Local Knowledge, Delhi

Author: Robyn Bickford
Photography: Alamy

Hotelier Robyn Bickford shows us the secrets of Delhi, India.

I first arrived in Delhi  from Athens in 1984 on a reconnaissance trip to re-establish the New Zealand High Commission. The Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated two days later. From my hotel I watched as riots broke out and chaos descended. It was a fiery beginning to what has turned out to be a magical Indian journey over the past 32 years. 

The thing I've grown to love most about this city is its ability to challenge all one's emotions and senses every day and in every way. I never know what each day will bring.

Best time of year to visit is October and November - after the monsoon and before the fogs and greyness of December and January.

Best coffee? Cafe Lota at the National Crafts Museum, with its wonderful range of prime south Indian estate coffees.

Favourite street food?  How could you choose just one? The lanes of Old Delhi have food stalls every few inches. I love the sweet shops. Kebabs. Anything from a tandoor. Hot breads. Lassi in a terracotta cup. The best spot for a business lunch is The Lodhi, for regional Indian, a sandwich or contemporary Asian.

Cocktails? Again, at The Lodhi, at the Elan bar. Sazerac with Peychaud and Angostura bitters, absinthe and rye is my heavy-duty cocktail.

Something cultural? Don't miss Bikaner House, a stunning addition to the city's cultural life in the restored city palace of the maharajas of Bikaner (Pandara Rd, India Gate). Until recently it was used as the bus terminal for Rajasthan Buses. Now it hosts all sorts of cultural activities and there's the most fantastic décor store called Vayu.

And shopping? Good Earth is my favourite for homewares, décor, clothes and really wonderful designs, run by Anita Lal and her daughter Simran.

When the pace of life becomes overwhelming I run away to Rajasthan, usually to Raas in Jodhpur, or to the amazing annual World Sacred Spirit Festival in Nagaur. Or to Shakti Himalaya's amazing village houses in Ladakh.

Bickford is the outgoing general manager of The Lodhi, Delhi, formerly Aman New Delhi.







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