There are a few hotels in the world which are known for their prolific style statements. The quirky design sense, unmatched elements and a very unconventional and yet thoughtful approach make hotels speak volumes about their uniqueness. Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner is one such finest example, heavily influenced by the 1930’s Bombay Art Deco movement. Quite interestingly, this palace hotel celebrates amalgamation of both modern and traditional approach in their designs. Every corner of this hotel tells us many tales from the bygone eras. The former royal residence of the last reigning king of Bikaner, his highness Narendra Singhji, was later converted into a luxurious five-star palace hotel.
The opulence of Narendra Bhawan is eye-arresting. The very first impression of this hotel paints a grand and royal Haveli look, standing tall with pride. The unique blend of outlandish, elegant and contrasting colors are truly a visual delight.
There is no designated reception area at Narendra Bhawan. The feeling of being in a royal residence is pulsating in every corner. The concept of the drawing room is still very much complementing the design elements of this hotel. As I entered, I was escorted first to the drawing room of the royal residence, just the way King Narendra Singh Ji would treat his guests for a candid conversation over drinks or a smoke. I was spellbound.
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Inspiration behind the design
Narendra Bhawan is not just another hotel that celebrates quirkiness. The most beautiful thing about this hotel is that the design reflects the flamboyant lifestyle of the King in pieces in every corner. The glimpses of his eclectic taste in style are vibrant everywhere. Narendra Bhawan literally reflects the snapshots of the king’s life where you are taken back to the age-old days, but with a modern twist.
The lounge area of the hotel is effortlessly classy with its elegant style statements. The marriage between the glorious past and celebrating future dominates the area. Every little detail catches your eye.
Whether it is the modern furniture, lamp shades, the antique pieces in their color-coordinated showcase, the Portuguese tiles, the wall of silk, old photographs from the king’s era, rich velveteen fabrics, etc., Narendra Bhawan is thoughtfully designed, considering the lifestyle of the king.
One of the most striking elements in the indoor lounge area is the electric red Baby Grand piano, named ‘Edith’, with the lyrics of the eternal song by Edith Piaf – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
My personal favorite space at Narendra Bhawan is the quintessential Rajasthani styled courtyard at the heart of the property named Diwali Chowk. Adorned with low Indian styled sitting, canopies, and fruit trees, surrounded by the three-storied sandstone structures, these are reminiscent of the traditional Havelis in Rajasthan.
The beautifully designed jaali works on the façade adding charm to this breezy courtyard.
The Rooms & Designs
My Room at Narendra Bhawan
The guest rooms reflect the lifestyle of King Narendra Singhji in different stages and also define the eccentric taste in design and style. I was floored the moment I stepped into the Prince Room. The intricate details in each corner impressed me to the core.
The well-orchestrated colors, the furniture, ceiling and the lighting, evoke his youth when he indulged in luxuries and was introduced to a glamorous lifestyle. I also appreciate the effort of the hotel to go an extra mile to make their guests happy and special. I was overwhelmed by the personally addressed note and also a well-framed photograph of mine in the room.
The Residence Rooms reflect his electric taste for elaborate designs. With the English color palate, the rooms are tastefully designed with a detailed work in the ceiling, terrazzo floors seamlessly blending well with Portuguese tiles. The Regimented Rooms tell a lot about his military life. The India Rooms denotes the defining elements which are Indian in nature with a contemporary look. My absolute favorite is the Republic Suite. The suite is undoubtedly edgy, classy and chic. The best part of the suite is that it celebrates minimalism.
I was not aware of these two terms “Food Meditation” until I was introduced to this kind of gastronomic experiences during my stay at Narendra Bhawan. I have not experienced such elaborate dining sessions anywhere else. It’s hard to recollect the number of cocktails, wines, champagne, gin and what not, I had during the cocktail sessions every evening. The lavish food platters, a variety of world cuisines, traditional Marwari breakfast and delectable starters, it was nothing less than a feast every day. These are the most epic dining experiences I had during my stay at Narendra Bhawan.
