A few months ago I revisited Bikaner with Narendra Bhawan. Not only did it reintroduced me to the city but also rewards that come along with immersive travel. A short but in-depth exploration through the city’s architecture and history was like a crash course on of the royal legacy of the state since its foundation.
And within the walls of Narendra Bhawan, erstwhile home of the last king of Bikaner, Maharaja Narendra Singh, there were even more impressive experiences waiting to entice. The exploration begun with the exquisite artefacts in Narendra Bhawan. Welcoming us were the two vintage cars flanking the way to the front porch. Also known as the Verandah, this has to be my favourite part of Narendra Bhawan. Polished Italian marble steps rose up to the Portuguese tiles where stood a stunning exhibition of artifacts from different parts of the world. On my either sides, I saw the walls framed with different textures of silk, sophisticated black leather sofa accompanied with crystal tables and my sight, moving towards the centre was a massive glass table with Chinese vases and glazed artifacts.
As I walked further into the main hallway, the chequered floor was royally contrasted with teal velveteen benches and red grand piano on the right-end. The pastel green coloured crystal chair and miniature collectibles dot this spectacular corridor.
I could go on about the gorgeous art that Narendra Bhawan houses but unlike my other travels, this time, the culinary experiences won my heart.
Dinner with eye-masks
On one of the evenings, Narendra Bhawan invited us for an exclusive experience. The four-course dinner by the side of P&C (Pearls & Chiffon, one of the restaurants), in a private section was my first blindfolded dinner. Once we took our seats and made ourselves familiar with placement of the table, our eyes were covered and the wait staff acknowledged none of our questions. It was as if they were not there at all!
Different courses were brought in through the hour-and 20-minute experience. The simultaneous process of tasting and guessing the meal was exciting and very unique. Personally I felt that covering my sense of sight enhanced my senses of smell and taste.
In the first course, crostini with tomato and mozzarella was served. French onion soup followed and after that came salmon tart and leek pie. In the non-vegetarian main course, we were constantly guessing the meat until we confirmed after the meal that it was pork belly and lamb. The dessert was a delicious portion made of lemongrass and passion fruit. I wiped my plate clean even with my eyes closed! Fine red and white wine paired each course and I finished with a mint tea.
Museum lunch within gold
Mesmerised by the beauty of the royal Laxmi Niwas Palace, commissioned by the 21st king of Bikaner, Maharaja Ganga Singh, our museum lunch in its Gold Room was a magical experience.
Subtle green walls of the high-ceiling room were designed by gold inlay work. Approximately 50 kilograms of gold was used in the entire room. In the centre, hung a grand chandelier and on the upper part of the walls, Rajasthani jharokas or filigree-meshed balconies made an appearance. The intricacies of this room are many and they all added to its grandness.
Our meal was a replica of a menu from one of the many parties hosted by Maharaja Ganga Singh. This menu now graces the Lallgarh Palace.
A French meal begun with delectable asparagus mousse followed by cream of cauliflower soup. I gobbled the next course which was my favourite pomfret with Béarnaise sauce. The elaborate Plat du Bikaner, or the traditional Bikaneri thali, filled us in the main course. And the entire meal was completed by a buffet of desserts, cheese and fruits.
Cocktails under the open sky
My quest for a favourite signature cocktail of Narendra Bhawan begun in the first evening. First up was the gin-based Tiger Lily with strong blends of passion fruit and very light hints of mint. I also tried the Breakfast Sour (gin with lemon juice, Angostura bitter and egg white) and Gulkand Nightcap (dark rum with gulkand and cream)—both of which were not for my palate. My favourite has to be the Black Russian. This was a concoction of gulkand syrup, coffee and vodka, a spirit I least enjoy and yet, this cocktail was superior.
During the day, an aromatic cinnamon-flavoured Negroni and a delicate rose-flavoured G&T were refreshing under Rajasthan’s sun.
An evening of revelry that begun at Narendra Bhawan’s outdoor cocktail bar, continued until midnight with a shift of venue. We drove to Darbari, about 30 minutes away from the hotel, by the lake. Here we sat enjoying the glistening moonlight on the lake as conversations and laughter unravelled by the minute.
The night concluded after copious amounts of our favourite tipple, an elaborate meal and unforgettable humorous experiences.
Good to know
-Blindfolded dinner is a recent inclusion and is organised only for groups.
-Literary Lunch is also especially handcrafted for NBB guests.
What makes your travel memorable?
Note: I was invited by Narendra Bhawan Bikaner.