When it comes to Udaipur's fine-dining experiences, don't miss an evening at the Lake Palace Hotel, where you can watch beautiful young Rajasthani Banjari women twirl to a hypnotic drumbeat (while behind them are sublime views of the City Palace turning pink). This waterside dance routine is usually followed by a more elaborate performance in an open-air courtyard alongside the fabulous bar where you can order a cocktail and enjoy canapés served by the splendid waitstaff. After the show, head to one of the hotel's very smart restaurants; be prepared to shell out considerably for the privilege of dining in one of the most special spots in India, especially the unforgettable rooftop terrace in winter, and make sure to book in advance (tel. 0294/252-8800) -- you'll need a reservation in order to get ferried to the hotel in the first place.
If you're gathering memorable (and pricey) dining experiences and don't mind journeying to the far western shore of Lake Pichola, you could check out the alfresco dining at Udaivilas (tel. 0294/243-3300); be warned that although most dishes are excellent, the food is not the best we've had in the state (the signature laal maas, for example, tasted watered down, and even the naan bread was unexpectedly doughy). Nevertheless, a meal here might give you the chance to explore the hotel's spectacular architecture and landscaped gardens, and service is on a par with that at the Lake Palace, which you can see here from your table.
If you really feel deserving of excellent cuisine and don't mind traveling out of town to a gorgeous country scene, set aside time for a midday tour to Devi Garh, one of the classiest hotels in India. The food is exquisite (and expectedly pricey), and if you are here for a midday sojourn, you can admire the brilliant restoration of the castle and perhaps explore the little village after you've dined. The menu is limited, but if you want to know where Udaipur's informed movers and shakers take their out-of-town guests for a special treat, this is an ideal venue. Reservations are essential.
A more casual but bland dining experience is the Sunset Terrace at the Fateh Prakash Palace. This is the perfect place to watch the sunset, and when the sun finally disappears behind the Aravalli Hills, the ambience just gets more romantic as candles are lit and the Lake Palace, which floats in the foreground, glows like an ocean liner on the lake. That said, the food -- which ranges from toasted sandwiches (adequate) to tandoori (overcooked) -- is very much a letdown. Far better fare and more comfortable seating are to be had at nearby Jagat Niwas. Unlike almost everywhere else in town, this restaurant terrace is open to the cooling breezes but covered by a roof, which provides some escape from the midday heat, rather go one level up to the very top: It has comfortable mattressed alcoves with bolsters where you can curl up with a book or appreciate the sublime views of the lake. This is the kind of place where you could spend an entire afternoon relaxing; in fact, one guest, who wasn't even staying in the hotel, did exactly that every day for the duration of his stay in Udaipur. Service is slow but friendly (some of the waiters have been here 18 years), and the food is good. Stick to the Indian dishes, either the vegetarian (paneer matar masala, Indian cheese simmered in a thick gravy with peas and tomatoes; or paneer do pyaja, cheese cooked with onion, tomato, and chilies) or local dishes like fish a la Jagat (slices of the local freshwater fish from Jaisamand Lake, caught daily, cooked in a lemon sauce, and served with fries) or chicken lababdar in a cashew tomato gravy, signature lamb Lal Maas, Afghani murgh malai tikka (creamy chicken kebabs). Main courses cost between Rs 85 and Rs 350.
Two other dining options are worth considering, both with lake views. Ambrai, at the Amet Haveli, serves decent enough tandoori dishes (and some Indo-Chinese and "Continental" as well). The place has a mellow ambience created by the warm light from candlelit tables, and wrought-iron chairs in the pleasant sprawling garden right on the edge of Lake Pichola. It is also great for a lunchtime beer, where you can watch the locals water bombing one another from the nearby ghat and an elephant munching beside them. Udai Kothi's rooftop restaurant is also a lovely spot at night (especially with the terrace pool lit up), with good service. Choose a small alcove by the pool -- with mirrored dome, cushions, candlelight, and a good butter chicken, this could be one of the most memorable meals you have in India.
Set in the garden courtyard of Jhadol Haveli, The Whistling Teal (103 Bhatiyani Chohatta; tel. 0294/242-2067 or 094-1416-3727) is one of the most romantic dining spots in Udaipur. Despite its lack of lake views, it's a relative oasis. You can saddle up (literally) to the bar (seats are made of horse saddles), or chill out with a hookah (sheesha) pipe, sampling different flavored tobaccos. There are various seating areas, either on the lawn or under canopies, and you can sample an array of traditional Rajasthani dishes. The royal Jhadol family also organizes some of the most intriguing visits to rural areas, where you get to come to grips with the customs of the tribal Bhil people. For more information, visit www.jhadol.com.
Finally, if you're after something light, healthy, and affordable, particularly for lunch, consider the ironically named Savage Garden (22 Inside Chandpole; tel. 0294/242-5440), set over several floors of a pleasant building with cascading bougainvilleas and a towering banana tree in its blue-walled courtyard. Besides some standard Indian fare, you can order toned-down, simplified versions of traditional cuisine, such as "spinach mutton," served with boiled potatoes (boiled, not fried!), or grilled fish with mash, and even an unusual vegetarian "Kela curry": slices of banana in an onion-curd sauce, seasoned with fragrant spices from the south. There are basic, healthy salads and a few pasta dishes, not to mention a delicious mulligatawny soup. You'll pay Rs 80 to Rs 250 for a main course.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.