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