Shalini Kasliwal

President and CEO, Sanjay Kasliwal

| Jaipur, India

Shalini Kasliwal is almost your standard story: she grew up with a hard-working dad “Sanjay” who eventually asked her to join the family business— only, in this tale, dear friends, said “business” happens to be a seventh-generation, Indian jewel juggernaut (aptly, named The Gem Palace) and his ask? For Shalini to move to The Big Apple to oversee his namesake brand’s Madison Avenue jewel box. (…what? We said “almost.”) Half-Indian, half-Italian, Shalini spent most of her early years in Bologna, but by her mid-20s, she was already splitting her time between Milan, Jaipur and the Upper East Side. Still shuffling between the three, when she’s not ‘gramming pics of decked-out diamond earrings or necks clad with emeralds up to the chic chinny, chin chin (Goals), she’s curating gems for haut retailers like Just One Eye and Moda Operandi, not to mention glitzing out VIPs like MK Olsen and Dree Hemingway (FYI, the brand has been a royal family favorite for 100 years too). But, aside from our “pretty pretty princess” radars firing on all cylinders, Shalini’s fairy tale makes us dream of wandering East… and fast. Here, she sits down with CITIPHILE to reveal her little black book on Jaipur.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDBY: Baradari at City Palace (MAP IT) is definitely my all-time favorite restaurant. It opened its doors in 2016 as the result of a redevelopment project of the old Royal Palace Café and it immediately became a fine dining destination in Jaipur. My guests always love the atmosphere there and the exquisite Rajasthani food with a contemporary twist. The laal maas, a mutton curry slowly cooked in a red chili gravy and spice sauce, is the must-try dish! It is a very traditional, spicy dish, but their chef has transformed it so that it has just the right amount of fire (which will appeal to even those with the most delicate palates).

COFFEE OR TEA: True Italian espresso— the best in the city is (surprisingly) at The Gem Palace (MAP IT). Many of our clients and aficionados are aware of my brother and my Italian roots so they understand the importance of our coffee culture and regularly come by to say, “Hello” over a quality espresso.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Even though many local restaurants are gradually shifting to fusion, Spice Court in Civil Lines (MAP IT) is still a great option for authentic Indian food. It reminds me a lot of those old style Italian restaurants, where families would gather on Sunday nights. Raj Sula, a tender-skewered mutton, is definitely my favorite dish. (It is a signature, non-vegetarian, Rajasthani delicacy that was traditionally eaten in the 20th century after a successful hunt).   

COCKTAIL DE LA NUIT: A Jaipur martini with rose petals at The Polo Bar of Rambagh Palace (MAP IT). One of the bartenders there, Nikhil, is excellent.

WHERE TO BRING OUT-OF-TOWNERS: Amanbagh (MAP IT) is always a rejuvenating experience— a true gem— just a couple of hours away from Jaipur. I love the early morning meditation sessions they can arrange for you at the ruins of the Bhangarh Fort (supposedly one of the most haunted historical places in the world). Make sure to pay a visit in daytime.

CHICEST STAY: Rambagh Palace is my absolute favorite hotel. It is the quintessential example of a historical property that has been successfully converted into a luxury heritage hotel. The gardens— where my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary celebrations took place— is the closest idea of heaven on earth, with dozens of peacocks roaming around in the heart of Jaipur. 

BEST PEOPLE WATCHING: Bar Palladio, within Narain Niwas Palace Hotel (MAP IT).

HEALTHY STAPLE: Anokhi Café (MAP IT) has an excellent vegetarian selection of quick bites and healthy food options, curated by a French chef. Absolutely do not miss their freshly squeezed pomegranate juice as well as their banana cake!

GUILTY PLEASURE: I cannot resist the Hong Kong-style waffles from Meraaki Kitchen (MAP IT)– they’re garnished with crumbled Oreo biscuits, vanilla ice cream and melted caramel.

JAIPUR’S BEST-KEPT SECRET: I love Chukkers, the bar at the Rajasthan Polo Club (MAP IT), a 100-plus year-old, members-only club just across from Rambagh Palace in Central Park. It is on the top of my personal list for informal snacks and drinks with friends. (Must-try snacks include the vegetarian kardhak kebab, a delicious cheese and vegetable fried roll, and the mutton shami kebab, a minced mutton and lentil patty.)

DATE NIGHT STANDBY: I am in love with the poolside of the Suján Rajmahal Palace (MAP IT). It has a Wes Anderson-kind-of atmosphere— the color palette is so romantic and tranquil that it transports you to another time.

TO SEE AND BE SEEN: In the last couple of years, the international polo scene has been shifting from Jodhpur to Jaipur, and the Rajasthan Polo Club has turned into an uber chic venue during the Polo season (January). During this time, HH Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh hosts at the Club several high teas and afternoon cocktails, attended by royals and socialites from India and abroad. For sure a “see and be seen,” not-to-be-missed kind of event!

