Lake Living in Udaipur

Saturday, December 02nd , 2017

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Udaipur is a popular venue for Indian weddings, set as it is around a large artificial lake called lake Pichola, constructed in the 14th century. Udaipur is in Rajasthan, south west of Delhi and north of Mumbai. It is a one-hour flight from either major city. The best time to visit, as with most of India, is from November to March in the dry season. It has an advantage over Goa and Kerala in that it is cooler, usually in the high 20Cs in the winter (average high in January is 24C) rather than the warmer climate of southern India. Udaipur has the second largest palace in India, and sunset lake cruises are a popular way to spend your time. We stayed at The Leela Palace (pictured) directly on the lake. I have had many visits to Leela properties in my twenty-one trips to India, and they are very reliable luxury hotels. The ones at resorts, such as those in Kerala and Goa, are particularly nice, and the Udaipur hotel is similarly superb, with terrific staff. The flagship restaurant of the hotel is the Sheesh Mahal, open at dinner only and with its tables entirely in the open air just by the lake. We had some excellent food here over the week, with the restaurant having the bonus of a lovely view out across the water.

This was much better than the meal we had at Chandni at the Oberoi Udaivillas. Usually Oberoi hotels are top notch, and perhaps the accommodation here is good. Sadly the main restaurant here was a major let down, with a couple of very disappointing dishes and some really poor service, which is inexcusable given the high prices. 

Much nicer was the Royal Repast in the city, a small restaurant set in what was once the Udaipur prime minister’s official residence. The menu of Rajasthani dishes was interesting and the standard of cooking was high, while prices were very fair indeed. This is a spot well worth trying if you are visiting Udaipur.

The Taj Lake Palace hotel is a conversion of a summer palace of the former Udaipur royal family, and sits on a little island in the lake itself. We had a superb lunch here, a tasting menu showing considerable skill including a fabulous raan dish of tender lamb encased with pastry. The hotel itself is a short boat ride from the main city and has its own pool and gardens on the island.

I also had one night in Delhi and took advantage of this to return to Indian Accent, my favourite restaurant in the whole country. It has moved since I last visited, one of the many victims of a 2017 change in the law banning alcohol licences from premises within 500m of a highway. It is now in much smarter premises attached to the Lodhi hotel in New Delhi. The same innovative take on Indian food is taken as at the old location, with dishes such as blue cheese naan and methi chicken cornet. The great thing about the cooking here is that the innovations made always make sense in terms of flavour: they are not just showing off. For example vermicelli may seem an odd thing to have in an Indian dish, in this case chicken keema, but actually you see vermicelli in the Indian dessert kulfi, so this dish merely extends something already present in the cuisine. The key point is that the dishes taste great even if they sound odd, and some like the apple wood smoked bacon kulcha are glorious. This is the only Indian restaurant on the “Worlds Best” list, currently at number 78, which if nothing else indicates that its reputation has spread well beyond Delhi. I am looking forward to it opening a branch in London soon.

The 2018 Michelin guide to Tokyo came out. There was no change at the three star level. There were five new two star places, including the excellent Den and Florilege. In total Tokyo now has 12 three star places, 56 two stars and 166 one star restaurants, by far the most of any city at all levels, including Paris.