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Rediff.com  » Business » Queen's Necklace gets her jewel back

Queen's Necklace gets her jewel back

Last updated on: April 22, 2010 22:26 IST

Queen's Necklace gets her jewel back

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On April 24, Oberoi Hotel will welcome its guests for the first time after being attacked by terrorists in November 2008. Matthew Schneeberger's lens captures what the revamped Mumbai landmark looks like.

One of the crown jewels in the Queen's Necklace along Mumbai's famed Marine Drive has finally been restored.

The Oberoi Hotel is all set to formally re-open on April 24, nearly 18 months after terrorist gunmen stormed the iconic Mumbai landmark on November 26, 2008 and caused extensive damage while killing about 30 guests, diners and staff.

The renovation was no mere touch-up; the hotel has been completely redesigned, refurbished and redecorated. Oberoi officials estimate the total cost to be around Rs 160-180 crore (Rs 1.6-1.8 billion).

Three days before its doors opened to the public, the media was given a special preview of the revamped hotel on April 21.

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Image: The newly designed lobby at The Oberoi in Mumbai
Photographs: Matthew Schneeberger
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Minimalist, modern, marbled

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The first observation one has is how completely the Oberoi has been overhauled: The imposing 13,000 square foot lobby? Completely revamped, and now minimalist and modern in feel.

Gone is the reddish-black granite floor of yesteryear, replaced by milky-white marble from the Greek island of Thassos, which was imported by the hotel and then fashioned by artisans in Agra.

Where once a formidable grand piano graced the lobby, there's today a bright red, jazz-inspired piano, reportedly handpicked by Oberoi chairman PRS Oberoi.

Also, there are fewer available seats and less furniture in the lobby, a concession made to open up the massive space and emphasise its brilliant natural light.

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Image: A view of the lobby, from the first floor
Photographs: Matthew Schneeberger
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Fine Indian cuisine, served French-style!

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The restaurants and bars? Entirely new, save for Italian restaurant The Vetro.

The former lobby-level Tea Lounge is now the Champagne Lounge and will offer a number of champagnes and teas. Tiffin, the open, lobby-level restaurant is now Fenix, and features a sushi bar and world cuisine.

Northwest frontier-style restaurant Kandahar, left almost entirely in ruins after the attack, still offers fine Indian dining, but has been reconceptualised and re-named Ziya. Michelen-starred Vineet Bhatia will serve as a consulting chef. The restaurant's specialty remains Indian cuisine, notably its daals, kebabs and raan, but diners will now be served French-style rather than family-style; and will use gold crockery and cutlery!

The lobby-level Bayview Bar has been renamed Eau Bar ('eau' is French for water), and will feature jazz performances every evening. It also boasts of gold-wrapped olives, gold-plated champagne flute and impressive views of the Arabian Sea and Marine Drive.

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Image: The all-new Ziya restaurant, formerly Kandahar
Photographs: Matthew Schneeberger
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It's not just the look that's changed...

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The number of rooms has been reduced from 327 to 287, while the number of suites rooms has been increased from 22 to 73, in keeping with the trend of younger, jet-setting business travellers in India.

Overall, the hotel's new driving philosophy is two-pronged: 1) retain a classic Oberoi ambience and vibe while 2) updating the look and feel to a more contemporary, modern aesthetic.

But it's not just the look that's changed.

Actual facilities have been upgraded, too: conference rooms, telecommunication services and spa and exercise equipment have all received facelifts.

Also, rooms are now larger on average: Previously, rooms averaged 370 square feet with the largest suite measuring 1,600 square feet. Now, the smallest are about 490 square feet, while the presidential suites measure 2,060 square feet each.

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Image: One room of an executive suite
Photographs: Matthew Schneeberger
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Presidential suites at Rs 3 lakh per night!

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There are 70 deluxe rooms, the cheapest on offer at the Oberoi, which run between Rs 22,000 and Rs 25,000 a night. Moving upwards in price there are 110 Luxury Rooms, 34 Premier Ocean View Rooms, 51 Executive Suites, 11 Deluxe Suites, 9 Luxury Suites and 2 Presidential Suites. Presidential suites will be priced at around Rs 3 lakh per night.

The hotel says it has about 40 bookings for April 24, and adds that weekend reservations for its restaurants are completely full.


Image: A view of the lobby from the 21st floor
Photographs: Matthew Schneeberger
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