The Oberoi – Mumbai
THE GLEAMING five-star Oberoi hotel has spent a lot of time and money trying to forget the past.
The Mumbai landmark, a playground for the megacity’s elite as well as foreign VIPs like former US President Bill Clinton, was reopened in April following an 18-month, $40m renovation after being at the centre of the Islamist terror attacks in November 2008.
Of the 170 people who were killed as a result of three days of shootings and bombings across the city, 32 staff and guests died at the Oberoi.
The nearby Taj Mahal hotel, also at the heart of the attacks, decided to restore everything exactly the way it was.
But Indian billionaire P.R.S. Oberoi took the chance to rethink his 287-room hotel perched on Marine Drive (where the city's beautiful people like to promenade), which overlooks the Indian Ocean.
Not only have the tastefully light and airy rooms been revamped, but new air conditioning and IT systems have been put in between the walls.
The hotel has also had to take more practical measures like installing bomb-proof windows and increasing its daily security detail from 25 to 65.
Many of the names and themes of the bars and restaurants have also been updated to reflect a more modern feel. The traditional Kandahar is now an Indian nouvelle cuisine eatery called Ziya, run by Michelin-starred head chef Vineet Bhatia. And the international restaurant in the foyer has changed its name from Tiffin to Fenix, for obvious reasons.
“It sounds terrible to say this,” says the hotel’s courtly American general manager Steven Kalczynski. “But the tragedy has given us the opportunity to think deeply about how we cater for our guests in the new century.”
Each of the 73 suites and all of the rooms have their own butler assigned to them. However, the service I received throughout the hotel from the man who took my bags, the barmen, waiters, pool attendants and the chap in the business centre was always helpful and friendly.
The Taj has built a plaque to commemorate the fallen; the Oberoi has not. The closest thing it has is a new bright red piano, which stands in the middle of its cream 14-storey high atrium. They sometimes play jazz on it in the evenings and after a few drinks it becomes a frivolous symbol of hope. It’s hard not to raise your glass to it.
Rooms start from £230 per night; Presidential Suite £4,280 per night. www.oberoihotels.com