The Lake Palace hotel in Udaipur is located on a little island in lake Pichola. The hotel is now run by the Taj group, and was originally a palace built in 1746 by the local royal family. The hotel is a popular venue for weddings and featured in the James Bond film Octopussy. It is accessed by a shuttle boat from a pier along the shore. Be aware that the building is normally accessible only by hotel residents. There are two restaurants on the property, one serving Indian food open only at dinner, and an all day dining venue called Jharokha. We ended up going for lunch, but a tasting menu had been prepared by the chef, so we ate that rather than order from the regular menu. On the latter, where both Indian and international dishes are available, a starter costs about INR 900 (£10) and a main course curry is priced at around INR 1,300 (£15), to give a rough idea. We had a very good guava juice cocktail and then lassi with saffron to drink, though alcohol was available. The executive chef was Monish Joshi, who has worked here for seventeen years.
We sat in a little alcove overlooking the lake. An initial nibble was semolina seed puri into which you pour a mint flavoured water. This was delicate and refreshing (14/20). The main meal began with a variety of pickles and popadoms. Four chutneys, made from scratch in the kitchen, appeared. There was elephant apple seed relish, turmeric chutney, green tomato and mint chutney and green onion chutney laced with red chillies. The initial nibbles that went with these were purple yam and crispy okra, sago fritters which had been mixed with tamarind chutney, and a cone containing a warm chaat of lentil sprouts with soya. The yam was good, the okra as crisp as advertised, and the chaat was lovely, but I was particularly impressed by the sago cake with its sweet tamarind flavour (average 14/20).
The next course was raan, marinated leg of baby lamb cooked overnight and presented in a casing of puff pastry, or at least a local variant of puff pastry. This was genuinely impressive, the lamb very tender and having nicely absorbed the spices of the marinade, the pastry delicate. The meat melted away on the tongue, its flavour beautifully enhanced by the spices. This was simply one of the best Indian dishes I have eaten anywhere (17/20).
The main course was a thali style presentation of several little courses served simultaneously, along with pulkha, a delicate lightly puffed whole wheat bread (14/20). Macchli jaisamandi was a local lake fish from nearby lake Mewar coated in a mildly spiced sauce. The fish was carefully cooked and the sauce, which was flavoured with spices including coriander, was well balanced (15/20). There was also a kedgeree of jungle rice and water chestnut, which was unusual but didn't really inspire me in terms of flavour (12/20). Much better was a dish of thinly sliced potatoes with asafoetida, curry leaves, cumin and chilli. This was very slow cooked using a solar-powered cooker. The effect was lovely, the potatoes having gorgeous texture and having nicely absorbed the spices (15/20). There was also a tarkha dhal with ginger and chillies, which was fine (14/20), and a very good dish of Kashmiri morels with cumin tempered rice pilaf. The rice was beautifully fragrant and the morels themselves excellent (15/20). Finally there was a leg of kadaknath chicken curry, the bird a variety also called kali masi and sourced from Madhya Pradesh. This is an all-black chicken noted for its distinct flavour, and came with a rich, dark and quite spicy sauce. I can't say I was particularly dazzled by the flavour of the meat, though the sauce was certainly enjoyable (14/20), but it was good to see that the restaurant was making an effort to seek out particular birds rather than just using any old generic chicken.
For dessert, a trio of little halwas were served. One was of bottle gourd, the second an apricot halwa with a miniature gulab jamun, and finally sweet potato halwa. The best of them was the apricot, but I was less concerned convinced about the other two, though this was a matter of personal taste rather than technique (13/20).
Service was superb, the staff attentive, helpful and friendly. I had initially been quoted a price of INR 7000 (£81) for the meal, but in the end was unable to get a bill at all, so I just left a large tip in cash. However I would have had no issue with the original price given the high standard of the food. If you instead ordered a la carte and had some beer then a typical cost per head might be about £50 all in. Overall this was an impressive experience, the dishes beautifully presented, unusual and carefully prepared with the raan dish a seriously impressive highlight. The Lake Palace is certainly a beautiful spot, and the overall package of lovely setting, classy service and excellent food was top notch.