Tucked way in a private courtyard of the Amber Fort, this opulent restaurant is a great spot for a quick respite or lunch. Order the thali (a portioned selection of curries, kebabs, vegetables and dessert, served with bread), or linger over a cup of chai and take in the views.
51 Shades of Pink
The most delicious-looking dining room to open in India this year bears the cheeky name 51 Shades of Pink. Well-known Indian designer and the creative director of Delhi housewares emporium Good Earth, Adil Ahmad was tasked by Princess Diya Kumari to enliven the royal guesthouse of the Rajmahal, so he played on Jaipur’s nickname, “the Pink City,” and drawing inspiration from the City Palace’s Sarvato Bhadra courtyard, he designed a hot pink wallpaper that plays with familiar Moghul archways. Massive crystal chandeliers and long beveled mirrors up the glamour quotient. Custom dining chairs with curvy Arabesque lines further the hint of harem appeal. Open all day for hotel guests and to non-resident guests for lunch, the restaurant serves a creative continental menu, but it is really the setting that is the main draw.
This delightful café is part of the Anokhi block-printing store, but most of its patrons aren’t shoppers at the boutique, they’re locals that have come for the simple, seasonal food. The café’s menu emphasizes salads, sandwiches and fresh juices, and is often a welcome change to travelers needing a break from heavier Indian fare. Better still, most of the greens and fruit used are sourced from the Anokhi farm on the outskirts of Jaipur. Given that Anokhi runs the restaurant, it’s only fitting that tables features fabric-covered cane chairs.
This lounge bar on a leafy rooftop terrace draws a trendy crowd, including polo players and the expat jewelry designer and fashion set. A good choice for a relaxed evening when you feel like a few drinks and a pizza or burger.
This unassuming restaurant at the back of the Taj Jai Mahal property is swathed in lavender and blue tones, for a mood that’s equally regal and serene. The menu is a modern interpretation of traditional Indian dishes, but patrons can also opt to “Trust the Chef” and be surprised. Drop by the Marigold Bar for a single malt on your way in.
Think of this South Indian food restaurant as a palate cleanser since the steamed idlis (rice patties) and crèpe-like dosas, served with coconut chutney and sambar, a lentil soup, will be a welcome change from the heavier North Indian fare.
This trusted vegetarian restaurant serves simple fresh food in an unpretentious comfortable setting. The dosas are some of the best in town and the paneer korma (cheese curry) and naan bread are rated highly by Jaipur foodies. My friend, needing a break from Indian food, gave the pizza a thumbs up. It has a robust Chinese, Continental and Indian menu, including Rajasthani thali meals. The service is attentive and the menu is available in English. The restaurant is not at all touristy and is consistently busy with local families and office workers.
Giardino at Jai Mahal Palace
This Italian restaurant is set in the stunning gardens of Jai Mahal Palace. It’s a great choice for a break from Indian food.
Indian Coffee House
The Indian Coffee Workers Cooperative Society set up hundreds of cafés across India in the 1950s. They remain places for a hit of nostalgia with old world prices. Enter through a gate on MI Rd, past the courtyard full of two wheelers (motorbikes). The café is a series of rooms adorned with old India Coffee Board posters and neon menus. The chairs reveal its history, beginning with the original wooden and cane ones, the later orange vinyl and then the new grey plastic chairs. The clientele ranges from college students to old friends catching up over endless coffee. Best at breakfast is a masala dosa (crispy crèpe with spicy mashed potato filling). There are several other branches in town.
This roadside café specializes in parathas (flat breads often stuffed with vegetables). The café sits near Amber Fort, so many hired drivers drop off their clients and then head to the café afterward. Foodies will be rewarded with flaky and piping hot parathas, stuffed with gobi (cauliflower), aloo (potato) or pyaz (onion). The parathas are accompanied by yogurt, served from the traditional terracotta bowls, and a fresh salad of tomato, red onion, lime, salt and cumin that was freshly ground using a mortar and pestle. Wash it all down with the masala chai (spicy tea).
Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar restaurant in the throng of Johari Bazaar is a must for its delicious vegetarian dishes and the witty, retro seventies-style decor. A turbaned doorman offers a warm greeting. Order samosas, biryani rice and Rajasthani thali, a selection of spicy local vegetables, capers, chutneys and pickles. Assam tea or a fresh lime and soda are the perfect accompaniment. Afterward, stop at the company’s fragrant pastry counters for to-go Paneer Ghewar, a honeycomb treat soaked in unctuous treacle.