The Museum Lunch
Well, I haven’t experienced such lavish and royal elaborate lunch until then. They call it Museum Lunch which is a private hosted lunch at one of the rooms in the Laxmi Niwas Palace known as The Gold Room. The specially curated lunch from the very same menu from the museum since 1927 made this experience an epic one.
The cuisines were mostly French, which clearly tell the impeccable influence of the British and European food culture on the menu during those days. The inclusion of the traditional Bikaner Thali (the Plat du Bikaner) on the menu states the emphasis on Indian cuisines. The delectable taste of each course is quite appreciable. Not just that, what I loved the most about the lunch is the way each platter is presented to us.
Le Diner dans le Noir (The dinner in the dark)
This was the unique dining experience I indulged in, where I dined in the dark, served by unexpected guides. The whole experience of having lavish dinner, blindfolded in a private dining room with bare minimum light where only your senses overpower your taste buds. I was absolutely stunned by the services and well-guided staff of Narendra Bhawan who executed this experience with utter perfection.
Except for the diners, you can’t even hear a whisper from any of the staff members who were serving us. It was completely one sensory experience where I realized how my senses got to alert the moment I was blindfolded. By touching or feeling the texture and even by the smell of the food I could guess the dishes served to me. The daunting concept of dining in the dark was introduced by the restaurant chain named deans le Noir in Paris, now having several outlets in the major cities of the world. With a million visitors, the restaurant chain gives its guests one of the unique dining experiences by inviting them into the world of senses.
Literary lunch is another, innovative way of experiencing food where stories from famous books and recipes are merged together and the food is created. The specially curated menu includes seven-course meals. The best part of the menu is the inclusion of the famous paragraph of the book from where each meal is inspired, along with a description of the recipes as well. The fun part of the Literary Lunch was that each course is read before it is served to the guests. And I relished each course served to me.
Le Diner dans le Blanc (The dinner in the white)
This is basically a French concept, initiated by the François Pasquier, who had invited a group of his friends to a lavish outdoor dinner and asked them to dress in white so that it makes it easy to find each other. Now it has become a worldwide event, celebrated in six continents each year. At Narendra Bhawan, we were taken to the exclusive location to enjoy resplendent dinner at the gorgeous setup with canopy lit by white blinking lights. The echoing sound of the folk songs, sung by a talented singer was complementing the aura of silence while dining outdoors.
Apart from these signature culinary indulgences, if you wish to spend your evening in a breezy outdoor set-up at the property, Gaushala is the place to sip the best cocktails in Bikaner.
I can vouch for Tiger Lily. For exquisite culinary delights, P&C (Pearl & Chiffon), the elegant dining room, is the place for you; designed keeping in mind the graceful lady of the house whose favorite attire would be the string of pearl jewelry with a chiffon sari. And if you have a sweet tooth, don’t go mad at Mad Hatter The Bake House, for a wide variety of confectionary.
The last few lines
Whether it was the unbeatable hospitality, the world-class services, exquisite culinary delights, or signature experiences, Narendra Bhawan is not just another palace hotel in Rajasthan; it is an experience in itself. Living a few days in the King’s palace, with the fragmented memories of his early days and the glimpses of his lifestyle was nothing less than a fairytale affair. I was not just holidaying in a luxury hotel; I was enjoying the royalty in a unique hotel, which should be declared as “The Museum Hotel”.
I am was invited to Narendra Bhawan on a press trip
Air: Now you can take a direct AirIndia flight from Delhi to Bikaner. It will take 1 hour 20 minutes to reach Bikaner. From the airport, Narendra Bhawan is hardly 30 minutes away.
Train: Bikaner is well connected to most of the Indian cities via railway. You can easily reach Bikaner from Kolkata, Delhi, Jaipur, Bhatinda, Kalka, Jodhpur etc. There are a number of trains connecting this destination like Bikaner Mail (Delhi Sarai Rohila-Bikaner), Kalka Express (Bikaner-Jodhpur), Bikaner Express (Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Bikaner) etc.
Road: Bikaner is well connected through a wide network of roads. The bus service within Rajasthan is excellent. If you like road trips, traveling to Bikaner via road is a good option.
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