Travel special: Get yourself the royal treatment at Noor Mahal in Karnal
If you are short of time, and yet want to experience something as royal as a palace in Rajasthan, then Noor Mahal might just be the place for you. Standing tall in a sprawling landscape in rustic Karnal, and a mere three-hour drive from Delhi, this majestic structure, brought to life by the celebrated conservation architect Nimish Patel and Himmat Singh five years back, is a sight to behold. Opulent to the core, the tastefully done luxury palace hotel offers a perfect combination of elegance and the luxe experience. The mix of royal grandeur and rich modern hospitality makes the palace a dream destination for nuptials. Noor Mahal, in fact, also offers a one-stop shop for all wedding needs, with the hotel offering guests personalised, royal wedding experiences.
The brainchild and dream project of Colonel Manbeer Choudhary, Noor Mahal aims to deliver a feeling of the decadent royal lifestyles of yore, replete with urban amenities. As you enter the resort, you’ll instantly see why it is a perfect choice for a wedding destination among trendy millennials, especially in and around Delhi. The hotel claims to be full during weekends and wedding seasons. As it turned out, we happened to witness three separate big and small ceremonies during our stay there! On our arrival from the airport, we were greeted with garlands, a refreshing rose drink, and a traditional sandalvermilion tika, while live Rajasthani folk music transported us for a split second to a royal era from centuries ago.
It took us some time to come to terms with the sheer size of the sprawling reception area, spread over 10,000 sq ft, lavishly furnished with wooden and silver-plated designer sofas. A pair of imposing portraits of Maharaja Duleep Singh and his wife, made with organic colours, precious stones and gold dust, placed on a far wall, and a massive Swarovski chandelier from Italy, impressed us beyond words, even as we sank into the bespoke lounging sofas dotting the space. Though newly built, the property has pieces of history and memorabilia tucked away at every nook and corner. The doors and windows and even table tops were sourced from the old mansions and havelis of Rajasthan, while antique paintings and photographs adorn the walls of the corridors.
The hotel has two courtyards — the Deewan-e-Aam at the lobby level, and the Deewan-e-Khas on the first floor — both of which are surrounded by rooms and balconies with low jaalis and chajjas. Both offer great spaces for haldi, mehendi, sangeet, phera and other wedding-related ceremonies. The palace hotel complex is spread across 10 acres, with 13 banquets, and offers a selection of 122 heritage-inspired rooms and suites.
Apart from the Presidential and heritage suites, Noor Mahal boasts of an exclusive royal sleeping chamber called the Khwabgah, which includes two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a separate bar, an office chamber, and a private terrace overlooking the Karnal city. A night at the exclusive and elaborate suite might set you back by more than `1.25 lakh and bookings for this particular suite have to be done directly through the hotel only.
We were hosted at one of the six ornate heritage suites, the Jagjit Singh room, named after the late ghazal singer, who once stayed at the same room. We felt pampered with custom-made cheesecake, exotic fruit and freshly baked assorted cookies awaiting us, carefully placed in choice silverware. The best part about the suite was its wall-to-wall windows, allowing a good deal of sunshine into the living area and bedroom, and making artificial lights absolutely unnecessary during the daytime. Also, the internet connection and speed was awesome throughout our stay.
We lunched at the property’s all-day diner, Brown Sugar, a multi-cuisine restaurant, which offers buffet and an a la carte menu. The informal ambience and soothing decor in shades of green and blue are perfect for a relaxed eating out with friends and family. We dug into some continental delicacies including the Zuppa di Zucca, a creamy soup, the Cannelloni Florentine, and butter prawns with mashed potato. The dishes were well-cooked and rested lightly on our tummies.
The late lunch ensured that we snoozed till late in the evening, and after a quick swim in the swanky pool, we spent a good many hours at the Polo Bar lounge over snooker and some chilled beer.
Dinner at the resort’s fine diner, Frontier Mail, was a pleasant surprise, and we were impressed by the makeshift train bogey that made for some great Insta-worthy pictures. The eatery is named after the pre-independent train that ran between Mumbai and Peshawar, and serves authentic dishes from the regions through which the train traversed. We sat inside a life-size bogey for a candle-lit dinner, the decor of which reminds one of the iconic Palace-on-Wheels, complete with an ornate mini bar. Some of the elements, including artefacts that were been a part of the actual train, have been used in the bogey’s interiors. The food was delectable, to say the least, and the chef did a commendable job by not tampering too much with the authentic taste of the dishes served.
The Tikri Mutton deserves a special mention; you need to taste it to believe that pomegranate seeds can actually lend meat such a hefty punch of flavour. The dish was well-cooked, and the freshly ground Northern spices were used in a balanced manner. The mutton went well with plain rice, and we washed it down with an evergreen Cosmopolitan. A special mention must be made of the Ras Malai, which had just the right amount of sweet, and the milk was perfect in consistency. What made the dessert special was the use of authentic saffron rinds, the aroma of which lingered long after our serving was polished off.
Our two-day stay was made special with a visit to The 7th Heaven, the resort’s spa, where we opted for an hourand-a-half Balinese spa treatment, which did wonders to our tired limbs. The spa offers an array of services including facials, invigorating body massages, scrubs, special couple retreats, hydrotherapies and a variety of other treatments. If you are not a spa person, you can visit Noor’s Makeover Studio, run by renowned make-up-artist and stylist Tarun Kapoor, to get yourself a nail extension, facial or hair spa.
The second day of our stay began with outdoor activities at Ram Bagh, on the hotel’s lush green, manicured lawns. After a 30-minute intensive cardio session, comprising free-hand exercises and jogging, we undertook some rock climbing and zip-lining, guided by the in-house gym trainer and coach. After a round of first-flush Darjeeling tea, followed by a sumptuous breakfast, we had an exciting cooking session with executive chef Anand Rawat. We also discovered an alternative profession in cooking, for ourselves, having managed to rustle up a pretty delicious Korean dish and Thai Green Curry, which we then had for lunch.
What we loved about our stay at Noor Mahal, besides the opulent ambience and great food, is the service of the congenial and well-trained staff. The only disadvantage of this five-star property is perhaps that there’s nothing to explore outside the hotel. So, if you are interested in local sight-seeing, then you might be a tad disappointed. But if you stay in or around Delhi or Chandigarh, and want to make the most of your weekend by relaxing in a royal ambience, then Noor Mahal is an excellent option for you.
Noor Mahal: A handy checklist
■ Only three-hour drive from Delhi or Chandigarh
■ More than 13 banquets to choose from for wedding ceremonies
■ True royal ambience
■ Uninterrupted WiFi connection
■ A great swimming pool and state-of-the-art gym
■ A complete spa studio with jacuzzi and sauna
■ A well-maintained kids’ playroom
■ Great service and good food