When Liz Hurley married Arun Nayar at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in India earlier this year the hotel became Jodhpur's "must-see-must-stay" choice and its future as a successful five-star hotel was sealed.
But it wasn't always so. For years the palace had festered as a draughty relic, owned by several leading hotel chains which ignored the "old girl" and let its former owner, Umaid Singh II, remain in residence while the palace – including the grand cupola, ballroom, and throne room – crumbled beneath his hallowed feet.
His Highness still lives in a private wing which, while giving the hotel real cachet, makes it feel slightly stiff with all the pomp, circumstance and palace guards that surround the property. But there is no arguing that the current management, the Taj Hotel Group, has restored this palace – designed in 1930 and completed in 1943 – to its former Art Deco glory, offering today's visitors a choice of 347 rooms, two restaurants, two pools and a spa.
Impossible to miss, the palace looks like a super-sized version of Harrods. It sits on top of a hillside on the outskirts of the historic town in Rajasthan, and is a luxurious overnight stop on a tour of the region, which is the reason why most of its non-royal or non-celebrity guests stay there.
Decadent yet minimalist Art Deco presented on a vast scale. The beds are big enough for six people, the bathrooms are as large as a small flat with miles of marble, chrome, walk-in power shower, separate bath, Molton Brown toiletries and fluffy white towels. No expense has been spared and the hi-tech spec includes 42in plasma-screen TVs, DVD/CD players and high-speed broadband.
The food and drink
There are two restaurants to choose from. Pillars offers all-day dining in its indoor area, also spilling out on to the western rear verandah with views of the gardens, the city and the Mehrangarh Fort. Breakfast here is a traditional English affair. Meals are a mixture of Rajasthani delicacies and European fare. Risala is the hotel's formal signature restaurant. It serves a menu of international and Indian cuisine in the elegant surroundings of a grand room lined with royal portraits.
Children are welcome but no pets. All the public areas are accessible. One bedroom has been adapted for wheelchair users.
Umaid Bhawan Palace (00 91 291 251 0101; tajhotels.com) offers doubles from £356 per room per night, including breakfast. Cazenove + loyd (020-7384 2332; cazloyd.com) offers tailor-made seven-night b&b trips to Rajasthan from £1,950 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights with British Airways and transfers, two nights at the Taj Mahal in Delhi, two nights at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur and two nights at Rohet.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, Rajasthan-342 006, India (00 91 291 251 0101; tajhotels.com).Reuse content