The dynamic city is part economic and bureaucratic powerhouse, and part living museum, with its ancient temples, beautiful colonial edifices and historic gardens. Text : Nick Walton
The Leela Palace is one of Delhi’s newest and most luxurious hotels.
Start out with a hearty breakfast at your hotel, the stunning new Leela Palace. Located in the leafy Diplomatic Enclave, the hotel has already been heralded as one of the finest in India. Breakfast is served in The Qube a, glass-encased restaurant located on the lobby level, with views across manicured lawns. Here you can get your strength up with a sumptious buffet of local and international flavors, with dishes prepared in lively open kitchens and laced with traditional Indian spices and herbs. Chanakyapuri Diplomatic Enclave, Tel: +91 11 3933 1234, www.theleela.com
Time for some heritage and there is no better spot than the city’s Red Fort. This beautifully preserved 17th century fort was constructed in 1638 by the Mughal emperor Shan Jahan, within the walled city of Old Delhi, and served as his imperial home. Now protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the fort is popular with tourists stopping by to wander through the marble-clad pavilion of Diwan-i-Khas, with its pillars decorated in floral carvings and semi-precious stones, and down the banks of the Stream of Paradise, a water channel that is fed by the nearby Yamuna River.
From the Red Fort head south to the gentrified neighborhood of Hauz Khas in southern Delhi. Once part of Siri, the second medieval city of India, HauzKhas was best known for its royal water reservoir. However, over the past years the district has become a chic commercial and business hub and home to galleries, book stores, and coffee shops. Be sure to keep your eyes open for great locally-produced textiles and homewares, as well as Indian fashion brands. Also make time to stop by the iconic QutubMinar, also in southern Delhi. The world’s tallest brick minaret at 72.5m, it’s one of the world’s earliest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture and can be easily reached by the Delhi Metro.
Also down the road from Hauz Khas, you’ll discovery one of the city’s coolest little hideaways. With a ceiling of white fabric strips bathed in neon, and only six tables, The Grey Garden dubs itself as a slow food restaurant, and serves up a rather eclectic menu of fusion-esque dishes, including chicken and rambutan in red curry, crispy zucchini fritters and fish steamed in banana leaves. Conceived and managed by three partners – Shani Himanshu, Avinash Kumar and Shalabh Singh, the restaurant was designed by ShaniHimanshu (CellDSGN) in collaboration with Mia Morikawa. It’s popular with designers and hipsters alike, and is great for mid-afternoon grazing. 13A HauzKhas Village. Tel: +91 2651 6450, www.thegreygarden.com
Walk off your meal with a stroll through the tranquil Persian gardens of Humayun’s Tomb. The final resting place of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and designed by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, this stunningly beautiful ossuary was a leap in terms of design terms and the 12-hectare, Unesco-protected Char Bagh Garden, in which the main building is situated, makes for a peaceful respite from the bedlam of the city. Also be sure to check out the Tomb of Kokah, the all-important royal barber which dates back to 1590.
Take some time out to stroll the alleyways and lanes of the Basant Lok Market. Known locally as Priya’s, this is a favorite among the city’s youth, especially university students, who congregate out of one of the last independent cinemas. Basant Lok offers everything from high-end fashion right through to quirky little boutiques. These are the stores that are resisting the move to the big malls, and some great bargains can be found. You can try plenty of gourmet treats at stores like Modern Bazaar or Le Marche, have your fortune told, sip fair trade coffee, or hit the street-side pan shacks for hunks of chocolate wrapped in betel nut leaves.
It’s time for a tipple at the iconic 1911 bar at the Imperial Hotel. Paying tribute to the historic milestone that saw Delhi become the seat of power, think soft Montana leather chairs, period portraiture, a glossy island bar and stained glass windows. Be sure to try their dirty gin martinis, served straight up with the finest London Dry. 1, Janpath. Tel: +91 11 2334 1234, www.theimperialindia.com
Dine late as the locals do and head back to your hotel for the exciting culinary creations of Megu, the city’s newest fine dining Japanese restaurant. With a name that means “blessing”, Megu brings modern sushi and sumibiaburiyaki dishes to the Leela Palace in elegant and sophisticated surrounds. Also be sure not to miss out its extensive collection of rare sakes and sochus. Chanakyapuri Diplomatic Enclave. Tel: +91 11 3933 1234, www.theleela.com
Finish your night off down the road with the city’s beautiful at the F-Bar at The Ashok Hotel. This opulent watering hole is famed for its sleek and modern interiors, smooth beats and affluent clientele. Be sure to talk your way into the exclusive Diamond Lounge to rub shoulders with Delhi’s elite, and leave room for one of the bar’s signature cocktails. Diplomatic Enclave, 50-B Chanakayapuri. Tel: +91 11 2611 , www.theashok.com.