If a trip to India is on your bucket list, this year is perfect time to visit, as the country’s capital, Delhi celebrates its 100th anniversary. With King George V’s coronation as Emperor of India in 1911, Delhi was marked the new capital. Since then the city has flourished becoming one of India’s most interesting melting pots, with its unique ethnic mix illustrated in some of the world’s most dynamic fusions of cuisine, art and culture.
Situated in the heart of the exclusive Diplomatic Enclave, one of the prettiest areas of town with views of New Delhi’s green belt, and slightly distanced from the hustle and bustle, Luxury Collection’s ITC Maurya hotel is a luxurious home base to return to recharge after exploring the city. An award-winning hotel, the impressive list of past guests includes royalty and heads of state including former U.S. Presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush and current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Named after the famous ‘Mauryan” dynasty, a golden age of Indian history where art, culture and architecture flourished, the hotel is built over 5.5 acres and a masterpiece that reflects the best of Mauryan architecture.
You notice these design tributes immediately in the sweeping lobby, with its magnificent domed ceiling inspired by the famed Chaitya Hall. The hotel commissioned renowned Indian artist Krishen Khanna, to paint the entire dome with a striking mural entitled the “Procession of Life,” depicting the history of the Indian culture. The lobby’s barrel-vaulted wooden beams also recall typical materials and patterns used in Mauryan times.
The hotel has three different wings and we stayed in a spacious King Room in the Mauryan Chamber, which is incredibly luxurious, and we were pampered with 24-hour butler service and a host of amenities including, complimentary American breakfast, access to the Tower Club Lounge with complimentary cocktails to unwind after sightseeing all day. If you need to mix business with pleasure, you can opt for The Towers, which is “a hotel within a hotel” geared toward executives with its own Library Bar and private boardrooms.
From Old Delhi’s legendary Spice Market with its endless variety of heaping spices to snacking on roasted corn in raisins from a street vendor, much of Delhi’s rich culture is its delicious cuisine. While it is the restaurant capital of India, conveniently two of the best are located at the ITC Maurya.
A trip to Delhi would not be complete without eating at the hotel’s award-winning Bukhara Restaurant, consistently named among the world’s top 50 restaurants and the finest in Asia. Bukhara, attracts a cult like following for its exquisitely rich, creamy lentil dish, called Dal Bukhara. This mouth-watering signature dish is a combination of whole black lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic stirred over slow coals for 18 hours. One of the staff confirmed what we heard about a long list of celebrities who have made the pilgrimage for this dish, including Mick Jagger, Bill & Hillary, Vladimir Putin, & Enrique Iglesias. It is also fun to order the Family Naan, a huge version of the traditional Indian flatbread. You can also ask to see a demonstration of ancient Indian culinary art skills before taking a seat to dine in Bukhara, a fantastic lead-in to an incredible evening.
Another exceptional dining experience is the hotel’s Dum Pukht restaurant, which recreates the 200-year-old culinary legacy. Originally an easy meal made for workers then perfected in the royal kitchens, Dum Pukht’s technique uses dough to seal traditional pots that contain rice, meat, vegetables and herbs and spices and is then lowered into a tandoor to cook. The resulting rich taste is incomparable. There is a regal ambience at Dum Pukht with its gold leaf and crystal chandeliers and service is in the traditional formal Indian style, so it offers completely different experience to Bukhara.
There is a long tradition of promoting mind-body wellness in India through Ayurveda, which focuses on exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage. So, it is not surprising the name of the hotel’s spa is Kaya Kalp – a Sanskrit word meaning rejuvenation of mind, body and soul. The spa menu offers a variety of traditional Ayurvedic rituals, western-style therapies, and some treatments that blend the two, as well as an array of hair and beauty services.
My indulgence was the 120-minute Exotic Pomegranate treatment, which includes a body scrub with the spa’s signature blend of antioxidant pomegranate, lime and organic brown sugar. This is followed by an essential oils body massage and an Indian foot massage using ancient techniques to stimulate pressure points. Sheer bliss.
For first time visitors, it is best to explore the city with a guided tour that can be arranged through the concierge desk. There is a remarkable contrast between the historic glamour and teeming bazaars of the Old City and the sprawling wide avenues of New Delhi’s buzzing metropolis. The bustling neighborhood of Chandni Chowk is great for authentic shopping, while to the south there are the chic boutiques and cafés in Connaught Place. India’s capital is full of contrasts and contradictions and an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
For more reservations and more information, please visit Luxury Collection ITC Maurya online at www.luxurycollection.com.