The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

In­dia’s Ra­jasthan is fa­mous for its Boy’s Own­wor­thy fortresses; now one fairy­tale ex­am­ple has be­come a five-star ho­tel. One hour from Jaipur and seven years in the mak­ing, Alila’s new­est bou­tique re­sort stands high on a hill com­mand­ing 360-de­gree views of the evoca­tive desert land­scape.

This month, in­vited guests are help­ing Alila Fort Bis­hangarh man­age­ment tweak op­er­a­tions be­fore the re­sort opens to the trav­el­ling public in April with spe­cial in­tro­duc­tory rates and all the Ra­jput trim­mings, from cigars and co­gnac served in a tur­ret to a lux­ury day spa nes­tled in the one-time dun­geon.

The orig­i­nal fort has been left in­tact — the 2m-thick walls and tur­rets (or burjs) are a stun­ning ex­am­ple of Jaipur Gha­rana ar­chi­tec­ture — and a new, sym­pa­thet­i­cally con­ceived struc­ture built above and out­side the fort to house the gue­strooms and public ar­eas. There are 59 suites each de­signed to cap­ture the in­cred­i­ble land­scape views through large jharokha-style win­dows and fur­nished with day beds, large lux­ury bath­rooms with deep tubs, flat screen, Wi-Fi ac­cess and mini bar.

Down the hill near the fort vil­lage you’ll find the ar­rival court­yard and haveli with ban­quet­ing lawns, swim­ming pool, gym and chil­dren’s clubs. A kitchen gar­den is tucked away in a ravine and an In­dian celebrity chef is busily de­sign­ing menus for the re­sort’s four restau­rants.

DON’T MISS: A so-called Her­bal Hi-Tea in the Kach­hawa cham­pagne and tea lounge, us­ing house her­bal blends paired with healthy English dainty treats. The lounge also of­fers tea tast­ings and cof­fee roast­ing to or­der.

DIN­ING IN: Ex­ec­u­tive chef Nishesh Tri­pathi is work­ing with In­dian TV star and chef Ranveer Brar to spice up the usual re­sort of­fer­ings. At Amarsar, try the Keema Khag­ina eggs with charred toma­toes or the lo­cal “vil­lage break­fast”. Lunch takes in­spi­ra­tion from coun­tries ly­ing along the orig­i­nal silk route; think Afghan noo­dle soup, Can­tonese roast chicken and La­hori fried fish. Mad­hu­veni dishes up In­dian tapas and a se­lec­tion of smoked meats, in­clud­ing san­dal­wood-smoked lamb bootha to pair with malt whisky. Nazaara af­fords great views from the ter­race and spe­cialises in Ra­jput dishes slow cooked in tra­di­tional sand ovens. A re­laxed pool­side eatery serv­ing piz­zas, tacos and flat­breads made from lo­cal grains uses pro­duce plucked from the re­sort gar­den (and guests are welcome to pick their own).

DIN­ING OUT: Take a day trip to Jaipur for lunch or din­ner at the stun­ningly beau­ti­ful Bar Pal­la­dio (try the lemon­grass mar­tini).

ASK THE CONCIERGE: Book one of Alila’s tai­lored day tours; the “ad­ven­turer’s foray” in­cludes a pri­vate wildlife sa­fari in the Sariska Tiger Re­serve, lunch at a for­mer royal hunting lodge and a tour of the ex­tra­or­di­nary Naugaza Digam­bar Jain Tem­ple.

CHECK­ING IN: Open­ing rates from INR12000 ($237) plus taxes. More: alila­ho­

ALSO TRY: Alila Ja­bal Akhdar, Oman; Thorn­bury Cas­tle Ho­tel & Restau­rant, South Glouces­ter­shire, Eng­land.

CHRIS­TINE McCABE New Or­leans’s near cen­tury-old public ser­vice head­quar­ters is be­ing trans­formed into the NOPSI Ho­tel, open­ing this June within walk­ing dis­tance of the fa­bled French Quar­ter and fea­tur­ing 217 gue­strooms and suites, rooftop pool and live en­ter­tain­ment in the lobby bar and court­yard. • With just 34 large, lux­ury gue­strooms, 137 Pil­lars Suites opens on Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Soi 39 on April 2; sis­ter prop­erty to the ac­claimed 137 Pil­lars House Chi­ang Mai, the new ho­tel has its own cus­tomised Lon­don cab com­plete with cham­pagne bar • The newly re­fur­bished fives­tar Athenaeum Ho­tel & Res­i­dences in Lon­don’s May­fair is of­fer­ing Aus­tralian vis­i­tors guar­an­teed year-long Aussie dol­lar rates from $510 a night ris­ing to $680 in high sea­son, in­clud­ing full English break­fast, Wi-Fi and dis­counted din­ing in the sig­na­ture restau­rant run by Miche­lin-starred chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin • Fans of Alexan­der Mc­Call Smith’s No 1 Ladies’ De­tec­tive Agency nov­els are in­vited to join the au­thor on sa­fari in Botswana with Bel­mond; de­par­ture is Septem­ber 20 for three nights each in the Bel­mond Savute Ele­phant Lodge and Ea­gle Is­land Lodge • On Mon­day, The Lanes­bor­ough in Lon­don of­fi­cially opens its swish new health club and day spa, the fi­nal el­e­ment of a lav­ish makeover that saw the ho­tel re-launched in 2015.

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