Having recently spent the good part of a week in The Pink City, I’m simply bursting with stories to add to my ever-expanding Jaipur Diaries. As one of the city’s oldest yet most contemporary palaces, SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace seems like a uniquely special place to start…
Originally known as “Maji ka Bagh,” the palace was built in 1729 as a gardened-retreat and pleasure pavilion for the Maharani of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of the Pink City.
It became the British Residency in the 19th Century (acquiring plenty of still-visible art deco touches during this time), before the last ruling Maharajah of Jaipur and his iconic wife – Gayatri Devi – moved in during the late 1950s. As the Indian counterparts of the “glamorous international polo-playing party set”, the couple famously hosted several prolific personalities here – from The Queen and Prince Phillip to Jackie Kennedy!
It’s the sumptuous style and splendour of this charmed and care-free period, that Rajmahal’s recent restoration has tapped into – seamlessly marrying the regal heritage of the palace with a mercurially-modern touch of magic. Although still the property of the Royal Family (who pop in quite regularly I’m told), the palace is now a boutique hotel steered by the vanguards of luxury hospitality, SUJÁN.
With just 13 palatially-appointed rooms, it’s really the dreamiest destination to stay in; but even if you’re not a guest here – it’s worth calling ahead to book yourself in for lunch, lingering on to have a poke around the fairytale interiors.
Styled by the visionary interior designer, Adil Ahmad – the pink and white facade belies a contemporary aesthetic, wallpapered in 46 unique prints which pay thoughtful tribute to traditional Mogul motifs and of course, the family history.
Original Imperial doors (inlaid with symbols of fortune, luck and happiness) have inspired an oriental corridor, while the eminently-Instagrammable breakfast & lunch room – aptly titled 51 Shades of Pink – is festooned with peacock arches in a nod to Norman Parkinson’s series of photographs of India for Vogue.
The eschewing of a royal red hue for a more vivacious palette manifests in a playful setting, inviting a care-free movement between the different rooms – from the arched salon and Polo Bar (a cocktail lounge adorned with the family’s triumphant trophies from the polo field!), to the turquoise-toned Colonnade. Guests can sit wherever strikes their fancy, with various menus fluidly served across the spaces.
More recent additions include an al fresco café situated just on the side of the porte cochere at the front, a separate entrance making it an ideal spot for locals to casually nip in and out of. Peppered with subtle pops of cheery colours, the simple but innately-elegant terrace is a welcoming picture on a breezy afternoon.
Plopping down in the cool shade, we take our pick from Rajmahal Café’s impeccably-fresh Italian dishes, some of which are suffused with an Indian twist. Unsurprisingly, it’s my camera which eats first (much to the chagrin of my long-suffering pal)!
The local Rajasthani specialty, laal maas (a lamb curry singed with spices) finds an unlikely but heavenly form in her immaculate sliders, with the deceivingly-dainty dish proving to be a meatily-substantive choice. I opt for a lighter beetroot tartare feistily underscored by a zesty orange dressing, while burrata (flown in fresh from Bangalore) is complimented by a bittersweet medley of heirloom tomatoes and organic basil – both of which have been grown in the palace’s in-house farm!
We move into the mood-lifting environs of the The Colonnade for afters, a glass-walled verandah which – like all other parts of the palace – enchantingly feels like a fairytale world unto itself.
A vanilla bean panna cotta – with side scoops of homemade ice cream – would be my top picks for what to have here. The panna cotta is impossibly creamy, bolstered by just that right notch of sweetness and a delicate jiggle; while the paan ice cream is one of the most intriguing flavours I’ve come across yet, imbued with a medley of homegrown ingredients from fennel to rose!
The palace’s focus on high-grade cooking reflects in a series of cooking demos and masterclasses conducted poolside by Rajmahal’s head chef; and I mentally make a note to book ahead for one of these on my next visit.
Idly looking out on to the verdant stretch of lawns, the afternoon lazily slips us by before we reluctantly make our way towards the next bucket-list stop in our action-packed itinerary. To be continued.
Sardar Patel Marg, “C” Scheme, Jaipur, Rajasthan 30200