Eros Shangri-La, Delhi

20/01/2018 by .

As we arrived at the Eros Shangri-La, Delhi, an elegant Indian lady in a vibrant red safari bowed her welcome. Two liveried mature bellboys whisked our luggage onto a trolley and a splendidly turbaned gentleman serenely opened the door for us.

“I thought the days of the Raj were over,” I commented, as an aside, to my wife. Walking through a vast marble and chandelier lobby I decided that Indian Summers, the stylish television drama on Britain’s rule in India, had certainly underplayed the opulence of Maharaja living.

“We will do check-in up in your room. Would you like tea? Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey or perhaps something else?” asked our sari-wearing host.

Essentially the Shangri-La was our Delhi survival plan. My wife, who had watched too many Delhi Cops episodes for a rational appreciation of India’s historic capital, had insisted on a pristine limo from the Shangri-La meeting us at the airport, to minimise the risk of being abducted in a tuk-tuk and thence on into slavery.

For a week our Horizon Club Deluxe Room was to be a sanctuary from the chaotic megalopolis that is the smoggy Delhi of around 22 million people – the world’s second-largest city. This was our air-conditioned Shangri-La where we could calm our nerves with a gin-and-tonic or three after tangling with Delhi’s traffic: roads crammed with battered cars, beggars, bikes, cows, hand-carts, monkeys, oxen, pedlars, rickshaws and tuk-tuks.

Savouring the substantial “canapés” served between 6 pm and 8 pm every evening in the Horizon Club Lounge, and for many guests that delicately spiced mini-buffet more than sufficed, it was fascinating to watch the rush-hour gridlock on the huge roundabout 19 floors below.

Our spacious room, an elongated irregular pentagon with a contemporary palette of grey, beige and dark brushed steel, plus a sumptuous Maharaja size bed, was on the 17th floor. Double-glazing was sufficient to eliminate traffic noise – but not the insistent call to prayer of a muezzin who tended to hang onto his notes like an Islamic version of Bill Withers singing “Lovely Day.” A reminder that India, seventy years on from partition, remains an uneasy amalgam of Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs.

Merely a polo pitch or two from India Gate and Connaught Circle’s shops and restaurants, the Eros Shangri-La is at the heart of the grandiose New Delhi that was built in the 1920s and 1930s as a glorious symbol of the British Empire. A leafy attempt to combine the best of Home Counties’ lanes, hedges and golf course with wide boulevards leading to a Marble Arch-like monument. Landscaped roundabouts would be large enough for Chariots of Fire types to run a good old-fashioned 440 yards lap around the circumference if they wished.

This rather large corner of a foreign field that will be forever England, planted with daisies and chrysanthemums, has somewhat erroneously become known as Lutyens’ New Delhi. Highly ironic that constructions he ridiculed as “Bungle-Ohs”, bungalows from other architects, are now mistakenly attributed to Lutyens himself.

Forgetting days of Empire, the Shangri-La’s Tamra restaurant recognises that breakfast has become a global institution. Specialist cooks man distribution points for Asian soups and dishes, pancakes and waffles, and of course a splendidly traditional English breakfast. “One of the few places East of Suez where they know how to cook crispy bacon,” remarked one of the few British guests.

In a world of global travellers, with challenged body-clocks, there’s even a selection of ice-creams for breakfast that would get an approving nod from Baskin-Robbins.

Come evening, Tamra uses its multiple serving points to present a Pan Asian buffet of impressive variety – though it’s The Shang Palace, a Chinese concept perfected in 44 other venues across the world, that takes the plaudits from Delhi’s foodies.

Grappa, an Italian restaurant on the ground floor, complete with mood-setting Vespa moped in the entrance, has a sun-bathed terrace, overlooking European style gardens, perfect for a leisurely lingering lunch. Personally, I loved the big screens almost continuously showing cricket, but for some, it may emasculate the Italian flavour.

Disappointingly the pool is not heated and wisely much of the hotel’s leisure and relaxation focus is on the subterranean Chi Spa on the Lower Ground floor: a tranquil candlelit Asian haven of running rivulets and luxuriant pot plants. Having sampled the couples’ massage from a diminutive but powerful Asian masseuse I would think twice before submitting my fragile body to the deep tissue sports massage.

Treatments in this very Zen temple of indulgence are good value. Visitors can live like Maharajas at the Shangri-La. Every day we hired a driver with an immaculate white limo to battle through the traffic to Delhi’s sights. After we had sweated through the lanes of Chandni Chawk’s 10,000 shops and stalls our driver was there with iced water and a cooling towel.

The Shangri-La’s service is impeccable. Back in the UK I’m struggling to come to terms with opening doors for myself.

Tell me more about Eros Shangri-la Delhi

Eros Shangri-La Hotel 

19 Ashoka Road,  Janpath, New Delhi, Delhi

110001 India

Rooms start from around £130.

Horizon Deluxe doubles begin at around £170 giving 24-hour access to the Club Lounge with constant tea, coffee and cakes. Every evening between 6 pm and 8 pm there are complimentary drinks and a buffet. Breakfast can either be taken in the Club Lounge or the Tamra Restaurant.

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