A few months back half sleepy yet full of excitement, waiting to board at 7 am, my mind was running through a roller coaster of thoughts. The thought of visiting Bikaner, Rajasthan the land of culture, traditions, and Bhujiya. It wasn’t hard to make a bond. Known for its hospitality, I could sense it in the air as I landed. As I embarked my journey further and reached my destination even before I could take in the realization, I couldn’t stop to stare and admire the gorgeous “Narendra Bhawan“. Waiting for us on the porch to welcome (while my eyes rotated 360 degrees) “Siddharth” (General manager) along with his team rushed us to the living room offering Gin and Tonic. Ah! At that moment, I couldn’t wait but to discover more of “Narendra Bhawan”.
Inspired by the Royalty and arts Narendra Bhawan amidst the Thar was the residence of Shri Narendra Singh Ji (last king of state Bikaner) until 2003, later converted into this magnificent property called “Narendra Bhawan”. The property reflects the life of the Maharaj with old charm precious and modern
amenities to match the contemporary lifestyle for guests, yet maintaining the essence of the past.
On the contrary “Narendra Bhawan” with its name and history associated may sound super grand but actually its the place where all I would care about my glass of Black Russian (one of my fav drink at Narendra Bhawan). With camouflaged jeep and vintage Morris parked at the entrance, Jazz music playing,
Narendra Bhawan is about being fun and fabulous.
Narendra Bhawan is an ode to the late King Narendra Singh Ji, henceforth the hotel is a home to travelers where one can experience the life of a Maharaj. From classy decor or names of the f&b outlets, everything has a hint of his likings and life. There wasn’t a specific corner that I fell in love with but every minute I walked there was a frame that made me stop and wonder.
The brilliantly done patio with massive globe lights and an open lobby with penguin collection (because he was a well-read king), the restaurant pearls and chiffon (an ode to rani) charpai with silver lining foot, asan chairs, overlooking “gaushala” lounge now but literally a gaushala during the time of king, where he pet his cows and dogs. These little details didn’t only add to the beautification to the place but were a representation of King’s life. As Siddharth mentions Narendra Bhawan is truly a collection of memories.
The little details like waking up to your own picture on the side table, getting the cup of masala chai how you want even before you ask for, kachori with extra onion and servers asking for gin and tonic at the time is what makes Narendra Bhawan a personal favorite.
Here’s a list of top 10 things that I personally loved and I think you would not want to miss at “Narendra Bhawan”.
- Eat a cupcake at Mad Hatter.
Welcome to the tea party. With the characters of Alice in Wonderland playing in your head, the bakery “Mad Hatter” with Alice in wonderland tiny sculptures, is one of the cutest outlets of the property. Eating a cupcake has only put a smile on, and an apple cupcake at Madhatter only gives you craving for another one.
- Explore the reader’s paradise.
Apart than stocking the penguin collection, the hotel hoards some of the most vintage and unique collection to be treasured. For eg, the playboy edition from 1970’s. Yes, you heard it right. You wouldn’t want to give this a miss.
- Spend time at the inner and outer verandah.
How often do we see a red grand piano painted with a song by Edith Piaf -Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien – (No, I have no regrets). How often do we come across a hotel with no reception but a living room and a library? Tiles from Portugal, Bombay art deco motifs, lights from Pondicherry, wall hangings by local artisans, signed art and statues are what verandah at Narendra Bhawan made of. Inspired by the travel and explorations of the late king Narendra Singh Ji.
- Spend an evening at Diwali Chowk.
Bikaner, known for its glory, havelis, and red sandstone infrastructure, Diwali chowk located on the 1st floor is an opening to your own little cultural terrace with rasthani pillows, canopies, trees overlooking the structured corridors playing shadow game. It’s a perfect place to go read a book, enjoy your evening tea/cocktails or even is a great photo corner.
- Spend evenings at Gaushala.
As explained above about, gaushala is the place where you would like to unwind the day with homemade cocktails and bruschettas, with jazz playing in the background. If you are lucky enough you might witness some great artists playing saxophone and other instruments too. While I was there at the property most of the evenings were spent indulging in an affair with Black Russian, conversations and playing with Juju (residential cat).
- Have lunch at the Museum.
Part of the food meditation by Narendra Bhawan, Museum lunch hosted at the Gold Room at the grand Laxmi Niwas Palace is a narration of the Kings table from 1927. It’s elaborate, its the amalgamation of culture, history and everything appealing on that plate. I have never had or think will have such an experience where with great food was a taste of royalty.
- Have Dinner Blind Folded.
As exciting as it sounds, the 4-course blindfolded dinner at Narendra Bhawan is an experience you cannot miss. Initially, it makes you a bit nervous like a little child, scared what if something goes wrong and gradually you settle into the darkness as the servers make you familiar with the placement of the table and tableware. As to my experience, with each course coming in, it was intriguing to see/hear how we (diners) did the guesswork of whats on the plate, laughed as someone thought they are not eating right, moved our hands to find the glass of wine and ensuring that we weren’t damaging the area by asking the wait staff if we were good. And to our surprise, no one answered like there was no one.Blindfolded dinner made me realize I know my food and a step closer to my sight of taste. You need to experience it to believe it.
- Literary lunch.
Have you experienced the taste of good food and English literature together? Well, Literary lunch at Narendra Bhawan is about an extensive 7-course meal and literary classic that comes hand in hand, as one reads a paragraph from a booklet of individual stories and how each story is paired with the dish on the table.
- Know about Rajasthan – Merchant trails in Bikaner.
Rajasthan is known for its royal history, kingdom, Rajputs, havelis and more. The glorified history, the stories of defeat and success, art and artisans, caste and culture, beginning of an era and more. Bikaner possesses a great history too. How many of you aware that there was a fort built in 1478 before Junagarh fort or about interesting merchant tales that took place in magnificent havelis of Bikaner?
Narendra Bhawan along with its comfort and making you a happy person also gives an opportunity to explore merchant trail in Bikaner. It’s vast, it’s fascinating, it takes you back to history and wonder and imagine the life then.
- Look for details.
While at Narendra Bhawan, you need to keep your eyes and ears open because you do not want to miss the details. It reflects knowledge, art, and history. From the thought and story of the red mailbox to benarasi silk panels, the corridors with frames from Maharaja’s life, family, and his dogs, its all about details.
The rooms at Narendra Bhawan is named and made in such a way that it depicts the life of the late Maharaj in different phases and age. The 82 room design hotel are categorized into 4 categories. The Prince Room, The Regimental Room, India Room & Republic Suites.
P.S: It was not a regular hotel stay at Narendra Bhawan, it was an experience. An experience that cannot be expressed but only felt. A place that let me empty my mind and think beyond the horizon.
Thank You, Narendra Bhawan for an incredible hospitality and a memorable stay. To know more about the property and updates, kindly visit the hotel website: www.narendrabhawan.com