Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner promises a unique experience of the historical city with themed lunches and heritage walks

Narendra Bhawan — a palatial and imposing boutique hotel in Bikaner that offers royal treatment, Instagrammable spots and more

Ayesha Tabassum Published :  02nd September 2022 09:48 PM   |   Published :   |  02nd September 2022 09:48 PM

Diwali Chowk

It's not everyday that you get to live the life of the maharajas and maharanis of Rajasthan. Tucked away in the north-western part of Bikaner is a palatial and imposing boutique hotel — Narendra Bhawan — which offers this royal treatment to all its guests. While it takes a long haul flight with a stopover at Delhi to reach Bikaner from Bengaluru, the hotel makes it all worth it. And our trip earlier this year was nothing short of extravagant. 

Narendra Bhavan Facade

Window to the past

As we drove in, we couldn’t stop looking at the magnificent architecture and the numerous intricately carved khidkis (windows) that dot the facade of this boutique hotel. Our welcome was nothing short of a royal Rajasthani experience as the hotel’s staff greeted us by playing bugles. 

The late Maharaja Narendra Singh, the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner, built the Bhawan as his residence in 1969. Another unique feature of this hotel is that it does not have a reception like other properties. Instead, it is ‘The Verandah’ where guests are usually welcomed. This lounge is tastefully decorated with vintage curios and artefacts, and it transported us back in time. A bright red piano inscribed with the lyrics of Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien is placed at one end of the lounge.

Piano inscribed with the lyrics of Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

The most Instagrammable spot of the hotel is the Diwali Chowk, the central courtyard around which all the floors of the hotel are built. We were told the chowk used to be the terrace of the haveli, and had to be restructured when the residence was converted into a hotel. Daybeds, flowering trees and charpoys tempted us to take a nap, but we were also keen to explore our room.

The Prince Room on the second floor was reserved for our stay. All the rooms — the Prince, the Regimental and the India — take inspiration from the different phases of Narendra Singhji’s life. The large room boasted interiors in olive hues, florals and velvet to reflect the Maharaja’s fine taste. It was the opulent writing desk that impressed us the most and reminded us of a classic novel.

Diwali Chowk

We headed to P&C (Pearls and Chiffons) for lunch. Inspired by the style and grace of the maharanis of Bikaner, the restaurant’s pastel blue and pink walls, pearl curtains, high-backed wicker chairs and large teak tables pay homage to these queens. Our first meal was the specially curated Chaat Lunch. Signature Bikaneri chaats, including Bajra Papdi Bhel, Kesari Dahi Vada, Palak Patta Chaat and Kadhi Samosa, were served to us along with a Kesar Pista Shake.

Dinner was at The Gaushala under the stars, and that’s when the magnificent facade of Narendra Bhawan looked celestial because of its golden lights. Under the full moon, it was a sight to behold. Their famous Marwari thali was served. This 10-dish meal was quite a feast. After dinner, we sat at The Gaushala gazing at the stars for sometime, and then retired to bed. 

P&C (Pearls and Chiffons) restaurant

The next day, we skipped breakfast because we wanted to start with a relaxing massage at the property’s Clinic – The Spa. Inspired by the Bach Flower Therapy, an alternative style of wellness therapy, developed by English physician Edward Bach in the 1920s, Clinic offers specially developed flower essences that are used for treatments. We opted for a rejuvenating hour-long massage.

Page turners

Lunch was once again at P&C and this was a special experience. The Literary Menu was inspired by the Maharaja’s love for books. Some of the dishes included The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and Ulysses by James Joyce. 

Narendra Bhawan also offers some unique outdoor experiences outside the property, all thanks to its location. Deep in the Thar Desert lies the stunning Darbari Lake in the Naiyon ki Basti (the barbers’ colony). Surrounded bysoft green pastures, this dreamy lake was the perfect spot for Narendra Bhawan’s unmissable sundowner called ‘Darbari Evening.’ This was the perfect setting for the Rajasthani folk artistes who were performing for us. Glasses of bubbly and hors d’oeuvre were passed around as we sat down enjoying the music and cool breeze. 

Darbari setting

Holding fort Bikaner is home to many heritage and historical sights. The Junagarh Fort, built in the 16th century, is a sight to behold. The most striking feature of this fort is the combination of Indo-Islamic and English architectural elements that can be spotted across the structure. Our guide, Shailender Kachawa, who was proficient in spoken Hindi, English and French, took us on a 30-minute tour of the for t. We then headed towards the old part of the city, which is known for its iconic havelis. Kachawa told us that once upon a time Bikaner took pride in its havelis, but now only a few remain and this includes the iconic Rampuria Haveli, popularly known as the ‘Titanic’ haveli because of its triangular shape that makes it look like a ship. 

The walk around the fort and the havelis was quite exhausting and we needed something to drink. So, Kachawa took us to the famous Chunilal Sharbat shop. The tiny store uses a unique heirloom technique of extracting syrups and essence from flowers, sandalwood and spices. These concentrated syrups are then used to make flavourful juices that are quite delectable. You can taste all the drinks (over a dozen in number) before deciding on which one to order. This was perfect for the hot, sunny afternoon.

Goat cheese mousse

Our evening was spent dining under the stars. As this was our last night at the property, we were treated to an elaborate European dinner — another one of their specially curated menus. Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Wild Mushroom Tortellini and Cottage Cheese Steak were served, and we ended the meal with an Apricot Brandy Cake. The next day, we left for Bengaluru with unforgettable memories of our three-day trip to Bikaner and this royal residence.