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Jehan Numa Retreat: Going Off the Grid Without Leaving the Grid

Usually known for its nawabs and begums, Bhopal also has a rich cultural and wildlife history. Visit the land of the tigers with Jehan Numa Retreat, which offers a unique experience without losing your mobile network! 

LF Says: ★★★★★

Jehan Numa Retreat Bhopal

After spending two days at the Jehan Numa Palace like royalty, a short ride away was my next destination, the Jehan Numa Retreat – created for General Obaidullah Khan's love for the outdoors. Sharing its boundaries with Van Vihar Urban National Park – the city's wildlife sanctuary – the 12-acre property on Bhopal's outskirts is a secluded bubble of pure nature. With its bakery, fresh herbs and vegetable garden, and fruit orchard, there's everything one needs to cut from the hustle of life to relax and rejuvenate.
 
The Retreat's open and airy lobby is truly the gateway to a paradise where you can hear the birds clearer, feel the wind cleaner and detach yourself from the world. The Retreat features 28 rooms in six clusters of cottages named after birds – Francolin, Jacana, Heron, Hornbill, Lapwing, and Kingfisher. Each cottage has a private deck that opens to the rugged wild greenery of the resort. The Heron and Jacana clusters are the Retreat Luxury cottage with an additional "Open to Sky" shower and a bathtub. The layout of these cottages ensures one has maximum privacy and minimum disturbance. 

Every tree and every sapling is planted for a reason, and there is a complex network of irrigation that uses recycled water from the property – a beautiful piece of work by landscape artist Revathi Kamath.

Jehan Numa Retreat Bhopal
 
I stayed at the Heron cottage that overlooked the lush green wheat crops. The interiors of the cottages contradict the mud-covered exteriors. Combining elegant earthiness and modern amenities, the cottages have sizeable old-wood furniture and effective technology – making them highly comfortable and cosy. After a much-enjoyed bubble bath, I met the Retreat's General Manager, Mr. Vincent Marques. 
 
As we walked around the property, he explained how they had built the spa area similar to a hillock, thus seemingly camouflaging the area into nature when you see it from afar. Every tree and every sapling is planted for a reason, and there is a complex network of irrigation that uses recycled water from the property – a beautiful piece of work by landscape artist Revathi Kamath. Banyan trees act as a natural amphitheatre – an experience I was looking forward to! Mr. Marques also showed me the meadow to the far end of the property used as a summer golf pitch. 

Jehan Numa Retreat Bhopal
 
The property uses fountain grass to define pavement and has trees like Millingtonia, Karanja, Shisham, Babool, Pomegranate, Mango, Guava, Baheda and several banyan trees. The property cultivates about 70% of its produce, with the chef planning the seasonal vegetation to reduce unnecessary production and storage. Apart from produce, he also pointed out the use of canes and mud for the exteriors that help in ventilation and temperature control. Similar to the Palace, the Retreat's corridors, too, soothe your ears with enchanting melodies, immersing you in a zen-like zone.  
 
Along with music, Jehan Numa's signature culinary style also extends to the Retreat. On the right of the lobby are two restaurants – Coriander Leaf and Under the Jamun Tree. While Coriander Leaf hints at understated luxury, the latter offers an ambience close to nature – you literally dine under the Jamun tree. The tree was flowering during my visit, and I had my fair share of flowers. My dinner was under the Babool tree – ahead of the Under the Jamun Tree is a private area that holds the most mesmerising romantic dinners that you should plan for your loved one. A beautifully lit pavement led to the private area, a center table adorned with beautiful decor, and a fireplace. The tree, too, was lit with lamps that made the experience truly enchanting. A word of caution – You might want to starve yourself to truly savour the delectable spread. 

Jehan Numa Retreat Bhopal
 
The head chef gave me a rundown of the table d’hôte, which consists of generations-old recipes from the Begums’ time like Murgh Zafrani Tikka (chicken cooked with saffron and infused and cooked on live coal), Nimbu Mirch ka Machhli (MP’s local River sole steaks marinated with garden grown chilli, mint and roasted in a tandoor), Junglee Maans (mutton cooked in ghee, garlic and dry red chilli), Bater Qorma (Quail cooked in traditional style), Nadroo ke kofta (lotus stem dumplings cooked in vegetable gravy), the traditional Khameeri roti and more. I recommend trying the local Sambal fish dish like the Nimbu Mirch ka Machhli as they are prepared in a way that enhances their texture, taste and flavour.

The kebabs and tikkas both vegetarian and non-vegetarian are scrumptious and indulgent in flavour with the precise amount of smokiness as the entire epicurean treat is slow-cooked. The Bater Qorma has an interesting texture. It was also the first time I tried Quail and I absolutely loved it! I thoroughly enjoyed the Channe ki daal ka halwa – a rare preparation, while Shahi Tukda deserves all your attention. 

Jehan Numa Retreat Bhopal food

The kebabs and tikkas both vegetarian and non-vegetarian are scrumptious and indulgent in flavour with the precise amount of smokiness as the entire epicurean treat is slow-cooked.

Along with highlighting traditional, royal flavours, the Jehan Numa Retreat also has the Green House Bistro, based on the farm-to-fork concept, to encourage the slow food movement. Built near the vegetable farm with an attractive contemporary interior, the Bistro has garnered immense interest from the locals. It offers gourmet breakfast, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches, salads and pasta, smoothies, and desserts entirely made from scratch at the property. I indulged in some luscious smoothies, spicy peri fries and delicious burgers and enjoyed them wholeheartedly.  

Any experience at the Retreat is not complete without visiting its neighbour – the Van Vihar National Park. The resort provided me with a cycle to visit the national park, and I am glad I pedalled my way in! I saw free-ranging herbivores like Blue Bull, Barasingha, Black Buck, Spotted Deer, and Porcupines up-close. The National Park also houses Lions, Tigers, Leopards and other carnivore species, along with a Rescue cum Transit Centre for Snakes. Rescued snakes like Indian Cobra, Common Krait, Russell's Viper, Saw Scaled Vipers, Rat Snakes, Sand Boas and Pythons, are frequently brought in, and after their medical check-up, are released into the wild. I recommend going for a cycle in the morning to enjoy Bhopal's breezy weather and stunning views of the Upper Lake at its best. 

Jehan Numa Retreat Bhopal food
 
While the Jehan Numa Palace is an ode to its historical royal past, Jehan Numa Retreat differs from its grand cousin by being more immersed in nature. With a beautiful Gond art card from the resort, I concluded my trip with the Jehan Numa Group. It was a rare experience where I truly felt in tune with nature, myself, and the culture of Bhopal…something that I will not dismiss soon.

LF Says: ★★★★★

Coordinates: Vanvihar Rd, Van Vihar National Park, Near Prempura, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India

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