Delhi is full of surprises. This is an old city that changes reluctantly. Semi-gated neighbourhoods vie for space with highways, gleaming metro lines and living slums. It can take hours, even days, to traverse the entirety of this mega-metropolis. The process can inspire and energise you, or it can leave you feeling unhinged and in need of some time alone in a quiet room with a stiff drink.
Thankfully, there are a few places you can do to find just that. Every city has its little surprises, and the Manor Hotel New Delhi is one of the best that India’s political capital provides.
This is a little gem of a place. It has been designed thoughtfully and carefully: unlike much of Delhi it is not garish or gaudy. Its prices are reasonable, considering that it is a regular hangout for Bollywood actors and India’s elite – people seeking a quiet dinner that isn’t interrupted by autograph-seekers and hangers-on. This is a place where big money goes to quietly hang out unobtrusively.
To the little things first. Manor Hotel is in a tidy, cosy little corner of Delhi, tucked away in the moneyed quarters of Friends Colony (West), which is itself where big money goes to live unobserved. The gardens here are lush and fecund; the air is filled with the sound of macaws and cackling parrots. As night descends, Delhi retreats, leaving only the sound of a few street hawkers and the distant steely rattle of signaling points as mile-long locomotives chunter into the Indian night.
As ever, though, the devil is in the detail. The Manor is a working hotel. Its staff are always on hand, quietly and with subtle means guiding the guest through the rigours of Delhi life. It’s like having a real-life Jeeves on hand, though in this case, PG Wodehouse’s inimitable butler is a team of hotel staff, each of which is as capable and Jeeves-like as the last. Have an Internet problem? Bang, it’s fixed. Need a taxi to a hard-to-navigate part of Delhi in the early morning? Not only will they find you a driver but, more to the point, they will find one who knows where he is going, and doesn’t try to rip you off en route.
This is also one of Delhi’s great, and mostly undiscovered, culinary secrets. The food here is among the best and most varied around, providing a fusion of Indo-foreign influences that both titillate and titivate. Add to this a wine list extraordinary among Indian restaurants in India, and you are in foody, oenophile heaven.
The hotel chef, Manish Mehrotra, trained, it seems, in every corner of the world, including London, where he set up Tamarai in 2006, earnings baubles including the ‘best pan-Asian in London’ award from the Evening Standard. He is the former American Express Chef of the Year and is one of India’s culinary gurus.
The Manor is not a place where people rush, but the pace is busy, and Mehrotra’s keenness to walk his guests through his wonderful fusion creations, mixture of Indian and foreign scents and tastes that just melt into the tongue, has to be experienced once in life. Diners come here to bond quietly: the only sound is quiet chit-chat as happy customers bound over the fabulous food. This is genuinely a world-class restaurant.
This is also a growing, learning hotel. Its massage parlours are getting a major overhaul. And the world is taking note – the Manor has won numerous global awards, from publications and travel services across the globe.
Moreover this is a place where solace can be found in many forms. If you’re a sun-seeker, attracted to Delhi’s dry, invigorating heat, so different from the cloying monsoon humidity of Mumbai and much of the rest of India, pick up a book from the well-appointed in-hotel library and trot out to the garden, or head on up to the sundeck. A short-course swimming pool will also be opened, to quiet fanfare, next year. And all of this is available at per-night rates that start at little more than £100 and rarely venture above £400.
Perhaps, though, the best thing about the Manor is not what it is, but where it is. Friends Colony is a peach of a place. A six-line highway runs parallel to the road adjoining the hotel, just a hundred metres from the front door, but the claxons and horns are inaudible here.
Walk out of the gate and turn right, and you pad around some of the most pleasant and well-kempt streets in Delhi, two-lane single-track roads divided by a ribbon of umbrella trees, figs and bamboo. Turn left, and meander through the miasma of alleys adjoining the colony: here, you’ll find pocket-sized corner shops, Hindu temples lit up by fragrance sticks, and a thousand tiny eateries, each offering a cornucopia of fried food and mango lassi.
Manor Hotel is many worlds in one. It’s the ultimately niche sanctuary amid the hubbub and chaos. It’s quiet, serene, and affordable – and luxurious. Here, you can have your cake and eat it, knowing that you are eating some of the best cake around. Then go and walk it off in the local lanes. This is a peach of a hotel.
77 Friends Colony (West), 110065
Telephone: +91 9871117968
Web: www.themanordelhi.com