The hotel is in Samode village, accessible through the traditional arched gateway. Inside is a narrow cobblestone street that winds its way to the palace, offering picturesque glimpses of village life on both sides: women making lac bangles, gemstones being polished, turbanned villagers entering temples, children playing on the street, and the odd pig sniffing the earth.
Style & character
This is a bonafide castle or palace, accessible through a winding fort wall. The Durbar Hall where erstwhile kings gave audiences to their subjects is painted with blue and red wall murals that are both impressive and for some, over the top. Then again, India is a more-is-more, not a less-is-more culture. Paintings of Hindu gods adorn corridors. Even the fire-escape staircase that is used by housekeeping staff and invisible to guest eyes has adornments. With turrets, arches, latticwork windows and trellises, this is your typical Rajasthani palace.
Service & facilities
The Samode spa has three rooms with male and female therapists. Try their signature massage where the therapist not only massages but also stretches legs, hands, back and shoulders in ways that release tension. The two swimming pools offer views of the hills with the very occasional leopard sighting. A compact gymnasium has weights, a treadmill, a rowing machine and a cycle. Most guests simply walk up and down the hills for exercise. Nature lovers can go on birdwatching walks with the resident naturalist.
Trips to a local farm is also arranged and ought to be experienced. It is delightful to see fresh spinach and fragrant Indian pink roses blooming in the morning sun. Camel safaria are also available. The Samode shop has the usual shawls, kurtas, jewellery and knick-knacks.
- Fitness centre
- Room service
- Steam room/hammam
The 43 rooms are bracketed into three categories: four royal suites with a living, dining, bedroom, and large bathroom, all arranged with loftlike openness. There are 20 deluxe suites, and 19 deluxe rooms. The base category rooms are quite spacious with a sitting area, queen bed, four-fixture bathroom with a separate shower cubicle and – delightfully – a claw-footed bathtub. There are no combs or dental kits but other amenities include toiletries that are poured into reusable ceramic containers, thus removing branding.
Archival photographs of aristocratic ladies in chiffon saris and pearls dot the room – a nice change from the male-dominated photographs in most Rajasthani heritage hotels. The lamps made of aquamarine-coloured glass match the floral designs on the wall. A minibar, hairdryer, and safe complete the offering. Plugs for phones and laptop are not as easily available as one might find at a business hotel.
Food & drink
There are two restaurants. Neither have names and are simply referred to, rather sensibly, as the ‘fine dining’ restaurant and the ‘multi-cuisine’ one. The fine dining restaurant serves modern Indian cuisine and is open only for dinner. The food is inventive and very unusual.
Dishes include excellent aloe vera fritters, banana flower croquettes, chicken kebabs, tandoori duck served with basmati rice, rose petal pannacotta, and masala chai crème brûlée. Waiters lead interested guests into the kitchen to show them the spice counter and tandoori oven – a nice experience. Dinner prices range from $10 (£8) to $20 (£15) per dish. There is a temperature-controlled wine cellar, which itself is unusual for Rajasthani heritage hotels. This one contains some excellent wines from France, Italy and the new world: Latour, Saint Estephe, Lynch Bages, Barolo and champagnes.
The all-day dining multi-cuisine restaurant has buffets for breakfast and lunch and à la carte for dinner. The dinner menu includes vegetarian Indian dishes but also comfort food like pizza and French fries. For lunch, the buffet includes sprouted salad, mulligatawny soup, pasta, and several flavours of ice cream. The breakfast buffet has excellent masala omelettes and fluffy puris with a spicy potato bhaji or gravy.
Value for money
Double rooms from 11,392 Rupees (£134) in low season; and from 26,496 Rupees (£312) in high. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
With multilevel steps all over the place – even getting to the lobby involves climbing three flights of stairs – this palace hotel is not ideal for guests with disabilities. There are five rooms at the parking level where guests on wheelchairs can be accommodated.
There are connecting rooms. Baby cots, high chairs, and a children’s menu are at hand. The staff double as babysitters needed. Sightseeing trips to the village along with the pool may keep the kids occupied, albeit in an unstructured fashion.
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