If you haven’t seen an image of Bar Palladio posted somewhere on social media, I would be surprised. Since opening this color-saturated, fairy-tale gem in Jaipur in 2014, Barbara Miolini’s restaurant has become a travel destination for those in-the-know and a respite for anyone seeking perfected Italian apertivo and pasta classics. It has been on my to see list, so when I met her briefly through jewelry designer Sara Beltran, I jumped at the chance to find out more about the woman behind the restaurant. There is a magic to creating an inviting, well-run, enterprise that becomes a classic, and Barbara, who spent years working in Italy for the Cipriani group, understands it. Here she shares why she loves India, her travel essentials and what’s next for Bar Palladio.
How did Bar Palladio come to be? What was your career path before opening it? Bar Palladio was born from a love of travel, from a desire to seek beauty. Before arriving in India 11 years ago, I had been living outside of Venice in Asolo, exactly the region where Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio constructed his masterpieces. Bar Palladio was born from my memories of this area, a desire to create a feeling of Italy (a feeling of its history, culture and, of course, food) in India, to bring my past into my adopted home.
I grew up in St Moritz and began my career there working in various five-star hotels in the region. Eventually I shifted to Italy’s Asolo region where I worked for several years with the Cipriani group. It was this time spent amidst such beauty and history which inspired me to open Bar Palladio years later in Jaipur.
When did you move to India? What do you love most about living there? I came to India 12 years ago on a sabbatical year. I came with no idea I would soon call this place home. What I love most is the spontaneity, the possibility of this place. I am happy to be outside of the system, in a place which sometimes feels to be out of this world. No place in the world is like India, and after living here for such a time it is difficult to imagine finding a home in any other place.
What do you want people to experience when they come to Bar Palladio? I want people to feel Bar Palladio as their own. I want them to find inspiration in our vision, to find comfort in its beauty. I want them to fall in love with Jaipur when they step through the door.
The decor is incredible. What was its genesis? Have interiors always been important to you? The decor was inspired by Caffé Florian and other Venetian landmarks; however, this being India I knew there needed to be a certain “wow” factor and from this came the genesis of the blue. I met Marie Anne Oudejans, the designer I have collaborated together with for all Bar Palladio’s projects, and there was an instant recognition of a shared sensibility. She translated exactly what I had been thinking and feeling into a designed reality. Interiors have always been important to me. While living in Venice I had ample opportunity to visit incredible villas and palazzi, theaters and landmarks which left a very deep impression on me. Wherever I go I seek out beauty.
Three words that describe Bar Palladio: Dreamy, Decadent, Delightful.
Three words that describe you: Sunny, Equanimous, Determined.
What came easiest for you in the beginning when you opened Bar Palladio? Funnily enough it was the press situation which came easiest. I knew when we opened Bar Palladio was a special place; however, I was unprepared for how strong of a global appeal it would have. Within months of opening we had requests of images from leading international publications. I mean the place is incredibly romantic: the Blue Bar within the Pink City It was the popular response to the place, to its ethos, its beauty which I have been surprised by.
Hardest part of starting out that no one warned you about? Opening a business in a foreign country, especially a place as fundamentally different as India, has been a challenge. You have to learn entire new ways to communicate. You have to fit yourself within a complex cultural framework and learn to navigate. No one tells you the rules or the cues, these you learn from experience.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: Determination coupled with being both very organized and pragmatic. Each of my projects have begun on an intuitive assumption, a feeling that whatever it may be is rightly suited, is needed, and will succeed because it is something unique. Alongside this, each of my projects are very personal.
What’s next for Bar Palladio? We have an extremely exciting project in the works, maybe the one closest to my heart. While it is still quite secret, I can say it deals with the person as a whole: wellness, relaxation, the soul. This project as well will be located in Jaipur and is set to be something very special. [A Palladio spa perhaps?]
Role model: My role models are the day-to-day people who inspire or surprise me. I cannot pinpoint an exact person… instead I look towards those who surround me: friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances, strangers .
Best career advice you have received: Take risks & embrace the wisdom of uncertainty.
What motivates you? The beauty of walking down an unknown path which leads to different everyday new adventures.
Do you travel often for business? Lately, yes. Each of my projects have been inspired by travel. Bar Palladio was born through memories of my time spent in Asolo in the company of Andrea Palladio’s villas, Caffé Palladio was inspired through travels in Sicily and across Turkey. My move to India itself came purely through a desire to see and experience the world. Lately again I find myself restless, a desire to see more. Call it an eternal wanderlust.
Five items always in your carryon: 1. CB Made in Italy shoes. Their slip ons are incredibly comfortable. 2. Aesop Hand Cream 3. NJK collection Shawl. Friends of mine have developed a line of shawls using Japanese artisanal fabrics which are then hand embroidered in Calcutta. 4. A trench Coat. 5. A book
Life Goals: It is not so much about a specific goal, instead it’s about the journey, about where life takes you, about being true to myself.
Daily Goals: To feel my day has never been wasted.
Favorite inspirational read: The 40 Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. This is a beautiful conversation between the mystic Rumi & his teacher Shamz of Tabriz. The novel focuses on the costs of living an authentic life, of seeking truth and understanding the many textures of love.
Daily Rituals: Mornings for me are sacred. Office begins only at 11, meaning I am able to indulge leisurely my morning. I open all the windows, light incense, take my beagles Hugo & Olga for a walk in the park opposite my house. Afterwards I have breakfast: poached eggs, coconut water, toast with honey or orange marmalade (I always make sure to stock up on honeys and jams while in Italy).
How do you unplug? I love anything and everything that has to do with food. When I am in the spirit I cook. But for the most part I read cookbooks and drool over their contents.
Hidden Talent: I love cross country skiing.
Favorite Charity: I think quite simply my favorite charity would be simple kindness. To be kind and to respect one another on a very basic level.
Do you collect anything? Personally I am quite the minimalist.
Biggest splurge you do not regret: When I arrived in India I purchased a 1960s forest green Ambassador with caramel leather interiors. I have always had a passion for old cars and to this day I still drive it across the city.
Favorite Small Indulgence: Marzipan.
Album currently on repeat: “Inspiration” by English cellist Sheky Kanneh- Mason, most specifically the song “Aprés une rêve” from Fauré.
Scent that brings back memories: Pine. I mean a forest of pine trees. It brings back memories of my childhood growing up in the Alps.
Lucky Charm: My dogs, Hugo & Olga.
Favorite hour of the day: Dawn. Do I always wake to see it? No. But I do love the early morning.
Bar Palladio photos Henry Wilson