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Waters of the sun god: In Suraj Kund, at the new Claridges hotel

For as long as I can remember, Suraj Kund (“the sun’s pool”), on the outskirts of Delhi, has been known for its crafts fair every February. Sponsored by the tourism authority of India, this is when regional craftsmen from all corners of the country gather to sell art and furniture, embroidered fabric, hand-made fans, marble pick-me-ups, painted shell “animals” and so forth, everything culminating in a colourful extravaganza of folk dance and puppetry and so forth.

Now, the area will be known for something else. The new Claridges hotel, sister of the charming property in Lutyen’s Delhi, has just opened up there—the result of cheaper real estate than in prohibitively expensive Delhi—and is already finding many takers. The Suraj Kund hotel, located on the outskirts of the city, is not a resort, as you’d imagine. It is a business hotel but with a definite resort-like feel to it, so that you can safely enjoy your weekend there even if you are going to be busy at a conference or meeting (the hotel hopes to target the MICE business and, in fact, has some of the biggest conferencing space and banqueting facilities in the capital) throughout the week.

The rooms are so plush as to make you swoon in joy. More than double the size of an average hotel room in the city, these come equipped with a walk-in closet, a spacious bath separated from the room with a glass wall so that you have a view (of the TV or the Aravalli mountains outside, depending on your inclination) from the bathtub, as well as private balconies and sit-outs, where, in more pleasant weather, you can sit at dusk, with twinkling lights from earthen lanterns, and sip your sundowner. The entire hotel is WIFI, there is Internet on the huge flatscreen TVs in the rooms (as well as movies) but besides the work station, for the ladies, is also a convenient folding mirror (with some free make-up proposed to go into the designated slots soon).

The swimming pool is on the second floor and is really lovely, huge and overflowing with water that then softly cascades down into another channel with folding seats for those who merely want to rest their bottoms and not exert their arms. There is a Jacuzzi in one corner, where you can sit either with a glass of beer or your laptop, depending on your mood, and take in a good view of the lush green surroundings.

The defining feature of this hotel, on the other hand, is space. Unlike the steel and glass high-rises that make up most modern hotels, here is a structure that is built around a central courtyard (with fountains that change colours in the evenings, giving little ones much excitement), in a “C” shape, with Mediterranean style circular balconies and trailing bougainvilla creepers lending charm and character to the space. There are a few art pieces by local Indian artists, including a glass sculpture in the “art lounge” by a London-based Indian; the glass having been blown partially in Ferozabad, India’s Murano, and the rest in Birmingham, and also another defining abstract that perhaps depicts the sun god and the water god, but mostly the feel is pretty minimalist, straight lines and all. There is no loose and heavy furniture cluttering up the space, and one of the best features of the hotel are corners on each floor from where it is possible to look out and see the greens beyond. The suites are another matter; with two rooms and a private terrace garden, these are indeed where you can vacation like a king, enjoy a private yoga class on real grass, or just a family vacation.

A spa will come up this year end—to turn this more into a resort. But amongst the interesting design themes here will be a Jacuzzi shaped like a baori (or stepped well from medieval times), once again playing on the name of the location—Suraj Kund. Already, there are baori motifs that abound in the architecture; from door handles shaped like that to wall edgings and so forth.

The restaurants? I liked their coffee shop Oasis, even though I would recommend it mostly for its Indian food—the galauti kebabs served by their Lucknowi chef are par excellence and I quite enjoyed my meal of Malabari fish curry with a crisp dosa (sorry, no appams) washed down with some Moet. Yes, there was indeed a lot of “water” freely flowing.

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