I’m not a foodie. The word seems to have been appropriated by food lovers masquerading as experts of gourmet food when they have no idea about the processes involved in food preparation let alone the preparation of the dish they’re consuming, let alone any understanding of the individual ingredients that knit the dish together. Nope, not a foodie but I do love good food (not as much as my pillow, but there we are).
I confess that being Goan (read – loving my meat) I wondered if I would struggle in vegetarian Rajasthan. Yes, Jaipur might cater to non-veg tourists, but not as much as you’d think. I, for one, was pretty relieved to find mouth-wateringly delicious vegetarian food prepared there. We also found a couple of great restaurants that catered to the continental palate. Here are a handful of places we visited and what we ate there.
1. Anokhi Cafe (Veg)
Tucked away on the second floor of a building in what is probably Jaipur’s poshest area, C-scheme, is the flagship Anokhi shop that popularized Jaipur’s famous block print textiles. More importantly, just next to it is the quiet, neat, unassuming Anokhi café that has its vegetarian fare on display in a window, waiting for you to choose from. Fresh fruit juices, organic teas and vegan desserts round up a very tempting selection of food and beverages on offer here. I shared an Arrabiata pasta with my dad, which ended up being too big a portion for the two of us, especially when accompanied by the wonderful blue cheese, horseradish and tomato green leaf salad that I couldn’t get enough of. I might have had some place for a tempting tart if I hadn’t filled up on fresh Pomegranate & Orange juice. The others at our table ordered a fantastic concoction of hummus and brinjal paste, slathered in sesame seeds and pomegranate, accompanied by pita bread.
2. Peacock Rooftop Restaurant
It was our second, rather cool (temperature-wise about 15deg C), night in Jaipur and our first dinner out. We decided to go to the Pearl Palace Hotel’s much-lauded Peacock Rooftop restaurant to see what the fuss was all about. The third floor rooftop terrace was a steep climb up but the tempting smells from the kitchen above kept us committed. The top opened up to the sky and we saw the bejewelled city-sprawl lit up at night. A couple of large open charcoal fires in rusty metal bins made the restaurant toasty. We sat under a covered area, next to the kitchen. Admittedly, it was a little disappointing to note that the place didn’t have an alcohol license but the strawberry mojito mocktail sort of made up for it in taste and quality. We ordered a couple of curries, some chicken kebab and plain naan to warm our bellies full, but what really stood out for us was one of the Rajasthani specialties – Lal Maas – which was fall-off-the-bone mutton in an angry red yet very aromatic masala that we soon found to be as addictive as it was enticing.
3. LMB Hotel (Veg)
On our second day of sight-seeing, we covered Jaipur’s Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort and Jal Mahal before giving in to our growling stomachs and deciding that it was time for a Rajasthani thali. We’d heard that the thali was a specialty of LMB (Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar) hotel and directed our driver to park there. We saw the spacious hall tightly packed with tourists and a few locals. LMB hotel’s famous pure-veg restaurant and sweet shop has been functioning since 1954, which makes it a real institution and therefore, a popular tourist stop for plenty of bloggers and (non) foodies too. We were lucky to get a small booth and settled in with our menus. We were soon disappointed to learn that there was only one thali on offer here: the Rajasthan Royal thali – which as it turned out was a huge undertaking that would require more commitment and stomach space than any of us was willing to give at that point. The thali itself cost Rs. 560 and came with a warning that there was no sharing allowed, except with an additional charge of Rs 360 per person. There were no other thali options on offer, so we ordered a tasty Dal Fry, delectable Boondi raita and succulent Paneer makhani instead to go with our naan, rice and Lime sodas.
4. Nibs Café (Veg)
We’d heard people talking about the all-veg Nibs and were told the food was good, so our last lunch was here. We took a cab to the one near MGF mall. Though the décor was busy, quirky and therefore interesting, I realized too late that it mostly attracted the college crowd and so we found ourselves desperate for a quiet, sit-down lunch in a hectic place with poor service and loud-ish pop music. I can see why it attracts younger professionals and students though, with its thick, exotic chocolate shakes and wonderful looking desserts including piled-high waffles and pancakes. The waiters seemed new and nervous except for the manager who I had to speak to in order to ensure that the correct order had been noted. When our food arrived, it was fresh and very tasty, and thankfully by then, most of the room where we were sitting had cleared out and the music volume lowered. Nibs is a franchise spreading out slowly across Jaipur, so if you do visit I’d recommend the Quattro Fromaggi pizza on thin crust base and the Pita Pockets. But honestly, almost everything on the menu sounds exotic and tempting.
5. Bar Palladio
I was curious about this Italian restaurant, belonging to Hotel Narain Niwas, because of the fantastic interiors that I’d seen online. Also, it was our final night in Jaipur and by then, we were jonesing for an injection of something stronger than a mojito mocktail. A few whiskies and a bottle of excellent Cosecha Tarapaca 2014 (Cabernet Sauvignon) from Chile later, the bonhomie was flowing freely and we were left alone by the waiters to enjoy our candlelight Italian fare in mock Tuscan décor crossed with wall-size Victorian paintings. I shared the Antipasto platter with my father, salivating over fresh parma ham, something I hadn’t tasted since my last trip to England and could barely finish my rather large portion of Orange Roasted Lamb with buttery mashed potatoes. With no place for dessert, we Uber-ed our way home to bed with the assistance of the maître d’ who obligingly booked two separate cars for us after the rickshaws outside the hotel refused to lower their extortionate night prices.
Finally, I should add that the cosy little haveli where we were staying had chef Divya Kalwara making us very tasty breakfasts included in the room price. Every morning we we could choose from a wide selection of bananas, cornflakes, poha, toast with jam, butter or honey, hot-fresh chapatis, eggs prepared any way we liked and a choice of masala chai or coffee with hot milk. It made the cool mornings easy to look forward to and we felt ready for a full day of sight-seeing after this hearty breakfast. To add, we had breakfast in an extraordinarily beautiful blue room, hand painted by local Rajasthani artists.
With a bit of research beforehand, you’ll be able to find a variety of restaurants offering tasty veg and non-veg fare in Jaipur. Just be prepared to use rickshaws to get you from one place of the city to another if needed, or better yet, be prepared to Uber your way around, and you won’t be disappointed at all with the food choices.
Visited in December 2017