Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

A slice of 1135 AD

I hadn't tried out any restaurants in Jaipur for a long time other than the Rambag or Rajputana. Neeroj in main city still has its charm which I plan to visit on Sunday evening.
For the past one year, I have heard a lot from many of my friends in Kolkata about this concept restaurant in Jaipur called 1135 AD located on a hill top in Amber Fort.
But I doubt any of my friends in Kolkata, who lavished praise on 1135 AD, had actually visited the place themselves. I think their knowledge of this restaurant was anecdotal and they all had heard of it from some `friend', who, in turn, heard it from someone. Anyway, they have been doing a great job recycling their friend's views and spreading the word around. They have all become the restaurant's brand ambassadors, at least in cities like Kolkata, without even realizing it.
I was told that the restaurant has been named 1135 AD because the first stone for the famed Amber Fort was laid that very year. The restaurant's selling point is its aura of Rajasthani myths, legends and delicacies.
It was a good 45-minute drive from the main city to the restaurant. The moment you enter the restaurant premises you are welcomed by kacchi ghori dance, elephant salute and so on. The restaurant is adjacent to the Shila Mata Temple. By the time you reach inside the restaurant you feel that you have walked centuries back in time to a regal, exotic era in Indian history - 1135 AD, perhaps.
What adds to the old world ambiance is the light from the candles, diyas, traditional chandeliers and lanterns which make good for the absence of electricity. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked the manager, “Is there no electricity at all? He said, it was all concealed on the sidelines and formed a sort of ambient light. The idea is to make you feel that the diyas and candles do the work. Mirrored and frescoed roofs, silken rugs, antiques, hookahs etc., add to the old-era mystique.
The official address of this restaurant is Jaleb chowk, Amber Palace, Amber city. Amber, which derives its name from King Ambarisha, was the capital of the Kachhawaha dynasty before they moved it to the planned city of Jaipur in 1727.
I met Sunil Bhargava who welcomed me to the restaurant. I didn't know that he had left Rajputana and joined 1135 AD. I have known him since then.
The restaurant's eat-outs are divided into many parts. There is a Pizza De Resistance for 8 to 10 people. There is a private dining room called Seesh Mahal for 12 to 15 people where much of every thing is of silver. You need to shell out Rs 15,000 per person for dining sans alcohol. There is a shahi jharokha and also a room and a lounge priced at Rs 5000 per person. There's also the shahi angan or courtyard with open air lamp-lit terraces and live Rajasthani music.
In the tent area, there's a Rs 1,500 traditional Rajasthani thali. I have so far never been to a place in India where you get the same kind of food for Rs 1500 and Rs 15,000, just for the sake of change in the ambiance.
When you look down from the restaurant, you see the star-like specs of lights of the town at night which Mr Bhargava aptly described as “...taray zameen pay.
As far as I could see, there wasn't a single other Indian guest in the whole restaurant. They were all foreigners, filling up almost all the corners. The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol and the food, to be honest, was very average. At least the vegetarian food that I had was like that. But as far as the ambiance goes, it is worth driving downtown from Jaipur.
Some of my Indian friends who have placed this restaurant and the food on a lofty pedestal must have heard about how that place draws foreigners in droves. I guess they must have deduced from the equation that Restaurant + Foreign Clients = A Great Place.
I call that a typical Indian mind set. I believe in the old maxim “Eating and drinking should not keep you from thinking”.
ess bee

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