Fine dining in the midst of history
By Ravi V.Chhabra
In history lies the grandeur of New Delhi’s museum hotel - The Imperial. The tall palm trees and a vintage Jaguar in the porch welcome you to an experience that is unique from the first step inside the tall iron entrance gates.
1911 is a landmark year in the history of New Delhi. It was in this year; on December 12, 1911 that King Emperor George V had declared New Delhi as the Capital of India. On December 15, King Emperor George V and Queen Empress Mary laid down the foundation of New Delhi. 1911 Restaurant and Bar pays a tribute to this historic milestone that led to the emergence of New Delhi as a seat of power.
The year 1911 is a celebration of aesthetics with its rich, choicely done up interiors and cuisine that showcases the 'melting pot' culture of Delhi and service that is truly a reflection of Imperial India. The Imperial, has for long, had a 'relationship' with period art. In fact, 1911 is an ode to this tradition. It is replete with antiquities dating back to the 1911 Durbar, etchings of ink, stipple, lithographs, tints (mezzo and aqua), and photographs from the colonial era and candle stands that have an image of The Imperial crown.
The Imperial, New Delhi: Reckoned amongst Asia’s finest hotels, it is spread over eight acres and encased by sprawling gardens, is a legend that offers an experience embracing history delicately cradled in the comfort of modern conveniences. The 24 king palms, that lead up to the porch, are an integral part of and witness to the very creation of New Delhi. How many hotels, one wonders, can lay claim to have been a part of a city’s original master plan.
Conceptualised in 1934 by Bloomfield and inaugurated by Lord Willingdon in 1936, The Imperial placed on the prestigious Queensway, now Janpath, is a fine confluence of a rich historical past with an awe-inspiring heritage and a slick international appeal.
Indeed, it was in Lutyens’ scheme of things to build the most luxurious Hotel in New Delhi with a unique blend of Victorian, old colonial and a playful dosage of informal art deco. The style is decidedly eclectic. The gates and the massive, avuncular bronze lions at the entrance are Victorian. In the high-domed Atrium inside, art deco wall panels and wrought iron balconies recall the early 20th century. Lutyens’ design of the Universe, a masterpiece made with 800 pieces of marble, can be noticed all over the Hotel, including in its rich 24-carat gold leaf form that appears on the rotunda in the heart of the lobby.
Replete with tableware from London, Italian marble floors, Burma teak and rosewood furniture, fountains from Florence, original Daniells and Frasers on the walls and the best of Indian furniture, The Imperial - a unique low-rise structure - creates the aura of an early 19th century English manor.
The 1911 bar
This well-stocked and aesthetically rich bar pays a tribute to this historic milestone that led to the emergence of New Delhi as a seat of power. Soft Montana leather chairs, period portraiture, stained glass roof and wood panelling add an element of high gloss to the 1911 Bar offering over 500 varieties of beverages with lounge and club music playing to your mood. It boasts of two stunning private rooms the ‘Hardinge Room’ and the ‘Lutyens & Baker Room.’ The walls in the Hardinge Room are adorned with pictures of uniforms and attires of various battalions during British Raj and the most coveted VICTORIA CROSS the highest gallantry award in the British Army, the one and only existing in the city.
Have you ever dined in an art gallery? Or have you ever enjoyed your dinner over a book on modern Indian history? A book on British rule in India to be specific. Have you ever dined at a place frequented by Gandhi, Nehru or Jinnah or Kipling? The Imperial, perhaps the only museum hotel of its kind, offers this and much more. The 1911 coffee shop specializes in multi-cuisine fare that comprises Indonesian, Continental and Indian. Some delicacies worth having are the tandoori jumbo prawns, fish n chips, smoked salmon and the Imperial chef salad. The service is highly courteous and reflects sophistication to the hilt.
The Hotel has three main art galleries and a collection of life size oil paintings of the Princely Rulers of India. The First Floor strolls down the corridor of time and is aptly called ‘Views in Lucknow’ based on the siege and mutiny in Lucknow by Assistant Adjutant – General David Scott Dodgson. This can be attributed to the fact that The East India Company had its main naval and military camp enforcements at Lucknow, Calcutta, Agra, Madras and Bombay.
The Lobby, too, dedicates its lounge to period art. The Lahore Lounge is dedicated to the Anglo Sikh wars: The Battle of Aliwal, Moodkee, Ferozshah and the wars of Chillianwala and Gujarat by Mather Brown and Heneary Martins. It has the portraits of the two war heroes Sardar Hari Singh and Shyam Singh along with the medals won in these wars. This period property is both a treat for the eyes and for the gastronomers.