After a terrible experience with Airbnb on my first day in Delhi, I decided to switch to The Claridges - a five-star hotel. I stayed here for two nights, though the experience left a little to be desired.
About The Claridges
Located within just a half kilometre radius from the PM's house, The Claridges is in the “most secure area in Delhi”, one of the hotel staff told me. It is located in an upmarket area of the capital that houses lots of embassies and is around 2.5km from India Gate.
The 68-year-old property houses four suites, 28 premiere category rooms, 15 cabanas and 75 superior rooms. Just 21 rooms were occupied during my time there.
The Claridges is no short of options when it comes to dining. Apart from the bakery and the bar, there are four restaurants, including Indian, Spanish, and Chinese cuisines as well as a 24/7 multi-cuisine restaurant.
In case you're wondering, this property is not associated with the luxury London hotel, Claridges.
Booking my room
I booked a 33 sqm cabana-style room via Hotels.com and found a good deal on a half-board basis (breakfast and dinner included).
The price for two nights came to INR 15,810 (USD 216), which included a free VIP check-in and a complimentary bottle of wine (this was advertised by Hotels.com - though just as with our stay at The Esplande, Zagreb, it never appeared).
I asked to switch the bottle of wine for something else (another meal) but the hotel said there were some updates in policy which hadn’t been communicated with the travel agent yet, and no alternative was offered.
Arrival at The Claridges
I arrived at the hotel at around 1pm and was very happy with the locality. I saw India Gate just a few minutes out and was very excited to get a closer look later, but I was told that it had been barricaded due to Covid.
The hotel had a grand feeling, which was enhanced by the huge lawn in front of the main entrance.
I had to pass through the sanitisation booth (as did everybody else entering the hotel) before the security checked my temperature and let me in. My luggage was scanned, sanitised and sent to the lobby.
I received a warm welcome from Anju at check-in, who was sweet and polite in her approach. She was also the one who checked me out.
Ambesh showed me to my room, and explained the features in brief (unlike the long explanation I received at Taj Deccan).
There was no air conditioning in the lobby and the doors were kept open. This was the case throughout my time there and I noticed the same thing at Conrad Pune recently (this was due to the government rules in effect).
Be aware that hotel staff will expect a tip so it will be helpful to have some cash handy. I didn’t at the time, and it resulted in a brief moment of awkwardness. You’ll notice that the hotel staff will go the extra mile to ensure you are comfortable.
The Claridges cabana room review
I was in room 017 - located on the ground floor, in front of the pool. The trees and plants covering one side of the passage made the environment cool and relaxed.
Mine was a cabana room, and it met the description as the lighting was a little dim, which wasn’t exactly to my liking initially, but it grew on me and I felt more comfortable later.
I had to ask Ambesh to turn on all the lights to get this picture:
There were plants outside my window which filtered the sunlight coming in and made the mornings lovely, but note that there was no view from this room. I was overlooking a parking lot (on the Sevilla restaurant side), though the plants covered the window to a degree.
The room had two lounger chairs opposite the door as well as a small centre table, which I used for my in-room dining.
The king size bed was a welcome sight, but the mattress was far too soft for me. On one instance I almost fell down as I laid at the edge of the bed. I feel like a spring inside the mattress may have been broken.
I have seen much better mattresses in other places, like at The Oberoi, Mumbai which I reviewed when the Maharashtra hotels were allowed to resume operations.
The pillows were soft and comfortable.
The work table met my requirements perfectly and had a large mirror above it.
There was a box on the table containing some clips and pins, and it wasn't in the best of states. While one could overlook that in normal times, this was not acceptable given what we are going through right now.
The next thing I came across in the room was an Art Gallery catalogue. It was a little annoying to see that while guests have to compromise on the hotel experience (no fitness centre, restaurants, etc), the hotel wasn't making any efforts in reducing the touch points in the room.
There was enough space in the closet and sufficient hangers for me. There were both ‘his’ and ‘her’ bath gowns available inside the closet, which was placed adjacent to the bathroom entrance.
I was very happy with the bathroom and this was also one of the reasons why I turned down an upgrade to a superior room. There was a huge bath, separate shower and toilet areas, and a big enough mirror that almost covered the wall above the wash basin.
The toiletries were from Biotique Advanced Ayurveda, though I didn’t find anything special about them.
On my way out of the bathroom I noticed an uneven surface on the side of the bath tub.
After I looked closely, I also noticed that there was a small area chipped off. This could cause a serious injury to the leg if somebody entered in haste and rubbed their leg on the uneven surface. It was right next to the door!
The mini bar was empty (in accordance with Covid norms), and there was a coffee making kit available in the room, though I didn’t feel the need to use it.
The TV in the room was quite big, and several paid channels were available.
There were multiple telephones in the room, however only the one on the bedside was working fine. The phone on the work table had some problem with its handset, so I could only use it on speaker mode while the one in the toilet gave a ringer but didn’t dial the numbers.
Dining at The Claridges
The Claridges is no short of options when it comes to dining. Three out of four restaurants are at the lobby level, including the Indian speciality ‘Dhaba’ and Chinese option ‘Jade’.
Pickwicks is a coffee shop that also doubles up as the all-day dining restaurant, serving multiple cuisines.
