We had entered Bikaner a few minutes earlier and after negotiating a few intricate twists and turns, reached Narendra Bhawan, a palace turned into a hotel. The driver, dressed in ethnic outfit was quite a pro and took about 5 hours from Jaipur to Bikaner including a lunch and a tea break.
On entering the palatial building, we were ushered in one of the many sitting rooms after crossing a luxurious veranda and even more luxurious long hall. Immediately there were a couple of staff members with wet towels and lemon drinks to disintegrate our tiredness. While we were offered to be taken to our rooms, we wanted to start exploring the palace.
Wherever we saw, there were artwork, old photos of the bygone era, paintings of the royalties, trophies, decorations, trinkets and such, which had once belonged to the kingdom commenced by Rao Bika 500 years back. This aristocratic hotel was a veritable museum!
The two of us have stayed in many other palaces converted to hotels, but this was different. The building felt alive. Maybe because the hotel part of the building completely surrounded the small 2-storied palace. The old palace still remains with restricted access.
The reason perhaps was to tell the story of the maverick Maharaja Narendra Singh, who was born a year or so before the birth of Independent India, the way he would have wanted to tell. He loved dogs and cows and was generally liked all animals. Hence the area just inside the main gate is called “Gaushala”, where it is planned to have live cows in the future. The new palace retained the Rajasthani style of architecture and was built using red sandstone, it appeared more modern.
Well, there are stories and stories.
We walk towards the lift for our rooms but on the way we are stopped abruptly by the presence of bright red baby piano that was so out of place yet, once you understand the psyche of the owner of palace, made sense in every way.
Like all havelis, here too there was a courtyard but on the second floor. The old residence of Narendra Singhji was right under our feet! I felt Goosebumps forming. However there was a cheery ambience at this courtyard called Diwali Chowk. It was decorated with marble fountains shaped like the head of cows and several planters with orange trees. From third floor onward there are corridors built much in the lines of a plush royal haveli.
The rooms are tastefully bedecked fitting a royal guest. It was quite large compared to many a luxury hotels we have stayed in. It was one of the most comfortable beds we had ever slept in.
The lighting was pretty good and the there were several lights that could be individually operated to suit ones needs.
There are many categories of rooms, the smallest has an area about 30 SqM and the largest, and the republic suites are 70 SqM. The interiors also vary in congruence with name and style. On the work station was a very British looking red letter case, apparently designed on the same lines as the Buckingham Palace and this was common to all the rooms.
What pleasantly surprised us was our photos framed nicely and kept on the table. Where they got our photos from? You better ask them. 🙂
In all the lines above, I should say we’d barely scratched the surface. Good food is most important to us especially while travelling. Something to say about Rajasthani hospitality, is that they sweetly persuade you to eat a bit of this and taste a bit of that. Soon before you know, you have eaten a lot more than you would normally, especially when there is variety of tasty food. So much so, we started avoiding the likes of Balveer Singh and Himmat Singh! Jokes apart, I think our stay was gastronomical delight to say the least.
Pearls and Chiffon
Elaborate dinner was served at this uniquely named dining hall. It is really not a restaurant but a private dining room for a sit down party. Sachit Jha the famous corporate chef, dished out courses after courses of mouth-watering delicacy that knowingly we were wolfing down whatever came to the table.
Mad Hatter, the bake house
This is managed by Himmat Singh with his proud pencil moustache. The café had an assortment of cakes, puddings, rolls and sorts and is truly international, nothing Rajasthani. This was yet another thing that made sense in this particular surrounding. Himmat was an artist, especially when he served coffee. Have a look!
The roof top pool side with Arabian nights setting is a perfect venue for an evening get together or party. Sachit again waved his magic wand and wove a perfect last night dinner, dance and music. At my request, he specially ensured all were served mulled wine, which was a manna during the wintry night.
Diwali Chowk and the surrounding corridors could also be used as meeting place. There were tables in the courtyard and cots in the corridors where one could order food.
The roof top infinity pool and a well-appointed gym was direly needed with so much devouring and guzzling we were doing!
Narendra Bhawan staff had painstakingly curated a few outings into the city to give an orientation to the 5 centuries old city. Siddharth Yadav, the VP of the company, accompanied us to the Royal Exploration and Ram explained to us the old city’s havelis in Merchants Exploration. They also organised a sundowner party at the sand dunes, some distance away, which was quite enjoyed by the participants.
The entire staff is always at your service. Right from the VP Siddharth himself till the junior most, left no stone unturned when it came to serving the guests. Speaking about food, my advice is, do not fill your stomach in the beginning itself….. there’s more to come. If you ask them how many courses more, do not expect a reply. They, especially the likes of Balveer Singh and Himmat Singh, would bring dishes after dishes…. so much so, we started avoiding them. Jokes apart, I think our stay was gastronomical delight to say the least.
PS: We were invited to be the guests of Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner. However, as always opinions are our own.
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