Several luxury hotels can boast they have outstanding suites that are not necessarily termed ‘presidential’. Sometimes, says the girl, a disciple-type suite can surpass the Big One. Take 346, the Rajput Suite at Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. In the past it was a favourite of Ravi Shanker, and of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The Prime Minister of an important African country was in it only a couple of nights ago. He, too, must have appreciated 1,400 sq ft of space, incorporating an octagonal office, a dining room, a big living area and bathroom – oh yes, and a gorgeous bedroom.
Designed by David Edwards/ James Park for the hotel’s 2010 re-opening it is sleek, sophisticated and fun. The office, for instance, has a three-person swing hanging from the hemispherical roof, which is covered in metallic tiles. Work away, create some more GirlAhead stories, and then swing myself to sleep? No, far too much to do, and look at all the reading material provided in the suite, on top of which every time my white-gloved butler, Manoj Galkwad – he who never gets in the way – arrives he brings, it seems, yet another supply of reading material. I think half a pine forest has been processed into newsprint for my erudition. It is all so fabulous I must look my best, which includes having a ‘marvellous’ manicure (his term, smiling) from Puneet in the hotel’s busy Salon.
If only I could have dined in the beautiful dining room, with its six chairs bearing elaborately carved ivory backs… but no, there was no time. Not even an opportunity to open the half-bottle of Palais Castellani Toscana IGT 2009 (85 percent Sangiovese, the rest Cabernet Sauvignon), another of the Taj labelled collection of six wines – this one, in minibars since August 2014, has so far sold 162 bottles. The collection, by the way, includes an Indian wine, Svara (90 percent Sangiovese, the rest Cabernet Sauvignon), from Akuj, Maharashtra – it is made by three sets of brothers, Arjunsinh and Rajitsinh Mohite-Patil, Gaurav and Kapil Sekhri, and Italians, Alessio and Andrea Secci.
The collection also lists the only Bordeaux with an elephant on its label. Ideas? OK, it is Les Pagodes de Cos 2008 St Estèphe (53 percent Merlot, 45 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and two percent Petit Verdot). I am sure it is an Indian elephant, by the way. On this, my last full night in India on this trip, I have a final glance out of the window of suite 346. Another question: which other luxury hotels, anywhere in the world give such historically and politically-charged views as this?