There is a hotel next to India’s busiest airport that anyone would happy to be stranded at
I’m obsessed with airport hotels. Famously, J.G. Ballard’s favourite building in the whole world was Michael Manser’s Hilton at Heathrow, completed in 1991. “Beautifully proportioned, it resembles a cross between a brain surgery hospital and a space station,” he said of this huge glass and white panelled structure. “I am always supremely happy in its vast atrium, and I wait for the day when the whole of London resembles this future classic.” Aerocity – the airport-adjacent neighbourhood in which the Andaz Delhi sits – sounds like the title of a Ballard novel that I’d very muchlike to read. You can smell the super modern unease and psychopathy of this freshly built area from 30,000 feet away, straight up. And there’s something about being inside the hotel within that area that feels like you’ve been ring fenced from the end of days.
I spent afternoons staring out the window at planes take off, contemplating my strange new life, living in this non-place
I have a long relationship with airport hotels. In a former life I was a music photographer, and spent a lot of time commuting between London and L.A., often just for a day’s shoot. Best catering to date: Gwen Stefani. Lovely spread. Sometimes on these jaunts there’d be a night in an airport hotel. On one occasion, an overnighter turned into a seven-day saga of trailing Limp Bizkit up and down the country, with my shoot with the heinous Fred Durst repeatedly being postponed. When it came to actually getting my fifteen minutes with him backstage in San Francisco, he didn’t feel like wearing his stupid little red baseball cap. The whole escapade ended in a reshoot (avec little red baseball cap – apparently he was unrecognisable without it), while I was holed up in an airport hotel at SFO. The record company had all but washed their hands of me, and I spent afternoons staring out the window at planes take off, contemplating my strange new life, living in this non-place.
I stayed at the Andaz Delhi twice recently. My flights in and out of India were are times that made travel connections a pain, so I decided to catch my breath at the hotel both ways. I recommend anyone do the same. This is definitely a non-place to enjoy a strange new life. I’d happily live here in one of the vast, stark-but-super-lux rooms.
Once past the security check and metal detector at the front door, all is wonderful, if not entirely serene. The lobby is bustling, with The Juniper Bar to your left (which does incredibly camp cocktails with gin), a bank of lifts heading up to the rooms and down to the vast spa accessed by a lobby with a grid of bright orange lights that are straight out of Tron. Through the far set of doors: a pool and garden for large corporate events set within a courtyard. One negative here – the pool seems to get little sun because of its position, but it’s a place I’d happily spend time, depending on the occasional dystopia-level smog situation.
I lunched as well as had breakfast at AnnaMaya, the ground floor casual dining space, and everything I had from the tandoor part of the menu ranged from good to excellent. I was particularly taken with the coconut, dill and rose lassi and the cucumber, elderflower and lime “lemonade”. Better still was a Cantonese dinner at The Hong Kong Club, which I visited the night before my morning flight to London. This feels nothing like a hotel restaurant, more like a standalone louche-as-you-like supperclub, glowing red through its glass rotunda as you approach it. Every member of staff inside looks like a model, and the two-level swanked-out room, set around a central tower and bar, vibrates to whatever the extraordinarily glam woman is sending out from the DJ booth at any given moment. I usually loathe this kind of thing in restaurants, but it feels right here. I even reached for Shazam at one point (Fire Walk – Extended Mix by Yotto, if you want to know). Once I’d asked to be moved from one of the side booths (extraordinarily, bewilderingly uncomfortable), I settled in happily for a few hours of char siu barbecued pork, assorted dim sum and local wine, all of which was as good as I’ve had anywhere. I stayed far too late, and was delighted to have a message from British Airways first thing the next morning to alert me to a delay in my departure.
I loved almost everything about the Andaz Delhi, but it was the details I appreciated most of all – the vintage car available for transfers to the international terminal, the rows of brightly coloured donuts hanging on a board in AnnaMaya, and the pretty little bejeweled pens next to the Andaz-branded notepads beside my bed. I pocketed several of them. I smile every time I write a shopping list with them in my kitchen back in London. C
Andaz Delhi, Asset, Street Number 1, Rangpuri Extention B-Block Pocket-4, New Delhi, Delhi 110037, India
+91 11 4903 1234; hyatt.com