Once in a while, I love to floor the wife, and last year, one such day happened in June, a few weeks before our wedding. I really wanted to take Shipra out for a fancy meal, and I thought the best option was to go out of town for one. The plan was simple, take a flight out, get a meal, explore around for the day and come back. I set my sights at the marvelous Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur for this. Except they only allow house guests to access their restaurants. So…change of plans, we were going to stay there for a night as well!
I’ve had my heart set on the Taj Lake Palace for a long time. Not due to Octopussy. Set inside Lake Pichola and made of white marble, it was the former summer house of various rulers of the royalty of Mewar. In 1971, Taj took over the management of this hotel, and it’s last renovation happened in 2000.
One fine evening, we got on a plane to Udaipur from Mumbai and had a car pick us up at the airport in Udaipur. The car was not from the hotel, but we were trailed by one from the hotel, and they seemed to have a fleet of Range Rovers for airport transfers.
Arriving at the hotel
After about 40 minutes of driving, we pulled over at the gate of the City Palace, where our reservation was cross-checked against a manifest, and we were allowed to proceed in. We soon arrived at the jetty of the Taj Lake Palace, where our baggage was taken over by the courteous staff of the hotel. We took a seat while waiting for the speed boat to arrive from the hotel, and in the meanwhile were offered a cold towel and a drink of water to freshen ourselves up.
In a while, the boat arrived and ourselves and two other passengers were brought on board. For a speedboat, it was done up pretty well, with wooden furnishing et al. We soon started to head over to the Palace, and it was already getting to be dusk, like we see here.
A few minutes later, we docked at the hotel, and after hopping over to the pontoon, we arrived at the main hotel building, where we were welcomed with trumpets and a personal pooja. Flower petals were showered as well from the roof, and it was truly a royal welcome. Too bad we were busy soaking in the experience, so we never took many pictures at this time.
Once the welcome was completed, we sat in the lobby while check-in formalities were signed off. A welcome drink was offered, which was made out of guava, and it was very tasty.
Our personal host, who had by now completed our check-in formalities, brought us a key (an old style brass key, not a keycard!), and we walked with her to the room, while she informed us about the various activities and options at the Palace. The bar next to the lobby had a small library and lots of board games, including Chess set up. There was also a fortune teller who was sitting there reading palms when we arrived. No, I did not go to him to check in on what the future holds for me, but suit yourself!
I’d booked up a Luxury Garden View room, however, the hotel had upgraded us to a Luxury Lake View room, which overlooked the City Palace on the banks of the lake. That was the best the Gold membership of the Taj InnerCircle got us. We were ushered into our room by our hostess, and we had just about enough time to click a picture of ours together on request of the hostess, who then informed us that a cultural show was going to start now, and advised us to join them at the courtyard. We freshened up quickly, and headed out to catch a glimpse of the local artisans dancing to folk songs. We were served evening hors d’oeuvres here, and we also called for some drinks. After all, it was a long day so far!
Once we got back to the room, we took some pictures. It was a marvelous room, and we were now soaking in the full glory of the premises. There was a double bed in the centre, and a long couch set along the walls of the room. There were jharokha style windows which showed us the Udaipur City Palace, and there were high roofs.
This is how the room looked during the day…
Since I’d advised the hotel it was a special occasion we were celebrating, the hotel placed a cake in the room for us to celebrate, along with traditional sweets (laddoos, my favourites) as well. I never touched upon it if they knew I loved laddoos, but I won’t be surprised if they found out somehow. There was also a traditional umbrella left behind, something we brought back home with us. There were also the regular welcome amenities of fruit and chocolates.
We did not touch the cake during the night, but we finished off the sweets instead. Next morning, the cake was fresh yet, and we managed to hog a bit on it in the morning. It was a beautiful cake and we really did not want to cut it.
Since it was the late evening, turn down service was already completed on the room. On the bed, they set a small stuffed toy of an elephant, along with a welcome note and a scented candle.
