An increasing number of new hotels in major cities worldwide open with integral members’ clubs, sometimes part of a fitness plan or sometimes separate from a fitness and spa club for local members: the Soho House brand, indeed, started life in London as a members’ club that has rooms, a modern version of century-old clubs of the calibre of the UK capital’s Athenaeum, In&Out, RAC and others where a few rooms were added on to accommodate members who could not, or in some instances, should not have gone home after an evening of sampling finest clarets, ports and single malts. In India, however, private clubs are an important feature of such luxury hotels as Taj Mahal, Delhi, and the gal wanted to find out more.
There are over 2,000 members of the 296-room hotel’s Chambers. The club is on the top, 12th, floor, and since it was built in 1978 no other high-rises have been allowed, so views from all windows are outstanding, at least on a clear day. I look out from the Chambers Grill, to nearby Lion Gate, and Parliament, a reminder that many Chambers members are politicians, while others want to be members simply because it is so convenient to be able to network here with politicians. You see members, including many women, hobnobbing in small groups, day and evening long – there are also two small meeting rooms.
We walk along the club’s corridor, lined with priceless RK Laxman cartoons – see Ravi Shankar, above. The restaurant is superb, with crisply starched linens, and immaculately groomed servers who, with pristine white gloves, bring dishes on big silver trays. The chef is Arun Sundarajan, whom I last met at Taj’s Falaknuma Palace outside Hyderabad (one tip, hotel guests can eat here at Chambers, dinner only). Today, having torn myself away from the guacamole that is one of three dips accompanying the hot bread rolls, I start with a mushroom millefeuille, and no, although there is a fine wine list of course, it is water only for me, at lunchtime. How, I ask hotel GM Satyajeet Krishnan, does one become a member here?
Simple, you let it be known you would like to be invited and after various necessary processes a personal invitation comes from the MD of Taj Hotels & Resorts, in Mumbai. Members have full run of this club, and Chambers in other Taj hotels. So, having learned how lucky locals are to be involved with this luxury hotel, I am then told about perks for hotel guests. This surely must be the only place where those staying during four days every March are invited to complimentary audiences with the Dalai Lama, during his annual visit here. And unique in India, too, the hotel’s arrangement with the Indian Polo Association and the Army Polo and Riding Club, ten minutes away, means you can watch games from the hotel’s private box during the November-April polo season. PS. Non-Chambers members can always opt to hold small events in the hotel’s Wasabi by Morimoto restaurant, which, says Love Delhi by Fiona Caulfield, has the best private dining room in the city, lined with back-lit pink onyx and an option to watch chefs at work.