First comes the pappardelle, and then the fettuccine. After that you have the linguine, the spaghetti, and the thinnest of them, the spaghettini,” the chef rattles off, in what is an Italian twist to the chicken-and-egg question. With exuberant hand gestures in view, hills in the background that could be mistaken for those in Tuscany, and a moon that hits my eye like a big pizza pie, I wonder, for a split second, if I am in Italy instead of Udaipur. A quick peek at my boarding pass-turned-bookmark confirms that I am not.
My destination, jüSTa’s new property, is an hour’s ride from the airport. As you amble along, you veer temptingly close to the gates of a very green, very large park—the driver confirms that it is the Sajjangarh Biological Park and Fort—but then take a sharp left. Before you have a chance to protest, you find that you’re now entering the new jüSTa Sajjangarh Resort & Spa.
In the land of havelis and lakes, this property comes as a contemporary surprise. It is a five-star hotel with four floors and 63 rooms, of which 12 are suites with jacuzzis to go with.
If you’re still feeling bummed about the greenery you skimmed past, enter your room and draw open the curtains. There it is—the Aravalli hills in their glory and on top of it the beautiful Monsoon Palace. Every corner of the hotel competes for the best view, whether of the palace, the hills or the poolside. The lobby and hallways also moonlight as galleries, with over 300 artworks displayed across the hotel. I can’t help but notice that the rooms look as though designed through a kaleidoscope. A spa, and a rooftop bar and restaurant with live shows is yet to come.
In a city where most menu cards begin with paneer tikka, graduate to thalis and end with the classic gulab jamun, jüSTa’s all-day restaurant, Sabor, is a breakaway. I ate my way through my stay. Some of these experiments turned out well (the honey ginger beetroot risotto and the dual-coloured mushroom and baby corn soup, for instance), while a few could do with a little tweaking (like the activated charcoal macaroon). I enjoyed the classics too, the smokey cheese mushrooms and baked cheesecake, all orchestrated by Chef Surya, who likes to chat with guests, and occasionally give lessons on pasta shapes.
So what do I say to the next person who asks why I didn’t stay near Lake Pichola? Three things. First, that word associations are a farce (you say ‘sky’, I say ‘blue’; you say ‘Udaipur’, I say ‘lake’? No, thanks). Two, an outdoor dinner with a view of a lit-up Monsoon Palace at night is unforgettable. And three, that baked cheesecake is worth going back for.
Where: Opposite Biological Park, Udaipur; 1hr from Maharana Pratap Airport
Accommodation: 63 rooms
Tariff: From ₹8,000 (rooms) and ₹14,000 (suites)
Contact: +91-9590777000; justahotels.com