New Delhi, India
February 3, 2009
Time for another review, then.
The Judge’s Court was built in 1918 by a magistrate, Justice Sri Jai Lal. Set in 12 acres of land, the mansion reflects the higgledy-pigglediness that characterises Pragpur and Garli. The façade—brick red and white—combines traditional chhatris (domed pavilions), cusped arches and intricate oriel windows with typically colonial elements, like square columns and ashlar. In 1996, Jai Lal’s grandson, Vijay Lal, converted part of the mansion into a heritage hotel, and that’s what it is today—a Welcomheritage property.
We arrived in time for a late lunch (they gave us a fright by saying the kitchen always closed at 2.30—but we did get a tasty, if sketchy, meal). While Tarun checked in, I wandered through the dim lounge, with its ruby-tinted chandeliers, comfy sofas with cheery striped cushions, and family photos of Lal ancestors.
Once registered, we were escorted to the dining room, an octagonal structure with a wooden ceiling, large windows, and handpainted china in wooden cabinets. Very quaint.
Lunch over, we went across the lawn and up a staircase to our room, the Hermitage, a cosy suite with parquet flooring and a functional fireplace. One half had chairs and a couple of tables, with a bottle of mineral water and tea and coffee fixings (biscuits too!). The other half was dominated by a traditional wall cupboard lightly painted in stylised floral designs. The comfortable double bed had a cosy quilt and lots of pillows. It also had a bedside table, and at the foot, a luggage rack.
The bathroom was smallish, but very clean. A shower stall blocked off one end, and with a geyser, fluffy towels, and a basket of herbal soap, moisturiser, and shampoo: we were quite satisfied.
Meals here are usually a buffet in the dining room, but lunch is sometimes beside the small plunge pool near the entrance. The food’s mainly north Indian, but you’ll see some continental dishes—sausages and bacon at breakfast, for example—too. Most of the food, by the way, is homegrown: the hotel cultivates its own fruit and some of its vegetables, and they even have their own dairy.
When we weren’t traipsing around Pragpur, we spent most of our time basking in the sun on the lawns, being stared mournfully at by Toby, the Lal’s dog. He, and the Lals, were in residence, so we got some gracious looking after—a bit like being house guests in some grand villa. Bonfires in the evening; cocktails at 7.30; tea under the canopy of an old camphor tree; walks through groves of fruit-laden pomelo and orange trees; the sound of birds… bliss.
And yes, the manager’s changed. This one’s very professional.
From journal Pragpur and Garli: A Step Back in Time