Keshav Suri is a man of great taste and it shows. The executive director of the Lalit Group of Hotels who inherited the hospitality mantle from his late father Lalit Suri, is polite and affable. We meet him at a special sit-down dinner he’s hosting at the Grill Room, at The Lalit New Delhi, where he’s invited Michelin-starred Chef Ollie Dabbous of Dabbous Restaurant, London, fame, and his co-founder mixologist Oskar Kinberg. “I want to create interest in the fact that the Lalit is going to London,” he says. He also wants to bring the iconic Grill Room downstairs from the 28th floor, and make space for his pan-Asian restaurant OKO (which already exists in the Bengaluru property). “All our F&B brands have to be here, as The Lalit New Delhi is our mother ship.” Keshav has also hosted an event at Baluchi, that serves Mughlai and north-Indian cuisine, the only restaurant that will figure on the roster at The Lalit London.
Keshav tells us that he’s “proud to fly the Indian flag high” with The Lalit London, a 70-bedroom boutique property housed in a 160-year-old historic building that was formerly a grammar school, with quirkily named bars such as The Headmaster’s Bar and The Teacher’s Lounge. “We’re the first to bring an Indian hotel chain there, as The Lalit,” says Keshav. “You have the Taj St James Court, but St James Court was already an iconic property before the Taj took it over. Our tag line is: ‘Traditionally modern, subtly luxurious, distinctly Lalit.’ That just speaks for itself in London.” The hotel is to have subtle Indian elements and high-tech, discreet facilities like checking in and out via iPad from the comfort of one’s room.
The London property will be the 13th for the group, with a luxurious boutique hotel, The Lalit Mangar opening this November between the Faridabad and Gurgaon highway, amidst a verdant stretch of forest. “It will promote health and serve fresh produce from our farm. It’s my mum Jyotsna Suri’s project,” says Keshav. He attributes the Group’s recent expansion to his mother’s efforts who took over the helm in 2006, but it was his father’s vision that led him to acquire plum properties in Mumbai, Kolkata (an iconic hotel that is older than the Raffles), Srinagar, Khajuraho, Goa (at a time when nobody considered south Goa prime real estate), and Bekal, Kerala. “The Kolkata hotel was my father’s last acquisition,” he says. “His vision was clear. He wanted India to be the tourist destination. But his grouse was infrastructure. He would have been happy if he’d seen the progress we’ve made with our Delhi and Mumbai airports.”
From his late father, Keshav learnt “to work hard and party even harder”, along with self-discipline. He says that neither his dad nor he (he has three older siblings) studied hospitality. “It came naturally to my father. He was a fabulous host and knew how to take care of people,” he says. “Till the day he passed away, people would talk about his parties. He also enjoyed life and that translated in his work ethic. I hope to emulate that one day.”
Keshav’s moment juste came when he opened Kitty Su, a hip bar-lounge with multiple spaces and great guest DJs, which he is now opening in Kolkata and Bengaluru. “I wanted to create a space where my friends and I could go,” he says. “We have my private room; the Salon, that is tied with Absolut Elyx, and the Dressing Room or the “champagne toilet”, which is a bar within a restroom.” Champagne is something Keshav has been obsessed with since he first tasted some with his dad as a teen. “I took a trip to Reims in Epernay, France, and went to Moët & Chandon, and even visited the monastery of Dom Pérignon,” he says. He had a special limited-edition champagne for Kitty Su with Drapier that totalled 500 bottles. “My favourite is the Bollinger,” says Keshav. “And I love the Krug Grande Cuvée, one of the rarest champagnes.” He also got 200 bottles specially made by Luxor, a Brut, with gold flakes inside them. Keshav loves to visit Paris, and London to shop, as well as Amsterdam. A foodie, he’s a big fan of La Petite Maison with their “delicious” southern French cuisine. And on the weekend, Keshav Suri entertains friends at his home turf, Kitty Su. Like the perfect host.