India’s lavish stay Narendra Bhawan is the former home of the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner, who – like his namesake hotel – was influenced by the Bombay art deco movement, a love of travel and contemporary European tastes. The building’s opulent interiors are a colourful, modernised mash-up of Rajput furnishings and retro trinkets; a bright red piano stands at attention in the lobby, and a glittering pool takes over a corner of the rooftop. Both local and European dishes are served in the restaurant, and drinks can be taken in the gold-accented bar or under a shaded pergola on the terrace.
Double rooms from £65.64 (INR6,230), including tax at 18 per cent.
Rates usually include a buffet breakfast of cereals, fresh fruit, cooked-to-order egg dishes, and freshly baked Indian breads.
The inner veranda was heavily influenced by the Bombay art deco movement and has a striking black-and-white tiled floor, glass cabinets of antiques and intricate stonework.
At the hotel
Billiards room, free WiFi throughout and laundry services. In rooms: TV, minibar, free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making facilities, air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
For a royal touch of opulence, go for a spacious Prince’s Room; each is decked out in luxe velvets and glittering mosaics.
The glittering blue rooftop infinity pool has panoramic views of both the old and new quarters of the city. The Portuguese-tiled pool terrace is dotted with parasol-shaded sunloungers.
Bring your strand of pearls if you’d like to resurrect the house’s salad days, and stylish linen cover-ups for lounging poolside.
The hotel’s common areas are wheelchair-accessible, but all guest rooms are reached via stairs.
Welcome, but this city hotel is best for grown-up getaways; baby cots (free), extra beds (INR54000 a night), and highchairs can be provided, and meals adapted for younger guests. Under-eights can share a bed with parents for free.
Take a table next to the window or in the private dining area.
Make yourself at home in this grand mansion, as any good maharaja or maharani would – keep it effortless in cool linens and floaty tunics.
Elegant dining room Pearls & Chiffon, named for the lady of the house’s love of glamorous saris and stately necklaces, is decorated in pale blues and yellows, with flecks of gold and silver. Chef Sachit Jha serves up dishes from near and far, with choices ranging from chicken caprese and spinach risotto to spiced Murgh sabzi and mutton korma. Attentive restaurant staff can recommend pairings from the carefully curated wine list. At breakfast, sip on a saffron-infused lassi and order plates of gram-flour pancakes or sweet cinnamon choux pastries.
Treat your sweet tooth in the whimsical Mad Hatter bakery, where sweet-toothed Smiths can indulge in traditional treats and baked goods, puddings, toffees, and fudge; make a tea party of it with Indian Estate brews.
The winding warren of rooms that comprise the bar is decorated in gold and crystal, and echoes traditional smoking and drawing parlours; snag a secluded corner sofa and order cocktails that tend towards the fruity and classic: negronis, mai tais and mint-muddled Tiger Lilly cocktails. Outside on the terrace, there’s a table under a pergola that’s set up for alfresco drinks under the stars on warm evenings.
Pearls & Chiffon is open daily from 7am to 10.30pm and Mad Hatter has treats laid out from 11am to 10pm.
An à la carte menu of comfort food, including burgers and sandwiches, cocktails, soft drinks and teas and coffees, is available during restaurant hours.
Narendra Bhawan is in Bikaner, a city in northern state Rajasthan. Set on a quiet street close to the centre, the hotel’s ideally situated for seeing local sights.
Catch a direct flight Mumbai to Jodhpur airport, which is about five hours away by car; arrange transfers with the hotel for INR12,000. Transfers from Jaipur airport – six hours away by car – will cost the same; direct flights land there from Mumbai, Calcutta, and Dubai. Just ask, and our Smith24 team will sort out your flights and transfers.
Bikaner Junction station is five kilometres from the hotel; train services run regularly from Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Allahabad and Calcutta.
State and national highways link Bikaner and the other major cities of north India, including Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Call our Smith24 team to arrange chauffeured rides for stress-free journeys.
Worth getting out of bed for
Challenge your partner to a game of English-style billiards, float in the pool, or recline on a velvet-tufted lounge chair with a good book. Ask nicely and the hotel will arrange romantic lakeside sunset drinks and dinners; you’ll be chauffeured to your candlelit and cushion-strewn setting, just outside Bikaner, where you can lie back and watch the sun set while attentive staff serve cold cocktails and tempting treats.
Wander through Bikaner and peruse the yellow-stone carvings and vibrant paintings of Bhandasar Jain Temple, or wind your way through Junagarh Fort; the latter is a composite of several centuries of Indian architecture, from 16th-century Rajput style, to Mughal and Gujarati designs.
Just over a kilometre away from the hotel is Swarna Mahal, the restaurant at pink-stone Laxmi Niwas Palace; it's known for its elaborate take on traditional Rajasthani thalis, and dishes from other Indian regions, Thailand and Europe. The restaurant’s open all day from September to March; advance bookings are recommended.
Just opposite Junagarh Fort’s entrance, café Gallops serves up pizzas, sandwiches, and tasty Indian and Chinese dishes. We recommend fortifying yourself with the cafe’s strong coffee before exploring Junagarh.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Rajasthan and unpacked their tins of loose-leaf tea and chiffon saris, a full account of their boutique break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Narendra Bhawan in India…
Uniquely curated former home to the last Maharaja of Bikaner, lavish hotel Narendra Bhawan offers glimpses into the life of its former owner at every turn. This appropriately palatial, pink sandstone mansion is a blend of old and new; art deco-style tiles and mirrored mosaics provide a glittering backdrop for Rajput furnishings and velvet-clad European armchairs. A striking, Venetian-red grand piano sits in the lobby, and the traditional, English-style, billiards room beckons amiably for guests to try their luck.
Watermelon martinis and glasses of Indian wine can be delivered to the bank of sunloungers by the rooftop pool, cosy seats in quiet nooks of the bar, or under the pergola by the terrace. An ambitious chef whips up green-chilli-simmered chicken curries, minted lamb and jalapeno burgers and smoked duck salads with equal flair, and romantic lakeside evening meals can be arranged at your request.