Delhi's wine society was enjoying a gathering at The Park on the night of my stay and I wangled an invitation. It proved a wonderfully lively evening – not only for the insight into a vibrantly emerging market but also for the go-ahead crowd I met. The Park group now has eight properties, and is a member of the Design Hotels consortium.
It is very much a face of new India. The hotel in the capital is at once businesslike and fun. It clearly appeals both as a party venue and an affordable chic retreat for visitors from further afield, with standard rates pitched neatly below those of the Taj and Oberoi chains.
After a surprisingly traffic-free 25-minute taxi ride from the airport, I arrived mid-morning to find the lobby buzzing. Small groups were meeting for coffee in eye-catching pink-and-blue seating areas that are screened off by Perspex bead curtains. The Park New Delhi was India's third Park hotel. It opened in 1987, but was renovated top to bottom fairly recently, the sleek retro look devised by Conran & Partners.
The design concept plays on the elements – with more than a nod to the Swinging Sixties. Lift interiors are painted with sky and clouds to denote air; Aqua, the swimming pool and outside dining area, offers pavilions, rattan beds, a swing and a large mirror ball; Fire, the high-end restaurant serving Indian cuisine, is fringed with a curving wall of bronze.
Other facilities include a more informal Italian restaurant that doubles as the venue for the expansive buffet breakfast spread. You get a fabulous choice, from Danish pastries to aloo masala with chapattis and eggs to order.
The soothing spa is on the first floor, well away from the restaurant bustle, and offers Ayurvedic and Balinese treatments among many others. It also contains a gym and an outdoor yoga area, the latter connected by wooden steps to the pool area below.
Set in the heart of New Delhi's commercial district, the hotel is a short walk from Connaught Circus. This is the city's most celebrated shopping area: it offers anything and everything from crafts and musical instruments to shoe shops and boutiques stocking chic contemporary lifestyle goods.
Perhaps best of all, though, The Park is right next door to one of capital's most extraordinary sights. Janta Mantar is a large and glorious complex of gigantic astronomy instruments built in the 18th century.
Under a recent conservation scheme, the hotel has officially adopted these monuments, dramatically lighting the park-like site of Jantar Mantar at night and undertaking several preservation projects.
The 220 bedrooms are brightly furnished and not too retro-cool to be gimmicky. In my room the dark wood cupboards and floor were offset by lime-green and cream soft furnishings. The bathrooms are behind frosted Perspex walls; although the net effect looks striking, this may compromise your sense of privacy if you're sharing. As if in mitigation, the amenities are generous: toothbrush kit, shaving kit, sewing kit, and own-branded lotions and potions from aloe vera and honey soap to spicy lemon shampoo.
Size is a slight issue: the 87 standard rooms are on the small side, the 97 premium more generously proportioned but still not overly spacious. The 9th and 10th floors contain 25 larger, well appointed "Residence" rooms and 11 suites. These have such added luxuries as sunken marble baths and mirror-finished rain showers.
The real plus, though, is the Residence lounge on the 10th floor to which guests at the Residence rooms and suites have access. This stylish space presents superb views and offers complimentary refreshments and breakfast – although it's more fun to sample some of the amazing range of dishes at the morning buffet on the ground floor.
The Park New Delhi, 15 Parliament Street, New Delhi, India (00 91 11 2374 3000; theparkhotels.com).
Double rooms start at R9,500 (£140), including breakfast