It’s a preposterous idea, really, an Aman hotel in Delhi. It’s like finding a Michelin restaurant in a mall or a Six Senses spa in a car park. This is a brand known for high temples of subtle luxury, paradise resorts in stunning locations like Phuket, Bali, Bhutan and the Caribbean.
And yet here I am at Zecha’s latest venture, on the Lodhi Road in teeming south Delhi. It’s a challenging site all right—while its cousins overlook tropical forests or white sand beaches, the Aman in Delhi looks onto a flyover, another honking jam. What happened to “peaceful” in three languages? Aman hotels are famous as escapes from cities and yet here the Aman Delhi stands in the thick of it all, as a rebuke to the choke and throb, like some kind of antidote. But, does it work?
For girls as for hotels, the approach is everything—the first impression, the opening line is the foundation of any seduction. Most posh city hotels follow the formality of entrance steps, regalia doormen and a security screening machine. At the Aman, these conventions are abandoned.
It’s disorienting at first, the sense of space. On a site of 6 acres, there are only 40 basic rooms (an Aman signature) with a further 28 suites in a facing building. So even with a 50-metre pool, three lawn tennis courts, squash courts and a giant gym, there’s plenty left over. As with other Aman resorts, the illusion that you have the place to yourself is powerful—all this opulence is yours. And it gives walking through the Aman a dreamlike quality. The stillness, the space, the clean lines and restful colours—rich mahogany, creamy sandstone, olive and glass.
We’ve booked into an Aman room, one of the 53 accommodations out of 67, that has a private plunge pool on the balcony. Up on the seventh floor, the view of Delhi is flattering—a cushion of treetops through which the occasional tower or monument pokes. Humayun’s Tomb to the right, the flyover below. But the foliage muffles the city at this elevation. It just hums, a kind of static, while we splash around in the plunge pool like infants.
What to do but spa and chill and call-room service? The Aman was never conceived as a regular hotel. Though it stands on the site of the former Lodhi hotel, which went on sale about six-and-a-half years ago, Zecha was adamant that the Aman would be a resort, not a city hotel.
So no banquet rooms or shopping arcades. There was even some debate before Wi-Fi and televisions were installed in the rooms and understandably so. The Aman magic is the way it removes its guests from their daily lives and returns them to a state of innocence and comfort. Checking e-mails and watching Rajdeep Sardesai shout his head off does not make a vacation.
There’s even a hair spa, part of the hair salon, another lavish, personal experience—10 private booths of mirrors, fashion TV and an Australian man named Rod who knows his way around a pair of scissors. The salon’s name is Kim Robinson—a top-notch chain in Asia that makes its Indian debut in this hotel. It’s one of the few parts that the Aman is opening up to nonguests, no doubt an adaptation to its big city location. The other parts are the restaurants, three in all, all distinct and striking in their own ways. I haven’t tried the Indian and Thai place on the ground floor yet, but right next door, there’s this terribly clever French/Japanese fusion concept called Naoki, which serves Kaiseki Cuisine, essentially French food in a Japanese style (or, perhaps, the other way around). Foie Gras and Mango Canapés anyone?
Where earlier that day, daylight had flooded through the sliding glass doors, now there are wooden panels to slide across, sealing the room at every corner, a warm, dark wood box. We sleep in perfect darkness, through a woozy wine haze, our muscles kneaded, our appetites sated, listening to the city mumbling and whirring, several worlds below.
The Aman New Delhi, Lodhi Road Rates: From $500/ night (off season) up to $2,400
Contact: email@example.com, (91) 11 4363 3333
Copyright©2022 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today