New Delhi, India
September 11, 2011
We arrived at Umed Bhawan after an eventful 14-hour drive from Delhi, reaching just after 11 PM. The driveway’s a long, majestic one (the next morning, we got a better view of the grounds surrounding the palace: full of trees and plants, with peafowl calling early in the morning). The lobby’s large and rather ornate, with plush carpets, velvet-covered love seats and gleaming brass – a sort of Art Deco-colonial-Rajasthani combination that didn’t quite appeal to me; it was just too showy.
Our room was a delight. What I really liked here was the huge amount of space: high ceiling (with typically colonial ceiling fans with very long handles dangling from it!) and loads of room: enough for a large double bed, bedside tables, desk and chair, coat stand, shoe rack, large TV console (with tea and coffee fixings next to the TV), a large coffee table with big comfy sofas next to it – and still plenty of space left over to stroll around the room. There were three large frosted glass windows, two of them fitted with window air-conditioners. The linen was clean and fresh, the pillows not too high, and the furniture a tasteful, understated style that’s modern, but with touches of the colonial. Lovely reproductions of the beautiful miniature paintings of the justly famous Kota school dotted the walls.
The bathroom was preceded by a (also large) dressing room, with luggage rack, wardrobe and dressing table. The bathroom itself was an impressive size (again a typical feature of colonial palaces and mansions) – but the amenities – the towels, the basket of supplies, the bathtub-cum-shower with its many gleaming rails and its shower curtains – are all modern and minimalist. Also beautifully clean.
The hotel has a restaurant (called Aarogan – more on this in a separate review), a bar and room service. The restaurant serves dinner till 11 PM, but with the last order at 10.30. Since we’d got delayed so much, we’d phoned them while we were driving up to Kota, and had placed our order for dinner. Dinner – buttery daal makhani, naans and chicken saagwala (with a spinach-based gravy) were served up, piping hot and tasty, in our room, even though the staff were ready to serve us in the restaurant. More than half an hour after the restaurant had ‘officially’ closed. Sweet!
Like many other medieval mansions and forts in north India, Umed Bhawan too has its full complement of courtyards (which were originally a means of providing open but still secluded space for the ladies of the household). Here, the courtyards range from tiny quaint ones centred round a tree, to large ones with lawns, fringed by ‘cloisters’ oh hotel rooms, overlooked by balconies and rows of beautiful cusped arches. Very pretty. There are photos on the walls of the hotel, too, ranging from black-and-white photos of the maharajas of Kota (to whom the Umed Bhawan Palace once belonged), to photos of them alongside hunting trophies – a leopard, for instance, or a huge many-antlered stag.
The hotel also has a fitness centre; billiards room; laundry; and valet facilities. They do not offer car hire facilities of their own, but the front office staff is knowledgeable about the city and its tourist attractions, and can put you in touch with a travel agency from which you can hire a car for the day – which is what we did.
Our room had very iffy plug points; half of them didn’t work, so you couldn’t power more than about three devices at a time. But, other than that (and the pretty inadequate F&B facilities), this was a pleasant, comfortable place to stay.
From journal Kota: More than Saris and Stone