After a bumpy flight from Delhi to Jammu, I was deposited in front of a gleaming white colonial building, the Hari Niwas Palace Hotel. The building next to it (once the Rajmata’s residence), with its wood-and-brick exterior and single turret, seemed to have been built expressly as an architectural contrast. The hotel, set among mango orchards, was the Jammu residence of the last Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh. Now after painstaking restoration by the Maharaja’s younger grandson and his wife, it has opened to the public for the first time as a heritage hotel. Don’t go expecting the magnificence of the palaces-turned-hotels in Rajasthan. The rooms are not cluttered with antiques; the décor is subtle, even a little muted. Even the Maharajah and Maharani suites in the old wing speak of elegance rather than opulence.
I gave the hotel’s impressive looking gym and sauna a cursory look — I was really interested in the food. So, Chinese for lunch was a little disappointing. But dinner was cheery: excellent local Dogri cuisine. I loved the sukha chicken and the dhunni khatta meat (mutton cooked with tamarind). Vegetarians should try the oriya, a ground mustard-based dish.
The Polo Bar is great for a nightcap after a heavy Dogri meal, but I chose to sit on the lawns overlooking the river Tawi. On that full moon night, snatches of laughter were carried away by the breeze. There’d be security checks and a bumpy ride home — tomorrow. Tonight, an empty lawn, a gnarled mango tree, lights twinkling in the hills.
Location: Next to the Governor’s residence in Jammu
Accommodation: 40 rooms and suites
Contact: 0191-2543303, 0191-2541380