IN THE SUMMER, JAIPUR IS: A totally different atmosphere. As the heat wave occurs and the monsoon season approaches, the tourists tend to leave and hotels and restaurants enter into a renewal phase to get ready for the upcoming winter season (which starts in October). If you can handle close to 50°C (122°F) temperatures, the summertime in Jaipur is actually a great time for brainstorming sessions and creativity exercises, looking ahead to the new season.

TO RELAX AND UNWIND: A one-night-two-day trip to Ranthambore National Park (MAP IT), a former royal hunting ground now converted into an extraordinary wildlife reserve where tigers, leopards, crocodiles and rare species of birds are relatively easy to spot. Top-notch accommodation options are endless, but my favorite place to stay is in a luxury-tented camp such as Sher Bagh (MAP IT) or The Oberoi Vanyavilas (MAP IT). 

ULTIMATE DAY-TO-NIGHT: Waking up in a suite at Rambagh Palace followed by the majestic breakfast served in their garden is for sure the best way to start your day. To admire the grandeur of the Amber Fort (MAP IT), there is no better time than mid-morning, when the light is just magnificent and reflects on the carved marble panels that adorn the palace (remember to take a solo picture under the painted arches)! On the way back to the Pink City, you should stop along one of the bazaars and get lost in the fabrics, spices, marble handicrafts and street food stalls. The flower market in Choti Chaupar (MAP IT) is one of the most eye-catching scenes I have ever seen in my life and a fresh marigold necklace is a mandatory purchase! For lunch, head to Baradari at City Palace and try some Rajasthani delicacies in fine dining context. Afterwards, visit City Palace and the adjacent Jantar Mantar (MAP IT), a series of nineteen astrological instruments built 300 years ago. For the second half of the day, you can opt for a well-deserved Ayurvedic massage or keep on with some sightseeing. If you are up for it later, I suggest you to head to Galtaji (MAP IT), an off-the-path destination in between the hills right outside of Jaipur, just fifteen minutes by car from the Pink City; it is a complex of temples dedicated to Hanuman Ji, also known as the Hindu “Monkey God” so the place is populated by thousands of monkeys of all sizes which makes the experience incredibly unique. Finally, a trip to Jaipur would not be complete without a visit to the 1135 AD restaurant at Amber Fort (the ideal venue for an intimate and exclusive dinner). The fort at night is a completely different experience than it is during the daytime and the atmosphere of dining within the Palace walls feels regal. My last piece advice: when it is time to sleep, do not forget your Ayurveda skincare routine before going to bed!

CLOSET CHECK: My trips to Jaipur are always the best occasion for revamping my closet with some new, exciting additions. I love ethnic fabrics, chanderi silk, block prints, embroideries, even though sometimes I find it difficult to wear them in the Western world. As a result, I tend to mix and match— think ethnic clothes with wide bell sleeves paired with contemporary accessories. Right now, I am totally into the furry, Gucci slippers— they are a perfect fit to my Indian outfits! Shopping in Jaipur is endless, but it isn’t easy to find high-quality, handmade embroideries in good-looking styles. This is why, at the moment, I am working on Shalia, a capsule collection of one-of-a-kind anarkalistyle dresses, wearable in every part of the world. It will be so much fun to match our Sanjay Kasliwal jewelry with them! Also, Teatro Dhora (MAP IT) is the very first concept store in Jaipur— it carries an excellent selection of emerging, local fashion designers at affordable prices and there are new additions every week.

BEST FOR GIFTS: At The Gem Palace, ca va sans dire! At our legendary Jaipur flagship store, there are gifts for every price range. My dad’s motto is that no one should walk out of The Gem Palace empty-handed so there is something suitable to every budget. If you want to get something very traditional, you should definitely go to the bazaar in the heart of the city, Johari Bazaar (MAP IT), where you can find a lot of traditional pieces that you could wear in any city: summer sandals, long and colored skirts, kaftans…

ULTIMATE JAIPUR MOMENT: The best memory I have from Jaipur is actually a quite recent one. As I live in New York, my brother is based in Jaipur and my parents continuously shift in between India and Bologna (my mum’s hometown) so it is quite special to us to reunite. Last March, we gathered together in Jaipur for the Holi festivities and my brother Samir’s 33th birthday bash which lasted for four days and gathered friends from all over the world. Between the extraordinary venues and traditional celebrations, it was so much genuine fun— all of our guests were amazed and so was I! It felt incredible to be in the land I belong to, not only with my parents and my brother, but with many of my closest friends. I just missed my beloved dogs! CP

Shalini’s Jaipur

From L to R: First Row: Bar Palladio; Amanbagh; Textiles from Teatro Dhora; Sujan Rajamahal. Second Row: Baradari; Kasliwal at the local markets; Jewel by Sanjay Kasliwal; The flower market of Choti Chaupar.


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