Arriving back in India, the gal likes to get straight into the local cuisine, and where better than at ITC Maurya, a luxury hotel that seems to have discovered the secret of eternal youth when it comes to restaurants. Take Bukhara, which has been popular since it opened way back in 1978. Known to be a favourite of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and a myriad other celebrities, this is a 130-seat lunch and dinner restaurant where you sit on low wood stools, have red and white checked bibs put round your necks, and eat food cooked in clay tandoors, North-West Frontier style. When you have eaten your fill, you emerge to look out at the luxury hotel’s pool.
Across the pool is part of the exterior of the 440-room hotel, named for the dynasty of Chandragupta Maurya’s empire, 322-185 BC. The building is deliberately fortress-like – all ITC hotels are unique, in association and architecture. All have great buffet restaurants, and certainly the 24-hour Pavilion here – see above, and to the right – is one of my favourites. Dishes are beautifully labelled, and you can eat a variety of Indian, plus Middle Eastern, Italian, more or less anything. I was impressed by the bruschetta station, a novel concept that could well be copied elsewhere.
I was lunching with Dipak Haksar, CEO of ITC’s hotels, which fall into four brands: ITC also has numerous food interests, plus a transport company, John Wills and other lifestyle labels, and paper involvement as well as its initial massive cigarette distribution. Get Dipak Hasar on the subject of food and he can talk forever, be it the history of India’s royal cuisine or the finesse of ITC’s own coffee brand, Sunbean, introduced this August. Dipak Haksar actually started his ITC career here, at what was then the Maurya Sheraton Delhi, 35 years ago, working front desk – how things have, in many ways, changed since then.
The luxury hotel, which still has a marketing agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, now Marriott, recently hosted a gaggle of international lifestyle bloggers – they were so young, said Dipak Haksar with a laugh. But he retains a youthful enthusiasm about every innovation, and he insisted that we move, for our coffee, to Fabelle, the hotel’s new chocolate room, which replaces a beauty salon that appears to have relocated out of general sight. Fabelle is a brilliant idea. It is a working chocolate kitchen plus tea-room so you can sit and have your granache and a cup of tea, or Sunbean coffee, while looking out at the lovely pool and garden. What a great welcome back to India. TO SEE A BEDROOM HERE, LOOK AT THE VIDEO BELOW