Sevilla, the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, is located outside the main building and has a separate entrance. It has more of a natural feel to it as it’s in the open and surrounded by trees.
It felt like the place had remained shut for a long time (understandably so) as the tables and chairs were kept in a disorderly manner and had accumulated dirt.
I even saw a couple of beautiful birds while I was there.
To unwind after a tiring day of work, you can head down to ‘Aura’, the bar at The Claridges. With 55 vodka brands in stock, the hotel describes this place as a “paradise for vodka lovers”.
I was unable to try any of these places as all of them were out of operation due to government rules regarding Covid.
Room service was only available till 10pm and, due to a no-show from one of my friends, I was late for dinner. It was already 10.15pm when I called room service, only to be told that the kitchen was already closed.
Soon after I received a call back and the gentleman said he enquired with the chef and he could serve me something from the Indian kitchen. I took his suggestion and ordered Balti meat, which was very flavourful and quite amazing, with rice and paratha.
I was happy with this kind of response from the hotel, as they went a step further. The only downside was that I wasn’t informed until the next day that this meal would count as the complimentary meal I was entitled to after booking with a travel agent.
In fact, I had booked a half board package, so the hotel should have given me dinner on both nights. The hotel insisted that I would only receive one complimentary meal, and I didn't take it further.
I later enquired and Sanjeev from F&B said the complimentary meals are normally served at Pickwick’s according to set menus (in normal times), I requested him to have the menu sent to my room. Here are the photos of the menu:
Apart from the dinner, I had two other meals in my room - two breakfasts. Breakfast is served between 7am and 10.30am, but there were no cold cuts and juices available at the time - which is pretty poor.
On the first day, I asked the food to be placed in my room as I was going in for a shower, to which I was told that the staff are not opening the guest rooms, so I will need to either leave the door open or receive it myself, which was alright as I was done with the shower by the time he arrived with the food.
I ordered a masala omelette (I asked it to be made of two eggs) and aloo paratha, which was accompanied by a couple of toasts. The omelette was perfect and was served with sautéed mushrooms on the side.
I had earlier ordered for idli and later changed it to aloo paratha, which was just average. I was expecting achaar (pickle) along with it, but was only served dahi (yogurt).
The toast was only partly toasted, not the way I like it, and there was no jam served along with it either.
On the second day of breakfast, I chose to order the same omelette with two hash browns on the side, except this time I didn’t repeat my request for them to make it with two eggs (as I thought they would remember this).
To my surprise I was served a small omelette made with a single egg. There were no mushrooms served on the side and the hash browns were very crunchy, unlike yesterday.
I also ordered idli, which was served with two different types of chutneys (coconut and tomato) and sambar.
I felt that the hotel wasn’t paying much attention to the individual preferences of their guests, even though they were operating at such a low capacity.
From the two days that I took breakfast at the hotel, I learned that there is no consistency in the service, and they also seem to be lacking the means to deliver the best experience.
One morning I had ordered for a cup of coffee along with my breakfast, but that wasn’t served until way after I was done with my meal, reason being “the coffee machine isn’t working”.
Overall, my experience of dining at The Claridges was not so great. They are either unable to understand and meet the guest’s needs, or they just haven’t been able to adapt to the change forced upon by the virus. Either way, in-room dining is something that they shouldn’t have any issues with.
Also note that on all three occasions the food was served with a different covering each time. For dinner it was covered with plates, and for breakfasts it was steel cover on the first day and plastic wrap on the second.
Other facilities at The Claridges
The Claridges houses a large outdoor pool, a health and fitness centre, one of the oldest bakeries in town, three banquet halls and an art gallery.
Most of the facilities at the hotel were closed at the time due to the pandemic, though I managed to click pictures of the facilities that I could access.
The bakery is located adjacent to the lobby and is accompanied by a few brand outlets (also shut at the time).
Behind the bakery is the Viceroy - the biggest of the hotel's three banquet halls. The other two are located on upper floors, though I didn't get a chance to check them out.
While I was at the hotel, the ground floor banquet hall was booked for a wedding, so I took a few photos of the decorations inside.
The pool is located in the centre of the hotel, accessible through the other side of the banquet hall, and also connects to the cabana rooms on the ground floor (like mine). There was some wedding decoration near the pool area as well.
There are two separate parking areas in the hotel premises - one next to the entrance gate, and the other next to the exit gate. Guests receive complimentary parking at the hotel, so it shouldn’t be a hassle if you decide to drive down to this place.
I got this hotel at a really good price, though I was disappointed not to be able to try their restaurants. I found out that only a couple of weeks post my stay they had resumed service in some of their restaurants, including breakfast at Pickwick’s.
One of the major problems I felt with the lack of human interaction was that it resulted in an inefficiency from the hotel to meet the customer’s needs and create a satisfactory experience.
I feel that the hotel should train its staff better to adapt to the changing times. I also felt short-changed after the hotel only offered me one complimentary meal, even though I had booked and paid for a half board package (including both breakfast and dinner).
At this price, I would return to the hotel when it is fully operational - though without a good deal I would give it a pass, as I found the wow-factor missing.
Would you give The Claridge's, New Delhi a try?