Hotel Review: The Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal in India
Leading travel and food writer Smita Iyengar wallows in regal opulence laid out in pristinely alluring environs of one of India’s finest, bespoke contemporary luxury hospitality addresses.
Set on the slopes of the picturesque Shamla Hill in Bhopal, the Jehan Numa Palace is an iconic legend that pays handsome tribute to princely elegance draped with contemporary oomph. This splendid Palace in all it’s white glory marries British Colonial, Italian Renaissance and Classical Greek architecture in good measure, yet retaining its quintessential Indian identity. We had looked forward to this special visit as few boutique heritage addresses the world over commanded such discreetly suave reputation with understated class.
The Jehan Numa is an eloquent and dynamic mirror of the stately influence of the Begums of Bhopal, who in their own charismatic styles re-carved and re-invented Bhopali tradition redolent with Muslim and Maratha heritage as its legacy. The effects are there to discover in all aspects of this charming boutique haven.
Much is owed to the keen foresight of General Obaidullah Khan, the second son of Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum and Commander-in-Chief of the erstwhile Bhopal State Force, who built this palace on distant Shamla Hill as a beacon of the entire city and surrounding lands.
The Jehan Numa, we were told translates as the Palace with a view of the world. It encompasses the General’s colorful passions spanning his love of horses and an eclectic sword collection. Grandly reflecting its chequered history, the Palace hotel is a repository of fine colonial style, ornately invoking princely Indian culture and unexpected contemporary modern design.
Proudly showcasing this distinguished boutique heritage hotel property’s various features was Gaurav Rege, the young effusive, experienced and energetic General Manager who guided us graciously through the charming enscons. He cheerily elaborated on the various keen nuances of uniqueness that have made Jehan Numa one of the top notch hospitality destinations in India and across the world.
We were treated to a calming kaleidoscope of bright bougainvillea blooms, the uniquely Indian fragrant champa flowers , stately palms and acres of nerve-stilling green. Regal resplendence comes alive in their arched walkways, bright colonnaded verandahs, immaculately manicured lawns with cosy cornices around romantic courtyards.
With the indoors extending seamlessly into the viridian outdoors Jehan Numa Palace is in mellifluous harmony with nature. The swimming pool acres’ lavish green spaces are an extension of the free walkway paths and pleasing floral bushes that are a welcome sensory experience, we discovered.
A CLASS OF ITS OWN
The boutique heritage hotel boasts 100 rooms including 6 suites that open out into the leit motif tufted green courtyards or shady balconies with eye cooling tree overhangs. Interestingly, the liberal pool is host to an actual horse riding track that is used by the Royal steeds on their morning trots from their stables!
The striking accents of colonial furniture, locally sourced stone, traditional Indian and ethnic furnishings combined with highly stylized tribal artwork bring in the simplistic appeal that uplift the luxurious and the modern in all living areas. All modern amenities and creature comforts spell understated respect for their guests.
With thematic shades inviting lifestyle leisure, their Regal rooms are comfortably homely, with Frangipani blooms accentuating the green acres. The newly decked up Palace Rooms in the heritage wing with high ceilings look out to the central courtyard from their spacious step-out verandas. Additionally, the spaciously designed Imperial Rooms open out to balconies and large picture windows with a spectacular view of the swimming pool and the intriguing horse riding track around.
The old heritage wing of Jehan Numa Palace hosts four suites with an elegant enclave for the ultimate chill out feel here. Our spacious bedroom in the Royal Ascot Suite was unobtrusively secluded from the grand living area, enhancing privacy for business meetings or for entertaining. Our living room was evocatively plush, inhabited by plush sofa chaises, nostalgic wall picture frames of horses and equestrian valour and a circular dining table with pretty floral smiles. Luxury enhanced by soft mellow glows highlighted that exquisitely distinguished ambience that was right royal indeed.
As is part of the opulent Nawabi tradition where cuisine occupies pivotal position in lifestyle, fine dining at the Jehan Numa is a variegated Smorgasbord of myriad sensory experiences. We discovered amazing flavours and authentic local princely palates revived for every true gourmand’s exhilaration. Fabled regal Bhopali dishes find premium slot on Indian menus, the ingredients and condiments true to their origin and creative expressions.
Four strikingly interesting restaurants and two bars, both in terms of cuisines and dishes are as popular with hotel guests as they are with the residents of Bhopal.
Shahnama, their cheery multi-cuisine restaurant presents buffets and a la carte offerings ranging from a wide and changing selection of Indian, oriental and continental cuisine. The name is a poetic tribute to the erudite Persian poet Ferdowsi and the décor and layout speaks for the grandeur and indulgent lifestyle of imperial nobles in no hurry to hasten life’s chosen pleasures.
The spirited Italian-Mediterranean accented restaurant La Kuchina lives up the nostalgia of Sicilian and hinterland Italy’s homely and easy-to-relate-to interiors with an open, active kitchen, rough hewn brick-cladded facades, rafters and cozy ambience. The rough white walls add to the contrast, the burnt sienna flooring evokes the familiar warmth and welcoming disposition of the folks of coastal Italy. Our dishes paired with an apt medium-bodied Cabernet-Shiraz blended wine, were heartily created hot off the fires, the pastas, pizzas and fabulous starters edging on our appetites with olive oil and garlic marinated cuisine overtaking our leisurely pace!
Barbeque and grills were most certainly up our wish list here at Jehan Numa Palace and under an ancient mango tree in the central courtyard of the property overlooking romantic fountain-moistened garden corners and mellow-lit corridors, we tucked into fantastic Mughlai delights at ‘Under The Mango Tree’. The outdoors are ushered inside as guests savour piping hot flavours in the open verandah with graceful fluted colonial pillars, hinging lush green spaces. The robust red goblet relished along side, was a perfect accompaniment.
In an open patio with Champa floral blooms and genteel breezes creating an ideal Al Fresco setting as an extension of the hotel’s coffee shop, Cafechino is strikingly trendy as a chic Café and patisserie. A quick bite, a premium cuppa Arabica black or merely a lingering conversation lights up the moments.
Their first floor lounge bar Tattenham Corner is a living salutation to the most notorious bend in modern day horse racing, and also to the royal family’s inherent interest in horses. The outpost packs in a rich cellar of fine spirits, aided by the chef’s most appetizing bites in a vintage environment of favourite sporting action or shake a leg jigs matching the DJ’s innovative whim.
The compactly appointed Shergar Bar, named after the famous race horse owned by the Aga Khan, offers quietude in plenty over relaxed drinks and amiable chatter. This cosy den with colonial style interiors brings back memories of a past era.
DESTINATION BY ITSELF
Located in the plush environs of the city’s chic upper crust address, The Jehan Numa Palace Hotel has hosted several prominent Bollywood film shoots and scores of dignitaries and luminaries.
As an iconic heritage landmark, this graceful edifice stands for the ultimate sophistication in high-end lifestyle for the rich and increasingly famous cognoscenti tribe seen sashaying here even on weekdays. It’s the undisputed, gilt-edged landmark of ultimate pelf and prestige for guests and patrons from across India and the world.
Address: 157, Shamla Hill, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh 462013, India
Phone: +91 755 266 1100