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Wine and dine at royal 101

Hyderabad, Dec. 26: For the wine to flow into exquisite cut glasses, all it needed was a nod from the nizam. The waiters, unobtrusively alert, would then step forward.

Those days are long gone, when kings and a tsar dined at Falaknuma Palace as guests of Hyderabad’s former rulers.

But the tales of opulent dinners have survived — and so has the fabulous hall where Britain’s King Edward VIII and the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, dined decades ago.

You too can, this New Year’s Eve, for just Rs 10,000.

Nizam nostalgia has been repackaged as a year-end draw for the discerning, with the promise of a 75-dish multi-cuisine buffet at the Taj Falaknuma Palace’s 101-seater hall, aptly named 101 Dining Hall, where Mehboob Ali Pasha, the sixth nizam of the erstwhile princely state, once entertained guests.

The food — and the unlimited imported liquor and wines — are just one part of the attraction at this once royal perch, 2,000ft above Hyderabad.

An evening at this scorpion-shaped palace, spread over 32 acres, also promises a glimpse of the imperial lifestyle of the nizams who ruled the 400-year-old city.

“It promises to be an unforgettable evening,” said Girish Sehgal, GM, Taj Falaknuma Palace, adding that it would stir memories of a “princely era”.

All that the diners need to do is pause, look up from the lamb and mutton dishes and the four varieties of biryani and look at the walls of the dining hall.

Twenty-eight paintings on the walls depict various food items. The nizam, it is said, used to point to the items he wanted to eat, which were then served to him.

In deference to the changed times, however, the New Year’s Eve diners will have to pick from a buffet spread.

They needn’t feel let down.

A selection of royal menus are illustrated on the ceiling. “Our chefs have taken inspiration from the recipes of the nizams in creating a special event at 101,” said hotel general manager Sehgal.

It is also said that at a mere nod from the nizam, waiters would pour wine into exquisite cut glasses, while dinner was served in gold plates.

All the 101 chairs at the dining table have green leather and are identical, except the one used by the nizam. The armrests of this chair were higher. Five Belgian chandeliers hang from the ceiling.

The hall is one of the largest rooms in the palace, while the dining table is the world’s longest at 80ft. Made of seven pieces, it is 5.7ft wide and 2.7ft high.

The New Year’s Eve entertainment includes fusion music and jazz by Kelley Johnson from Britain.

Relations manager Mamta Singh said celebrities like Kareena Kapoor, Sachin Tendulkar and Zubin Mehta have been guests at the hotel, which opened in 2010.

“We have heavy booking for the dining hall of the nizams. We are booked entirely for the month of January,” she said, adding that the hotel had received requests from Mumbai, Calcutta, Lucknow, Bangalore, Chennai and Bhopal for hosting new year events this year.

The hotel, also famous for its Jade room and artefacts the nizams collected from across the world, charges Rs 95,000 for its royal suites, Rs 80,000 for its palace (luxury) rooms and Rs 65,000 for ordinary luxury rooms for a two-night stay, inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner at its all-day dining restaurant, but exclusive of taxes.