Anjolie Ela Menon

India's leading contemporary artist, Anjolie Ela Menon on her favourite hotel, The Neemrana Fort Palace
Anjolie Ela Menon
Anjolie Ela Menon

OT Favourite hotel in the world
Anjolie Ela Menon The Neemrana Fort Palace, of course. How I grew attached to its 15th-century charm (mattresses in diya-lit turrets, moonlit drinks, etc) is a story whose beginning precedes its existence as a hotel. In the early 1980s I made several forays into Shekhawati with Aman Nath and Francis Wacziarg. They were persuading the Maharaja of Mandawa to turn his shambles of a palace into a hotel. The duo not only restored it in a unique manner but also laid down systems for its management. Later Aman and Francis decided to buy a ruined fort on the Jaipur Highway, only an hour-and-a-half from Delhi. It was Neemrana.

OT First visited
Anjolie Ela Menon I first went there on a hot summer&rsquos day in 1991. I was sitting on the ramparts when an aandhi approached at great speed across the vast plain below. Peacock cries rent the indigo air as the dust storm hit bringing an icy shower of rain.

OT The experience
Anjolie Ela Menon From that first magical moment I have watched Neemrana attaining all the luxuries of a big hotel without compromising on its authentic charm. Each room is a surprise, decorated with refined taste and simplicity. But evenings were special. Folk singers serenaded us while we dined in the open, fresh air of exquisite courtyards. There was no light other than that of the stars above and of the candles with their trembling flames.

OT The food
Anjolie Ela Menon No enormous buffets, no complicated choices. But each day offered a different selection of Indian and Continental cuisine. Often I have found a French chef in residence to train the cooks in some exotic cuisine to augment the staple fare. During the tea hour, we would assemble on the terrace and wait for cookies to be served fresh and warm from the oven. I celebrated my 60th birthday there &mdash the hotel laid a six-course sit-down banquet for 40 people as the grand finale to a four-day festivity.

OT The USP  
Anjolie Ela Menon Neemrana hotels span the whole country, rescuing old houses and palaces from ruin. However, what I admire most is the absence of black-suited, hotel-management-type professionals. Instead, the hotels are manned by local help who have been trained to cook and serve guests in a gentle, personalised Indian way &mdash such a relief from all those cookie-cutter hotels.


The information

Location Village Neemrana, Delhi-Jaipur Highway, Dist. Alwar, Rajasthan
Accommodation 14 suites, 30 doubles, 4 singles
Tariff Rs&nbsp1,500-9500 (one suite Rs 18,000) 
Contact 01494-246006, 246007, 246008, www.neemranahotels.com

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