In the early 20th century, the Nizam of Hyderabad was the richest man in the world, noted for his eccentricity (he used the 184-carat Victoria Diamond as an office paperweight).
He purchased Falaknuma Palace from his prime minister, who had gone bankrupt by the cost of its building. Set 2,000 feet up on a hillside with a commanding view over Hyderabad, India’s fourth largest city, the marble palace is spectacular, its elevation providing cool breezes and eye-level views of red kites soaring above the city’s thermals. The building is now a boutique hotel run by the Taj group, open since late 2010. The 10-year restoration has been meticulous, bringing the palace back to its former glory. The elegant drawing rooms, library, and glorious marble staircase are extremely impressive, decorated with the finest silks and featuring some of the original palace furniture.
Adaa (“elegance”) is the flagship restaurant of the hotel. Head Chef Arun Saundaraj has over two decades of experience at some of the top kitchens in India, and the large team of chefs that he has assembled produces impeccable Indian cuisine. A local speciality is biryani, a rice dish cooked with lamb that has Persian origins but in India is associated with Hyderabad. Cooked in a large copper pot sealed with pastry, the dish has fragrant rice and tender meat suffused with spices. The kitchen is adept at the cooking of Indian fare from across the regions of India too, from the rich Punjabi meat curries of the North to the vegetarian specialities of Gujarat. A star dish is Malabar prawns, with superbly tender shellfish and a complex, lightly spiced sauce that has a lively citrus flavor. The freshly ground spices used in dishes here lift the cooking to a much higher level than most Indian restaurants. Even difficult dishes like bhindi (okra) are faultlessly prepared here.
There are several private dining possibilities at the palace, but the most impressive is the striking 101-seat dining table of the Nizam, a table so large that it takes four hours to set it. For smaller groups, there are several private rooms and terraces accommodating whatever size party you may have (from about $57 per guest). The cooking at Adaa is as good as any in India, and the stunning setting of the Falaknuma Palace makes this a memorable place for a private dinner.