Mahaveer Rabri Bhandar (MRB)
This revered 150-year-old shop only sells one thing: rabri, a thick milk pudding made with cardamom and slivered pistachios.
Established in 1949, Niros is a landmark restaurant in Jaipur. It is hugely popular with tourists and yet still frequented by locals, who believe that Niros consistently maintains high-quality food standards. In fact, because of its rock solid reputation, Niros boasts a celebrity clientele, ranging from Bollywood greats to models. The bright, air conditioned, ‘80s style restaurant is dominated by a Satish Gujral mural of a Maharaja and Maharani at play. Niros offers 286 items on the menu, all neatly numbered and coded for non-vegetarian and vegetarian choices. Most popular are the lal maas (mutton in red gravy), reshmi kebabs (chicken in mildly spiced yoghurt) and for locals, the Chinese menu is a must-have. Also on offer are Rajasthani specials and full Continental and Indian menus. Niros is licensed, serving beer and the best brand of Indian wine, namely Sula, offering both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Satori Merlot. Reservations essential.
This is one of the best places in town for tandoori dishes. It’s a great spot for meat lovers, though don’t be disappointed by the less-inspired setting. The food is worth it.
Samode Haveli Restaurant
The heritage hotel Samode Haveli, long a favorite of European visitors, has moved its main restaurant into a wonderful new wing overlooking the mansion’s gardens. The main dining room features crystal chandeliers, marble floors, heavy wooden furniture and ancestral treasures, including Raj portraits, but there is a lovely private dining room and cozy terrace nooks for drinks and the best tables are outside overlooking the garden area. This is a great spot for lunch during a day of sightseeing or shopping and for a festive evening meal. The family that owns the hotel are passionate about their Indian cuisine but also offer Nepalese and South Indian options.
Samode Palace Hotel Restaurant
Located in Samode, an hour’s drive northwest of Jaipur, this privately owned hotel (the sister property of the in-town Samode Haveli) has poetic beautifully preserved, early-19th-century painted interiors and a vivid sense of authenticity. Come for a weekend lunch and request a hotel guide to give you a tour of the property, especially the mirrored Sheesh Mahal and the frescoes in Durbar Hall. Of special note: the turquoise and white fresco rooms, intact for nearly two centuries.
Shree Pandit Kulfi Bhandar
This local spot specializes in kulfi, Indian ice cream, which is chewier, denser, and often studded with nuts and laced with saffron.
Considered one of the best sweets shop in town, sample traditional desserts such as kaju katli (a diamond-shaped cashew confection) and milk barfi (milk-based dessert squares that are topped with pistachios and almonds) here.
Occupying the original verandah of the Rajmahal Palace, the Collonade dining room features one of Adli Ahmad’s wonderful custom wallpapers—this one with a polo theme—as well reproductions of vintage Osler chandeliers, original pink marble floors and views over the palace gardens. In warm weather tables are set outside, so hotel guests and non-residents can enjoy informal lunch and dinner basking in the royal atmosphere.
The Kitchen at Jaipur Modern
For serious shoppers in Jaipur, the easiest place for a quick bite has long been the café at Anohki, but an even nicer option now exists in the annex to the lovely new boutique Jaipur Modern. The modern, airy café offers nice salads and Italian dishes, including pizza as well as fresh cold pressed juices. The chef works with organic farmers to source fresh, sustainable ingredients. Its walls are decorated with lovely woven textile panels. Open from 12 pm to 9 pm.
The Orient Occident
The most formal of the restaurants at the new Sujan Rajmahal, the Orient Occident dining room evokes the majesty of the Raj royals and specializes in Indian cuisine. Its high ceilings are coffered with deep red panels that accentuate the rich colors of the custom wallpaper and its red Moghul flowers. Other grand elements: columns, marble floors, oil paintings and leather backed dining chairs. Open only for dinner.
The Polo Bar
The historic polo bar at the Rambagh hotel serves cocktails in a room that feels like a giant tent on a royal polo field. It’s a great spot for a drink before or after dinner.
Verandah at Taj Rambagh Palace
Overlooking the Rambagh Palace’s sprawling gardens, the Verandah is an exceptionally relaxed spot, though you’ll hardly forget your royal surroundings. The Indian fare is considered among the city’s best and a night out here is indeed special. Dine at dusk; during the winter months, dancers and musicians often perform on the lawn.