A bright red piano named Ella and two enthusiastic dogs—Goofy and Nahla—definitely not the welcome I expected. But then, this 82-room design hotel is all about the whimsical and the unexpected. Let’s just say Mad Hatter could have been the name for more than just the delightful bakery here. Reflecting the life of the last ruler of Bikaner, HH Narendra Singhji, the hotel’s decor marks a break from the traditional palace properties in the desert state. Instead, it showcases the various phases of His Highness’s life—from world traveller to nationalist.
Seemingly contrasting design elements coalesce: Bombay Art Deco motifs, jaali-work railings salvaged from old havelis, tiles from Portugal, wall hangings by Rajasthani tribal artisans, bidri-work guIda stas and chairs crafted at Jaipur-based AKFD Studio.
The look transitions from the ornate ADC Rooms to the straight Le Corbusier-inspired lines in the Republic Suites.
All the rooms are equally warm and homey, though, thanks to a khidmatgar, a service staffer, on every floor, who will ensure you feel right at home—from having your bags unpacked to bringing you your morning cuppa. The sense of fun continues at the allday diner Pearls & Chiffon, an ode to the costume de rigueur of Rajput royal women that channels the English countryside in look and feel. The food, though, is completely local. The menu, sourced from the royals of Bikaner, is recreated with a modern twist—think nano plates of ker sangri and stuffed gatta. Pro tip: the salt and pepper shakers (made from surma daanis) contain neither. Instead, they’re used to store cumin and garam masala.
At your table. #justlikethat. There’s an old-school smoking room for gentlemen and “withdrawing rooms” for ladies, complete with a Basra pearl-inspired chandelier and a pool table. If you like to start your day the royal way, breakfast on grilled goat meat with Bikaneri chand puri and safed keema, served beside a water body a short drive from the hotel. Later, sign up for a city tour of the Junagarh Fort and museum and a tonga ride through narrow lanes past the havelis of traders who managed the royal treasury, followed by a traditional Marwari lunch.
But if, like me, your idea of a vacation is to do absolutely nothing, make your way to the lounge, which has a library and an on-call Cafe Royal trolley for that perfect English high tea. Maybe later you could book yourself for a decadent session at CLINIC, the in-house spa, whose therapies are inspired by Bach Flower Therapy, which focuses on the powers of floral essence and “microcirculation”. Just in case you missed all the whimsy so far.