A Spanish Banquete In Rajput Realm
Image Credit: La Mesa and La Terezza serve primarily the same menu

‘Spanish’ with ‘Rajput’ wasn't the crossover I knew I needed. But the two cultures go back a long way. Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II — the king of Jaipur from 1922, until Independence in 1947 — was appointed by the Indian government as the ambassador to Spain for five years in the 1960s, until his death. Twin Spanish-themed restaurant(s) in the heart of Jaipur serve in his memory today.

La Mesa and La Terraza are located inside the Sawai Man Mahal, named after the late Jaipur ruler, which was newly constructed in 2022 in place of the SMS Convention Centre. It shares its premise with Rambagh Palace and presents itself after a curious detour hidden amid a dense stretch of green cover. As a baggi takes us through the long, winding path with tall trees looking on as guardians on both sides, we feel as though we’re going back in history — to regal but simpler times.

La Mesa and La Terezza serve primarily the same menu, except that the latter entails outdoor seating, and the former is an air-conditioned indoor space. Given that we visited on a hot May afternoon, we chose La Mesa, only to be greeted by a couple of yellow roses on the table, smiling as widely as the service staff who escorted us there. As we sat down next to the French window, the yellow on our table blended into the yellow stone of the palace passage, like a new day surrendering and merging itself into history.

We embarked on our culinary voyage to Spain with Tuscany-style statement chandeliers hovering above and animated wall plates observing us from a friendly distance. We set sail with the Tapas — Pan Con Tomate — a paste of tomato and garlic spread on grilled bread. These felt like a bite into a fresh tomato, enhanced by a healthy dose of olive oil. The Pan Con Tomate felt far more minimalistic and fresher for our bruschetta-accustomed taste buds. Try the Patata Bravas, fried potato with a spicy dip, if you want something greasier.

For the main course, we tried the Pollo Al Ajillo, another Spanish delight with a handful of ingredients. The chicken is cooked with plenty of garlic and white wine before being served in garlic sauce (how much garlic is too much garlic?), garnished with parsley. There's the classic Valencian staple of Paella for vegetarians, which translates to the frying pan in Spanish. Originally invented by farmers in the 15th century, it involved cooking rice with any and every vegetable grown around the paddy fields. The modest dish became so popular in 1840 that a local Spanish newspaper named it after the frying pan it's cooked in instead of the dish itself.

As is customary, we called it a day with dessert. The Stan Sebastian Cheesecake (aka the Burnt Basque cheesecake), served with a berry compote, was pretty smooth, but it was the Churros that made the day. The spirally twisted choux pastry fritters were rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with the gianduja sauce. Thank god for Napoleon Bonaparte, who banned cocoa supplies from British shores in Europe, compelling a Turin-based chocolatier to come up with the historical idea of mixing hazelnut with chocolate. It's a gift that keeps giving even today, from Nutella jars to Churro dips.

It is thus no surprise that if Spanish delicacies can be relished in a Rajasthani hotel, then a long history has facilitated it. Believe it or not, Jaipur's most famous king may have had a small yet significant role to play in it.