian artists.
Unfortunately, it also brings to mind the tragic reason for the closing of the original hotel: the Naina Sahni case, in which Sahni’s husband Sushil Sharma killed the then 26-year-old and tried to dispose of her body in the hotel’s tandoor.
In order to disassociate the new hotel with its sad past, the Litolier Group has razed the restaurant and built a parking lot there.
Perhaps in a step to further disassociate the hotel with any connection to the murder, the interiors have no single reference to the city or the country it is located in. Instead, aside from the name of the coffee shop—Lutyens—everything from the Lavazza coffee in the lobby to the garish ceiling fresco is an homage to Italy.
The Litolier Group started off in business by importing Italian marble to the Indian market and the company has definitely tapped into its stock, covering the lobby’s pillars, the bathrooms and almost every other surface with marble.
The opulence doesn’t stop there. Models of gold chariots, lacey canopy beds and marble busts of Roman warriors decorate the hotel. Tandon says they wanted to recall a bygone era, but it feels as if you’ve walked into an unused wing at Ceaser’s Palace in Las Vegas. The design is so unabashedly over-the-top, quasi-Italian (they even have an enormous wheel of Parmesan cheese sitting in the lobby for guests to sample with crackers and olives for free), that it is charmingly naive.
What does come off as a negative, however, is the uninspired use of art throughout the hotel and the poor finish. About five grainy reproductions of late 19th century oils of Parisian street scenes are repeated on walls, sometimes the same painting on the same wall. It’s an example of poor oversight. Wires also criss-cross beneath the carpeted ground in the hallways, creating a bumpy walk. The rooms, luckily, benefit from having great views of the green of Lutyens’ Delhi, but are otherwise drab affairs.
The rooms at the Ramada are drab, thanks to their white walls and frilly beds.
At Rs6,000 a night (taxes extra), the hotel aims to appeal to the mid-market businessman, with conference space available and plans for a spa, gymnasium and pool some time in the next six months. The hotel may be moving on from its sad past, but it still has far to go to become a true contender as a boutique hotel.