Upon arrival at the Leela Palace in New Delhi, my first thought was “seriously?” I hadn’t realized how spread out Delhi is, and when we pulled up to a hotel that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, I thought perhaps I had made a large error in hotel choice.
On entering the lobby a red dot was put on my forehead and a necklace of flowers was presented to me. I should say AFTER going through the metal detector and security and then entering the lobby. India is crazy paranoid about terrorist activity to the point where just about everything requires that you pass through a metal detector before proceeding. Often (most of the time), this is unnecessary and it really is just an illusion of security as the metal detectors in lots of places aren’t even functional. My favorite example of this was the metal detector you have to pass through at one of the ghat’s in Varanasi en route to the Ganges. Why they need a metal detector to protect a river from suicide bombers is a mystery in itself, but the point is…this “metal detector” is nothing more than a doorframe built out of PVC pipe. You could walk through there with “Little Boy” strapped on your back and you wouldn’t risk setting anything off.
Anyway, the setting left a lot to be desired. The lobby was unimpressive and a bit dark. Once check in was done there was the usual bickering over rooms and moving around etc… In the end the rooms worked out beautifully. However, the views from this hotel are of vacant lots and crumbling buildings, not the most inspiring vistas…although the view from the infinity pool on the roof is pretty nice.
The common spaces of this hotel…oh brother. It’s like the mind of the tackiest nouveau riche Russian in all of Moscow exploded onto the walls splattering his darkest and tackiest desires everywhere. Apparently dark red, black, gold and silver are the only colors that can be used for interior design.
The rooms were somewhat less offensive, although the beds were not incredibly comfortable. The club level offers very light snacks throughout the day, and at night they select a dish from one of the hotel’s restaurants and provide a small tasting. The club area was really useless and needs to be improved for it to be worth going to, let alone paying extra for.
I didn’t have an occasion to check out the hotel bars, but the concierge staff were exemplary, the property managers incredibly accommodating and the breakfast outstanding. This was my first of two stops at the Leela and I can say without reservation that I would recommend this property to anyone passing through Delhi, although it is my second favorite Delhi hotel. While they style themselves as a “7-star” hotel, it is certainly a very adequate 5-star (I refuse to indulge in this arbitrary post-5 star nonsense).
Pros: Great staff, awesome spa and gym, lots of restaurant options, great breakfast, nice new rooms, shockingly good thin-crust pizza from room service, top notch concierge, good location.
Cons: Depressing surroundings (can’t be helped in Delhi), very paltry offerings on the club floor.
Verdict: A very nice hotel, great staff. I would return if my first choice hotel in Delhi was not available and I would recommend that others check out this property.