Working in the food industry, tasting local cuisines is a huge part of my travels. In 2017, I visited the western Indian state of Rajasthan – my first visit to India in 25 years. Udaipur, formerly the capital of the Mewar kingdom, really stood out to me as that’s where I came across a truly royal cuisine.
The Royal Repast is a restaurant from the House of Bedla, a noble family that’s converted their century-old home – majestically decorated with shields and ancestral portraits – to serve recipes from the days when they fought alongside the Mughal emperors and served maharajas. The family has cooked for the likes of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
One dish after another, our jaws dropped. A dish of okra was simply sautéed with young cumin seeds, salt, garlic and ginger – but the taste was unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. The use of spices was incredibly judicious, and because they are freshly ground and roasted, the dishes reach an entirely different level.
Another thing that stood out was the kaleidoscope of nuances and symbolism. The saris, gossamer-like veils and turbans are spectacularly colourful, and they also denote special occasions, castes or even seasons. Suddenly I saw clusters of red turbans in a new light.
There is also stunning architecture. In the 400-year-old City Palace, one room is clad in amazing coloured mirrors; in another room, incredible peacock mosaics made from glass resemble paintings; and in another room, a swing fit for a queen: luxuriously embroidered in velvet and suspended from brass chains adorned with a menagerie of animals.
David Yeo is the founder of the Aqua Restaurant Group.