Lurking out on the gorgeous islands that beckoned to us from the shores of Udaipur, are former palaces that nowadays serve as hotels for the rich (well, richer than us at this point of travelling) and glamorous (not more glamorous than us though, in case you’re wondering!) While we couldn’t justify a night’s accommodation ‘on island’ we COULD indeed justify a night’s dining on a palatial blob, looking back over to the ‘mainland’ and over to our fellow travellers who would no doubt be slumming it at some over-priced, still-touristy ‘local’ recommendation by our esteemed (cough cough) tour guide. After a small misunderstanding between us, the restaurant staff and the palace guards as to the status of our booking (basically, they stuffed up), Princess Cardamon and Prince Chigs asserted their royal status and before we knew it, we were winging our way on a water taxi towards the palace. As we should be!
The views looking back over to the mainland were pretty. Even prettier was the island we were stepping foot on for the first time!
The courtyard was like something out of a fairytale filled with princesses and frills. Nice! Given the opportunity to dine inside with the masses or outside, we opted for the latter option as we had pretty much the entire courtyard to ourselves – and on a balmy Indian evening, where better to eat?!
You know that saying, “how the other half live”? Well, we’re more and more convinced that we’re probably supposed to be in THAT half. On that note, time to get some drinks on board. Having swanned around the courtyard enjoying our complimentary welcome juice (in champagne flutes), taken in the delightful surroundings and imbibed in a drink or two it was time to get down to serious business – that of Eating.
The style, in a nutshell, is something akin to Indian Fine Dining; Indian flavours and dishes executed in a more Western fashion in terms of presentation etc. That said, the restaurant did have a section of Western dishes though we felt it would be a wasted opportunity to be eating spaghetti bolognaise on this floaty paradise.
After the beautiful feast our dessert came out putting Chirag into a state near hysteria. Yes, the chocolate cake was THAT good. It may look like an innocent little block of cake, sitting there nicely behaving itself but we can assure you that for our charming, but slightly fussy, Prince to crack up into a giggling, dribbling mess it takes a pretty special piece of pud! This was Next Level Cake. For those wondering about the relative cost of fine dining on a former palace in the middle of an island in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, fear not! The bill for the four of us came to just on 10,000 rupees, including the boat transfers, three a la carte courses each and drinks. That’s $223 NZD/$185 USD/£121 GBP in TOTAL for the whole group. A steal!
Udaipur was blowing our socks off…actually, we weren’t wearing socks for most of the trip but you get the picture. Back to mainland as happy little bunnies.
Jag Mandir wasn’t the only welcoming setting in Udaipur though. We happened upon a rather oddly named place advertising Wi-Fi, nightly screenings of Octopussy and a balcony overlooking the city where one could watch the monkeys leap from rooftop to rooftop…and where one could also run away to the lovely inside area from said monkeys when they got too close.
O’zen, it turned out, was to become our home away from home (away from home!) in Udaipur throughout our time there. This was largely in part due to the effusive, incredibly welcoming and possibly slightly bonkers Lalit, our new best friend in India. Having started the business fairly recently with a couple of his mates, this 22 year old dude talked nearly completely in rhymes and/or advertising slogans – “no worries, chicken curry” – and would assure us whenever we ordered or asked for anything that “everything is possible but not always available”. We thank him 100% for this slogan as it really sums up India like you wouldn’t believe.
His favourite saying? “Full power, 24 hour” – this gives not only an indication of Lalit’s particular brand of energy but also his enthusiasm and kindness. He looked after us beyond belief when we made ourselves regular of his lovely cafe. The food was fine, the tandoori chicken and the lovely, fresh salads (NOT something to sniff at in India!) being real highlights, but go for the setting, the service and most of all, Lalit’s infectious personality. For real. He even threw a party for us on our last night, letting us have free reign of the music, drinks and space.
This is not a sales pitch for O’Zen but merely an example of the kinds wonderful people that we were getting to know in India who really made our adventures memorable. In saying that if you do want a sales pitch/review of this (and many other places we’ve been) check out Trip Advisor http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297672-d1911349-r144047624-O_zen-Udaipur_Rajasthan.html
And before you sign off today, do one last thing and check out the inspiration for Lalit’s signature saying…this is some weird stuff…