Just an eight-kilometre drive away from the cacophony of the city of Jaipur is a sanctuary that restores calm and balm to the most exhausted of spirits. The Oberoi’s Rajvilas, modelled on a traditional Rajasthani fort and complete with its own moat, 14 gorgeously decorated tents and 54 rooms, is set in the Rajasthan countryside, a haven of 32 acres where crimson and lipstick-pink bougainvillea cascades over walls, fountains splash and glint in the sunshine, and wild peacocks stalk the grounds with regal pride.
Escorted into the hotel under a scarlet, silken canopy held high by the pristinely uniformed staff, we were taken to our room, which was dominated by a four-poster with views out to the garden and, on the desk, my own books reproduced in chocolate stacked beside a chocolate laptop and a chocolate container filled with chocolate biros. As ever with the Oberoi group, the level of attention and warmth from the staff outclasses other super-luxe hotels. Throughout our too-short stay we were looked after with immaculate care by Priya, while the superb chef Jaydeep had composed menus beyond anyone’s wildest foodie dreams.
Dotted throughout the beautifully nurtured gardens are myriad hidden arbours and refuges. Beneath the little voile-curtained temple we found an exquisite high tea waiting for us on a table decorated with red roses, miniature jewelled mirrors and scattered with tiny porcelain elephants. Jewelled delicacies of lemon tart with raspberry fondant and a sublime pear conserve were offered to us in a beautiful mirrored box accompanied by piping hot, scented tea.
The following morning we were were taken up to the hotel’s herb garden where the light of the rising sun glinted on the freshly watered chicory, chives, rocket, arugula, beetroot and mustard. A table had been laid within the herb and vegetable beds for a sumptuous breakfast of mud-apple yoghurt with mango purée, a delicate home-grown salad and a sublime watermelon cordial infused with fennel. Chef Vishnu explained the infinite variety of Rajasthan’s culture and how every 10 kilometres the script changes, whether it is the language, the landscape, the temperature or the cuisine. Velvety-green mint chutney accompanied a lunch of feather-light paneer and lamb with a saffron, turmeric and honey dip. After all this nourishment we were ready for a swim in the luxuriously heated pool, observed by the ubiquitous peacocks, before having a heavenly massage in the spa where healing hands soothed away the tensions of life.
Later in the day we were driven through villages and past camels wearing jewelled identifying anklets and shepherds in their elegant turbans guiding their animals home. As the sun was setting we climbed up the steep mountainside to the village of Naila, with its magnificent views, where leopard and antelopes run wild and where we had tea in Mr Oberoi’s own private haven. That evening back at the hotel we were served one of the best dinners of my life. Extraordinary care had been taken to showcase the imaginative breadth and variety of the Rajvilas palate. From the luxurious combination of salmon tartare, caviar and lobster to the dramatic simplicity of the creamy white onion soup with black-truffle shavings, the delicate contrast of goat’s-cheese mousse with honeycomb, the melt-in-the mouth Aravali lamb, each plate had its own distinct identity, packed with cultural self-confidence. Just like the taste of this wonderful cooking, the experience of staying at the Oberoi Rajvilas is impossible to forget.
For more information and to book, visit oberoihotels.com.