Now in its sixth century, the Neemrana Fort-Palace is a one of a kind heritage hotel that sparked off a trend, while keeping its actual flavour intact.
When I moved to Delhi four months ago, one of the many things that I was looking forward to (apart from getting married, of course) are the numerous quick getaways around Delhi. This weekend, we took the quick, three-hour dash down the Delhi-Jaipur highway to the iconic Neemrana Fort-Palace. The property has forever been one of a kind, advertising itself as a ‘non-hotel’, among other things.
Once you reach the property, you realise an interesting confluence of things. The Neemrana Fort-Palace has the usual comforts of super hospitable service that you would expect from a luxury resort in India. However, that is not the biggest draw here. The fort’s facade that greets you is different from what you would expect to see, and this inspires awe in the 550-odd years old fort that lies in front of you. Restored to its peak glory by the proprietor of Neemrana Hotels, Mr. Aman Nath, this fort-palace will instantly steal your heart, particularly if you’re a history buff.
Right from the gate, the strategically placed cannon and the newly built lounge and reception area, Neemrana Fort-Palace has an aura that is unmissable. Once you are past the check-in point, you walk up towards the property and into the unmistakable air of grandeur that the fort emanates. A few things immediately caught my eye — one, Neemrana puts much emphasis on retaining the raw, authentic flavour of heritage, which is why large sections of the fort have been left with a touch of ageing grace. Take, for instance, much of the facade of the front wing of the palace, and how the rafters adorn the edges, and you’d instantly spark off many a conversation on the architecture, the beauty and the confluence of the old and the new here.
Two, Neemrana Fort-Palace puts emphasis in engaging with a community here. As a result, the tea area that is set up outdoors is a wonderful place to meet fellow travellers, and even interact with the resort’s staff. The resident staff can intrigue you with fun facts, such as how the fort has nine full wings spread across the face of the hill that the fort is perched upon. If you’re in the mood for solitude, you can get that too, by sitting at one of the gracefully adorned tables placed in sections incrementally away from the central gathering area. There is also no television in the room, which is perfect because your weekend Netflix binge session can really wait.
What I found particularly interesting is how the rooms are assigned names instead of numbers, giving each room a unique and special feel. My abode for the night was Krishna Mahal, complete with its own open top balcony, a traditional verandah, and a cosy courtyard with a fountain spot right at its centre. Despite this being a fort (a far cry from the apartment life that we live), everything instantly feels warm and relaxing. This is a weekend that you would want to spend talking to your friends, catching up on your passion for photography, or simply, scribbling away on your diary.
Your weekend at the Neemrana Fort-Palace, however, would not be complete without a multi-course dinner down in the cavernous Kattoria dining hall, or an experience of Rajasthani folk music up at the amphitheatre beside the pool. The open air performance under the sky is one that cheers you up, while an equally fun part of the experience is in trying to find your way to the dining hall by yourself. It is here that you realise how massive the fort is, for even in two days, we surely did not explore the entirety of the property.
The dining experience is one of a kind, too. Set within the hills that have been cut to make space for a classic, chandelier-lit ambiance, Kattoria’s experimental Italian set menu is an outlier. It stands out from what you would expect, and while the classic Indian, Rajasthani menu is in place, the Italian fare that we sampled from Ambassador Chef Carlo Maria Ricci
of ALMA – Scuola Cucina Italiana is one to be savoured. Non-vegetarians would swear by the Tortino di verdure grigliate, spuma al parmigiano and the Angello alle erbe, while for me, I absolutely loved the pizzette di sfoglia and the risotto with fried thyme and basil. Beautifully contrasted by healthy servings of wine, you’re left with a warm, fuzzy feeling of comfort and contentment that is unmatched.
To serve eloquent, poetic justice, the entire fort is lit up as the sun sets, making it feel like a festival every breathing minute. You’re guided home by the twinkling lights, and you are in a space that makes you feel happy, hearty and safe. Even as dawn breaks the next morning and you sip on a steaming cup of tea or head up to Jal Mahal for the breakfast buffet, you always remember Neemrana Fort-Palace for the grandeur that it exudes, particularly after sunset.
More importantly, you fall in love with the place and the amiable hospitality of Mr. Nath, and make a mental note to dash back up here, whenever a suitable weekend strikes.
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