Sujan Rajmahal Palace Hotel review, Jaipur, India: Where you can live like a maharajah

Read our writer's views on this property below

Michael Gebicki samples life as a modern-day maharajah, and finds the turban fits.

This is one of the prettiest hotels I've ever seen. Built in 1729 for the ruling family of Jaipur, for many years this was the British Residency, the seat of power in Rajputana during the colonial era. It was the British who remodelled the palace extensively, adding the art deco touches and the Lutyens-inspired portholes on the walls around the terrace.

Three years in the making, this is a first foray into city hotels for the Sujan group, who have so far confined their activities to luxurious tented camps in the wilder parts of Rajasthan. Styled by Adil Ahmad, darling of Delhi's modern rococco designers, the look is straight out of the Marie Antoinette playbook.

Mount the stairs beneath the porte cochere at the front of the pink and white facade, cross the gleaming checkerboard tiles and you're in an arched salon surrounded by chandeliers, white marble and plush velvet couches in billiard-table green with red piping. Many of the photos and paintings are the property of the Jaipur royals, who still own the property.

There's a bar with a polo theme and a dark, Chinese-inspired corridor, an oriental Aladdin's Cave.

The grounds are delightful. At the back of the hotel is a lawn with marble fountains and behind, a spiffing wet-edge pool within a walled garden.

THE PLACE

Sujan Rajmahal Palace Hotel, Jaipur, India

THE LOCATION

In palatial grounds about two kilometres from the centre of the princely city of Jaipur, capital of the state of Rajasthan.

THE ROOMS

The 14 suites are vast, elegant and gaspingly gorgeous. The four upper tier Royal Suites are named after a famous person who's slept in them – Jackie Kennedy, Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth – and furnished with mementoes of each. A step up, the Royal Apartments measure over 270 square metres but even the base level Palace Rooms are large and sumptuous.

The comfort factor is extravagantly high. Rajmahal turns up the voltage on the style and opulence of the 1960s, a time when the Jaipur royals Sawai Man Singh II and his wife, Gayatri Devi, were the Indian chapter of the glamorous international polo-playing party set, and it works. Most of the suites have a dressing room and a separate dining room where your waiter will serve morning tea. Even the bed linen is monogrammed.

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THE FOOD

Not a strong point. The surroundings might be gilded and giddy but the menu relies on the predictable staples that are doled out to foreigners all over the subcontinent. It's a gender problem. While cooking in the Indian home is done entirely by women, in restaurants and hotel kitchens, it's almost always men behind the stove and often they aren't trying very hard. One often suspects that your waiter is eating much more interesting food when he goes home than that which he brings to the table, and Rajmahal is guilty.

STEPPING OUT

The old quarter of Jaipur, the pink city, is a traveller's favourite, well supplied with antique and jewellery shops and the wonderful City Palace, crammed with weaponry, miniature paintings and elaborate costumes dating from the glory days of Rajputana. One of the highlights is the honeycombed façade of the Palace of the Winds. Just outside the city, a ride aboard a caparisoned elephant up the ramparts of Amber Fort is one of the fundamentals of the Indian experience. Jaipur easily has enough to offer to justify a three-night stay.

THE VERDICT

Jaipur has made a fetish of its palace hotels, and Rajmahal lifts the bar to new heights. Sawai Man Singh II and his descendants are remarkable people, polished and urbane, with a real sense of vision for their state, and Rajmahal offers a fascinating insight into their family's life and times. It also infects its guests with an aristocratic sense of privilege. Addicts of Indian royalty will love it. On a cautionary note, there's a busy road rumbling along one side the palace, out of sight but not out of sound. The railway line also runs close by, and light sleepers should request a quiet room.

HOW TO GET THERE

The main railway station is a 10-minute drive and Jaipur International Airport is 10 kilometres away.

ESSENTIALS

Rooms at Sujan Rajmahal Palace Hotel start from $675, Sardar Patel Road, Jaipur, see sujanluxury.com. For all travel arrangements, see Banyan Tours (banyantours.com).

HIGHLIGHT

Dining in regal splendour out on the lawn beside the fountain. Mint sauce with that samosa, your ladyship?

LOWLIGHT

Staff tend to lurk in a watchful way, as if I was going to trouser the silverware.

Michael Gebicki was a guest of Sujan Rajmahal Palace Hotel and Banyan Tours.