We took a quick family holiday in Updaipur last weekend. The Mewar Express that started from Hazrat Nizamuddin station took a little over 12 hours to get to Udaipur. On our first day we packed in a lot. We saw the Pratap memorial,Lokkala Mandal, and Saheliyon ki Bari (a place where the princesses played, bathed, and had fun) in the morning. The Bari was full of fountains and must have been a spectacular sight in those times. A person living in Udaipur and accompanying us mentioned that while Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes, water supply in households is a serious problem. Next, we took a ride on the Fatehsagar lake and went to the Nehru Garden. The ride was way too short. In about 5 minutes we were at the Nehru Garden. The garden had very little to offer in terms of visuals. There was a café, which unfortunately had shut down in the late 70s or so.
After a quick lunch at the guest house and a power nap, we hit the City Palace. We took a guide along with us to take us through the palace. A good guide can make a huge difference to the way in which one appreciates and understands the history of a place. Our guide supplied us with more Bollywood related nuggets than the history that we were craving for. “Yeh dekhiye Jag Mandir, yahaan pe Raveena Tandon ki shaadi hui thi”, said our guide. Our research showed that the architecture of Jag Mandir inspired Shahjahan to build the Taj Mahal. Clearly there was more to Jag Mandir than a bollywood actor’s wedding! Next, he pointed in a direction and said “yahaan pe ghunghat ke aar ka shooting hua tha. Aamir wahan khada tha or juhi idhar”. He had a stock of husband-wife jokes that he kept cracking at regular intervals. “Yeh dekhiye hansta hua lion. Yeh isliye hans raha hain kyunki iski shaadi nahin hui hain”. You may have guessed that this was not exactly a historical guide to the palace.
We had bought tickets for the sound and light show at the Palace. There was a while before that was to start. We ambled around the shops close to the Palace. We spotted Govinda’s cafeteria and decided to stop for some coffee.
We also ordered a slice of an apple pie. The pie was good and so was the coffee.
The palace was a different sight altogether in the evening. It looked truly regal. It was also nearly empty and that added to our experience of gazing at it. The sound and light show was very good. This was a good lesson in history that was presented in a very engaging manner. What our guide had missed out was beautifully covered here. Even if you manage a good guide, do not miss the sound and light show.
After the show, we headed for dinner to Apani Dhani. This was recommended to me by Kulsum who blogs at Journey Kitchen. The settings were that of a Rajasthani village. They had entertainment in the form of puppet shows, magic shows, rope walk, and folk dance. We were really hungry and decided to head for dinner straight away. The thali is priced at Rs 275 per head. This also includes the entry to the place and allows you to watch and enjoy all the shows on display.
Now, in the past, I had not liked any of the the Rajasthani food I’d had in my previous trips to Jaipur and Udaipur. Thankfully, the food at Apani Dhani was everything that I thought it wouldn’t be. It was not greasy or too spicy. The Dal Bati Churma was to die for. It was the best I’ve had so far.
The variety of vegetarian dishes served impressed us. No paneer or alu dishes! Isn’t that a wonder by itself?
The service was very good. One of the servers was bursting with enthusiasm. He actually stuffed 3 pieces of jalebis into the mouths of each and every one of the person eating there. Quite a sight! The jalebis were so good that most resisted half-heartedly when he was forcing us to have them.
The next day we took a trip to Chittorgarh to see the fort. It took us 1.5 hours to get there from Udaipur. The history lesson we had received the previous evening had us eager to see where Rani Padmini resided and committed Johar to preserve the honour of the women of Mewar and prevent Ala-ud-din Khilji and his troops from defiling them. We also stood in the room from which Khilji purportedly saw a reflection of Rani Padmini in a mirror. He was so taken by her beauty that he decided to invade Mewar and make her his wife. The desire to own, women especially, can be destructive.
We had planned to eat lunch at Natraj Dining Hall (near the railway station) on our way back from Chittor. This place was highly recommended by Rocky and Mayur on an episode in Highway on my plate. We were looking forward to a good thali. Natraj did not disappoint us. Priced at Rs 120, the thali had two farsaans – dhokla, peas samosa, dal, kadi, paneer, alu sabji, gatta, and a very yummy cabbage sabji. They gave us a choice between the sweet gujarati kadi and dal and the rajasthani kadi and dal. My mother and I picked gujarati and my father and husband picked rajasthani.
It came with rotis and bhakris and chaanch. For dessert, they served gajaar ka halwa.
We returned to Natraj for our last meal in Udaipur. Unfortunately, we decided to head to the restaurant instead of the dining hall. We ordered the dal-bati and found to our dismay that it is not served with the sweet churma. Instead, it was served with dal, gatte ki sabji, garlic chutney, and chaanch. The dal-bati without the churma was incomplete and marred our memory of the dish. We shared our feedback with the manager. He explained that most people dining there did not enjoy the sweet churma. In order to avoid wastage and expenditure, they dropped the churma from the menu. We felt they should give the diner the option.
The other dishes we ordered such as paneer makhani, methi malai mattar, and dal were also not that exciting. Stick to the thali if you visit Natraj.
We also had the pyaaz kachori at Jayesh Mishtann Bhandar near Chetak Circle. This was hot, crisp with a sweet-spicy filling, and was a perfect snack for a winter evening. It was very filling though and we had a light dinner afterwards.
We also shopped at Hathipole for traditional handicrafts and Bandhni suits. All in all, the trip was very good. We had our fill of history, food, and shopping.