The maxim, "build it and they will come", certainly applies to Darikhana — a colonnaded restaurant nestled in Jagmandir Island Palace with a panoramic view of the lake with its varieties of boats whizzing by, and the magnificent City Palace in the backdrop. Everyone who has made the boat ride from the mainland — no more than fifteen minutes — has been astonished by the sheer magnitude and beauty of this palace hotel on the southern end of Lake Pichola. What most tourists don't know is that they can enjoy an elaborate, but affordable luncheon or dinner at this paradise escape. I use the word "escape" because that's what you have to do to get away from the ordinary, and in the case of Darikhana, you will soon discover the difference between ordinary and exceptional.
During my visit, Jagmandir Island Palace had reserved a boat at the City Palace jetty to ferry me across for luncheon to Darikhana where the chef had tailored a bespoke menu. Taking my seat in a corner table, I sipped chilled beer and soaked in the stunning vista while the management appraised me of its historical significance. In 1623, the Maharana of Udaipur had given shelter to Shah Jahan accompanied by Mumtaz Mahal, as he was fleeing from the wrath of his father, the Mughal emperor. It's particularly impressive how the architecture with its intricate detailing is preserved to perfection to give global travellers an insight into its rich history. Overwhelmed by the beauty, the history and the living heritage of the island palace run by HRH Group of Hotels, I sat back to enjoy the luncheon as Chef brought out the first course — 'Murgh Tikka Bhuna Pyaaz' i.e. chicken sautéed in onion, tomato, fenugreek and coriander was tender and flavourful with melt-in-the-mouth texture while crisp 'Vegetable Fingers' was a vegan's delight. Satiated with the first course, I requested the chef to keep portions of the entrées minuscule. As expected, 'Laal Maas', with naan and 'Dal Pichola', was a culinary masterpiece. I think my heart rate went up at the sight of this magnificent meat. It was so, so fresh and flavourful. Observing me relishing mutton, Chef mentioned that traditionally, laal maas was made with wild game and chilli was used to veil the meat's gamey odour. While spiced flavour is intact, the meat is of goats grazing in hills, caught at night and brought in fresh at 11. Intriguing! The meal ended on a sweet note with bowls of 'Gulab Jamun', 'Kesari Ras Malai' and 'Passionfruit Roullade'.
At the end of the meal, I walked the length of the property with its beautifully landscaped gardens, mammoth spa where I fought the temptation to indulge in one of their quick fix services like a relaxing foot massage, and then the boat took me back to the mainland where a cart was waiting to take me back to Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel where H A Subramanian, Vice President PR, HRH Group of Hotels — whose coordination of my visit added lustre to the trip — had a car waiting to take me back to ShikarBadi. Reminiscing about the luncheon, I must mention here that the compelling presentations, sensational flavours and immaculate service [the waiter patiently went over each dish with me and insisted on refilling the plate with what I had just eaten]. And that's just one of the pleasures of a fine table in a palace hotel: everyone treats you like family. I'd highly recommend luncheon or dinner at Jagmandir Island Palace when in Udaipur! Bon appetit!!
— JASMEEN DUGAL
Jagmandir Island Palace, The City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan,