It was a spur of the moment decision to take a two day break in Ooty, in the newly refurbished summer palace of the Maharaja of Mysore – his highness Srikanta Datta Narasimha Raja Wadiyar Bahadur the 26th Maharaja of Mysore in South-India. According to fokelore, the palace was bought in 1873 by the then twelve year old prince for 10,000 rupees. His Highness Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, was the first Indian Royal to buy an English holding in Ooty and since then, the Fernhills palace has been with the Wadiyar dynasty. Situated at 6000 feet above sea level, the chill that greeted us as we alighted from the Volvo bus at 5 a.m, brought home the reason why these hill stations were so popular with the British in India. Soon, we squeezed ourselves into a three wheeler, and raced to the palace which is just a short three kilometers away from the bus station.
Piping hot filter coffee was magically produced by Mahesh the smiling receptionist even at that ungodly hour, to warm us up and give us the perfect welcome. We were a little dazed by the size of what was to be our ‘kingdom’ for two days. It was a sprawling suite of four rooms, most definitely the size of an apartment in expensive Bangalore. “ The Maharaja wants our guests to feel pampered like royalty, when they come to spend time here, so everything from the cuisine to the room is princely and in royal style,” said L Kannan the General Manger of the property. The suite was filled with Queen Anne, Hepplewhite and Chippendale furniture, brands which existed way back in the 18th century. I particularly admired the elegant Hepplewhite desk and chair which were made from mahogany and the large and comfortable Chippendale window seats and exquisitely framed mirrors. The only modern touch were the large plasma screen TV’s and the bath room equipped with a modern jacuzzi.
The palace has been turned into twenty three suites, and we enjoyed rambling through the Grand Durbar Ballroom hall and the corridors of the palace, which are living archives of the royal family’s collection of personal photographs. Burnished red Burma teak dating back to at least a century, line the walls inside the entire palace with heavily carved decorative woodwork especially found in the entrance lobby and the ball room. Pictures of the previous Maharajas looked down at us with benign smiles rather than the glowering, mustachioed rulers one would expect.
To relax and unwind, we indulged in the plush Fox Hunt Bar with its leather covered Queen Anne sofas. History has it that the Maharajas were accomplished horsemen and Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV was the hunt-master of the Ooty Hunt. Hunting memorabilia adorn the walls of the bar with saddles and horns and old hunting trophies which have been preserved over the centuries. Pictures of khedas where wild elephants were captured made interesting viewing, especially now since hunting is a banned pass time.
At the Curry and Rice restaurant, Anglo-Indian cuisine is big on the menu. In the cold of Ooty we quickly realized a bowl of their scrumptious Chunky farm style chicken and morel soup or the Classic Shrimp Bisque were perfect to start off our meal. For the main meal the Chutney Mary sweet sour chicken made with a marinade of tamarind, mint, coriander and pomegranate seeds finished with a paste of poppy seeds or the Country Style Pork Ishtew which is stewed pork with mild spices and ginger are definite must try’s. Veggies will enjoy the Corn and Spinach crepes which is a chefs special or even Assorted veggies in a green Thai curry sauce. Then, go straight for the typical Anglo Indian dessert - Caramel custard served in cute individual portions which were ambrosial to the last spoonful.
If you and your loved one enjoy history and the Raj, the Fernhill Palace is a great place to fulfill your every fantasy. There is even a tunnel connecting the kitchen to the dining room! Yes! the Maharaja has thought of it all.
For bookings contact : Fernhills Palace
Fernhill Post, Fernhill
Ootacamund(Ooty) – 643 004,
Niligris, Tamil Nadu, India
Call : +91 423 2442555 / 2445683 / 2443910 - 15
L Kannan: +91 9443249470
E Mail ID: firstname.lastname@example.org, Regencyvillas@gmail.com
and Sales - Royal House of Mysore: email@example.com