Melissa's Travels

Melissa's Finds: Insider Hotel, Restaurant & Shopping Tips

As Rajasthan’s shopping capital and home to many expat designers and craftsmen, Jaipur is always offering a new twist on Indian treasures. Some of our favorite recent discoveries include a small palace hotel with a modern twist, chic dining rooms, cool concept stores and a special textile dealer.

Where to Stay

Sujan Rajmahal

Among the most exciting new reincarnations to open in the Pink City is the Sujan Rajmahal, a royal guesthouse that has been glammed up and is now a gorgeous boutique hotel with lovely restaurants. Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur called upon well-known designer Adil Ahmad, who also serves as the creative director of the Delhi housewares store Good Earth, and tasked him with balancing the historic bones of the 18th-century mansion with a modern hipness. He took inspiration from the City Palace, created 35 original wallpapers and dedicated each of the fourteen suites to past guests like Lord Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth II and Jackie Kennedy. The result is a flamboyant and fashionable property, which is run more like a grand country house than a hotel. Non-resident guests can come for drinks in the polo bar or a meal in one of the three dining rooms: 51 Shades of Pink, the Collonade and Orient Occident. Read more.

Where to Eat

51 Shades of Pink

The most delicious-looking dining room to open in India this year bears the cheeky name 51 Shades of Pink. Custom hot pink wallpaper plays with familiar Moghul archways, massive crystal chandeliers and long beveled mirrors up the glamour quotient and dining chairs with Arabesque lines further the hint of harem appeal. The restaurant serves a creative continental menu, but it is really the setting that is the main draw. Read more.

The Collonade 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. Read more.

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. Read more.

Samode Haveli 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. The family that owns the hotel are passionate about their Indian cuisine but also offer Nepalese and South Indian options. Read more.

The Kitchen at Jaipur Modern This modern, airy café, located in the annex to the lovely new boutique Jaipur Modern, 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. Read more.

Where to Shop

Jaipur Modern

Opened in January 2014, Jaipur Modern is the labor of love of Yash Agarwal and Maximiliano Modesti who have melded an Italian sensibility with Indian artisans to champion “modern Indian craftsmanship.” The owners work with numerous producers in India to create products with a more western twist. The linens and pillows, for instance, have a more abstract design and contemporary color palette, and the blouses and dresses are cut in a more avant-garde style. Read more.

Teatro Dhora For shoppers who want to browse a range of high-end Indian crafts but prefer the atmosphere of a Barney’s or Colette to an Indian market, then Teatro Dhora is the place to go. The boutique mixes Indian and expat designer goods with vintage items. There are hand-blocked tunics, embroidered shawls and the owners’ signature jewelry line, which includes brass and silver collections, as well as vintage furniture and Indian art work. Read more.

Tokree Located in the small heritage hotel Alsisar Haveli, Tokree is a charming new boutique that was opened by Sanyukta Singh to sell the artisan accessories and fashion that she designs and has local cooperatives manufacture. Antiques from around Rajasthan add a heritage element. Look for hand-blocked tunics, quilted jackets and palazzo pants with lovely edging and knit shawls with metallic threadwork and one-of-a-kind jewelry. Read more.

Idli French designer Thierry Journo has lived and worked in Jaipur for quite a few years, adding flair and eccentricity to the expat community. He recently opened this fabulous boutique in the Narain Niwas Palace, the same heritage hotel that also houses the must-visit boutiques Hot Pink and Aashka and Palladio restaurant. Inspired by the vibrant Rajasthan palette but rooted in a Parisian couture background, Journo sells the most Western designs in the city but with a distinct Indian exoticism. His silk caftans, cotton dresses, ikat pashminas and bright tie dyed pillows are like catnip to color lovers. Read more.

Aashka The pet project of the Princess Bhargavi Khumari Mewar of Udaipur, Aashka is a lovely boutique that sells fashion, jewelry and housewares made in India but with an updated aesthetic. The airy boutique, which is in the same heritage hotel as Hot Pink and Idli, is decorated with antique mirrors and furniture that have been white washed to create a more contemporary setting. Look out for lovely printed shawls, shift dresses, fine bed linens and pretty leather sandals. Polo enthusiasts can find everything from cocktail napkins with horseshoe motifs and polo shirts to leather saddles. Read more.

Special Access

For those interested in antique textiles, there is a fabulous dealer in Jaipur who shares his private collection (many museum quality pieces) and sells rare pieces. Academics and museum curators seek him out, and a visit to this showroom is akin to an academic crash course in textiles. Among the interesting facts that I learned: paisley designs actually come from the Moghul mango style of weaving—the teardrop shape was a mango and its shape can specific periods—and the design became called paisley only after French manufacturer Jacquard started producing the patterns on a loom in the Scottish town of Paisley in the early 1800s. The treasures that can be viewed include 400-year-old Ikat pieces, antique gold brocades, including one made on wool for the nizams of Golconda. The King of Qatar spent millions here amassing his collection and one could truly spend hours here ogling masterpieces. By appointment.

Giving Back

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]4 women and 1 child sitting on striped rug knitting at Princess Diya Kumari Foundation in Jaipur India Courtesy Princess Diya Kumari Foundation[/caption]

Princess Diya Kumari Foundation Princess Diya Kumari, who was also behind the renovation of the Rajmahal hotel, started this foundation in 2013 to give underprivileged women employment. Today more than 65 women create crafts out of the nearby Badal Mahal (Monsoon or Cloud Palace) and a cooperative near Ranthambore. Their simple fabric products range from cotton children’s frocks and notebooks to cloth bags and fabric animals. A small stall near the giant silver urns in the City Palace sells their crafts and by appointment it is possible to visit the Monsoon Palace, one of the oldest buildings in Jaipur, where they work.

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