The bathroom was done up in blue tiles, and had a soak tub as well. The Taj uses Forest Essentials as its amenities provided, and all I can say is I look forward to them everytime I stay at a Taj Palace.
There was also a minibar, which came fully stocked, however, we never needed to use it, since we spent a lot of time soaking in the property as well.
The Taj Lake Palace has one of the best dining spots for personalised service. They have an all-day dining restaurant, a rooftop dining option and the Indian and local cuisine restaurant. This evening, we were going to skip the all-day dining and the European rooftop dining to head to their signature restaurant, Neel Kamal, which serves the royal cuisine of Rajasthan and Indian dishes.
The restaurant was empty, and we anyways had a reservation in place. So we had a choice of seating. While we already sort of knew what we were going to eat, the crew at the restaurant helped us make up our minds. We also had a pretty good choice from their large menu of wines available.
Once we were settled in, the amuse bouche were brought out. This was followed their signature chutneys were brought out along with accompaniments. Dinner was served with silverware and plates were changed after every course. We went for the signature laal maas, a lamb specialty with its origin in Rajasthan, and more interesting stuff I can tell you about if you’d be interested.
The most interesting part about the dinner was also the hospitality. All the tables are designed to seat you looking over the waterbodies, and the staff working the restaurant are never obtrusive. However, they are always there, waiting on your back, and you just need to as much as turn a bit and they’d come by and attend to you. I was thoroughly impressed with this level of hospitality. Also, they took a picture of ours, with our permission of course after dinner, and even before we managed to leave the restaurant, they had it framed and ready for us to take away and bring home with us. A memory we often cherish.
After the dinner, we strolled in the open areas, and we could see the City Palace lit up in its full glory. Behind us was the Oberoi Udaivilas, which is also a magnificent resort at the bank of the lake.
Next morning, we headed to the all-day dining restaurant Jharokha to get breakfast. Breakfast was included in the rate we had booked at. This restaurant is set on one edge of the hotel, and you can oversee the lake and the hotel from its various windows. We chose a corner seat which gave us window views from three sides.
While there was a buffet set out, all the hot options were set on a menu, and you could order as much as you wanted off the menu. We tried a couple of snackish small portions and some large portions as well, because everything looked tempting on this menu to me. You must try the Pyaaz ki Kachori if you are here. Here is the menu for your reference.
We got chatting with our hostess this morning at the restaurant. Turned out she was a local girl, who was working at the hotel for a few years, and they took good care of her. She was fond of photography and we let her take a few pictures of ours.
Here is a mash up of some of the things we tried at breakfast: Pohe, followed by a Parantha and some Pancakes. On the chef’s insistence, we also did try the Kachori, because, why not!
We could also spot birds from the window between us and the next table…
We spent the rest of the day across the lake in the city, first visiting the City Palace and then getting a bit into the city. We again took the boat in and out of the hotel. We could now take clearer pictures of the jetty and the speed boat as well. Another instance of the Taj hospitality happened here. It began to rain, and we did not have a car on hand. The palace which houses a museum was a few minutes walk away. The hotel staff offered to drive us into the City Palace rather than we walking over with our umbrellas.
The hotel had a marvelous pool and a gym set next to each other, however due to the paucity of time, we couldn’t use either. I also wanted to make use of the spa, but there was no time to make it happen as well.
At the time of departure, it was a much simpler affair but quite a few people from the hotel came to say goodbyes and wish us well. We went back on the boat, and over to the jetty one final time for our trip home. Of course, this hotel and this place deserves a longer visit, so we are hoping sooner than later we would be back again.
We were offered a rate of INR 17,000 all inclusive (inclusive of breakfast and taxes) which is roughly USD 260 a night. But this was low season and I’m told it would be a higher price in the peak season.
Taj Palace hotels are known for their hospitality and their architecture. While there is one in my backyard right here in Mumbai, this one stunned us on multiple levels with their warmth, their hospitality and their high standards.