There’s something about a hotel that’s just about to open. It’s a
There’s something about a hotel that’s just about to open. It’s astate of controlled panic disguised as deep, evenly paced breathing. The personnel are too well-trained to let nerves show so problems, whether of absconding luggage or recalcitrant doors, are managed with an unforced smile, a quiet word and a quickened step. Voila, everything works, thrumming with that electric energy just beneath the surface, if you watch carefully. I think it’s a particularly good time to review a hotel. It’s about as tough as things are going to get for them, barring a visit from a head of state, so it’s a litmus test in which nobody, not even an observer, can predict how precisely things will go. I can tell you it went damn well at the first Hilton in Rajasthan (and what took them so long to get here?).
The day on which I arrived, they were gearing up for a high-voltage opening, and soon enough the lobby was packed with dignitaries and specially invited guests in a strobe-lit evening that progressed from group photos and introductions over champagne to song and dance till the early hours of morning with an international DJ on hand. It looked like mayhem but it wasn’t — Aurum, the 120-cover lobby-level copper-and-gold-themed restaurant, which offers all-day global cuisine at the Hilton Jaipur, eschewed the more manageable buffet line-up to stick to its concept of elaborate open kitchens for the streaming crowd (a wood-fired oven by which stood a chef rolling out freshly baked pizzas, for instance). I retreated to the quiet of my room, quite sure that if they could handle that, I would be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep with a ‘spondy pillow’ selected to soothe my aching neck, in which I was entirely successful.
Business is combined with pleasure in so many ways. The 24-hour conference centre, wi-fi and working desk are as smart as the four-fixture bathroom with tub, walk-in rain shower and switch-controlled screen (luxury toiletries from Peter Thomas Roth). Typically, business hotels score with their strategic (and not scenic) location. But this is Jaipur, so even if the views from the rooms aren’t exactly elevating, the Hilton compensates with key tourist attractions gamely lined up close at hand, alongside hubs for shopping and business. Guests with an hour or two to spare can swing by the Hawa Mahal and City Palace or shop at the Johari or Bapu bazaars, even if it’s the impressive 10,000 sq ft convention space or 21ft-high ballroom that brought them here. Some of my more energetic peers even managed a trip to the Nahargarh Fort after partying all night, but it should come as no surprise that I favoured heading to the spa (I did consider the pretty poolside cabanas with equal seriousness). The deep tissue Indian massage relaxed my limbs in the manner of my mind. It was time for lunch.
I returned to Aurum. Theatre lies at the heart of its daring debut. The stage is set with a backlit onyx column at the centre of its sprawling expanse; precisely detailed wooden panels inspired by jaali-work suspended from the ceiling; and exquisitely worked giant bells weighing three hundred kilos apiece arrayed to a side. Live cooking stations allow direct interaction with chefs who are happy to customise dishes. Signature specialities include martban ka chicken, kebab platters, and a delectable array of desserts, including a divine poached pear dipped in spiced chocolate.
This play between local and international is evident in little touches everywhere — the eye-shaped brass installation on the ceiling of the lobby, the ornately embellished trays which serve as corner tables, the enormous tandoors – of the show kitchen – suspended in glass almost directly above the reception. Krystal is their sophisticated lounge bar, and a rooftop hangout is expected to open soon. Meanwhile, the Hilton Jaipur’s unqualified triumph is Chaandi, the Indian fine-dining restaurant where not only the kitchen, even the prep area is open to guests (I have no idea how the chefs cope). One of the finest points of my trip here was a simulation menu paired and presented beautifully — a ‘pink shot’ to get things started, aam panna to go with whipped yoghurt and pineapple, gehoon ka soup with sago crisps, dahi ke kebabs with beetroot jam, paneer pasanda with achari broccoli, a dum biryani with anjeer koftas, Indian breads served at the table with dals as dips, chhena with rose mousse for dessert, and a paan martini for a digestif. Don’t miss a meal here just for the exquisite tastefulness of each morsel. My non-vegetarian companions said their samplers were just as superb, the fish winning the most unmitigated praise.
I might have forgotten but this was, in fact, a brand new hotel in the throes of a high profile launch. Beyond all its obvious successes was a very human team: Shantla, Mukul, Faiyaz, Aren and surely a dozen other names I don’t remember. I honestly don’t know how they managed but they did. Ah, yes, there was Ekta at the reception, her cheerful warmth unmanufactured even though she had returned to her duty station for the morning shift after the all-night party. They have a button in the rooms which says ‘Magic’ and guests are urged to press it at will for whatever they need. That must be it.
Location: 42 Geejgarh House, Hawa Sadak, Jaipur (10.3km/25min from airport; 3km/15min from rail station).
Accommodation: 127 guest rooms, 4 deluxe rooms, 40 executive rooms, 8 suites
Tariff : Rs.9,793 (guest rooms), Rs.12,853 (deluxe), Rs.12,853 (executive), Rs.22,035 (suites), inclusive of taxes and breakfast for double occupancy from April to September; and Rs.14,689 (guest rooms), Rs.17,750 (deluxe), Rs.17,750 (executive), Rs.26,931 (suites), inclusive of taxes and breakfast for double occupancy from October to March
Contact 0141-4170000, hilton.jaipur.com