Mumbai Girl Turned Yuvrani Turned Hotelier, Here’s Shraddha Bhonsle’s Royal Story

She wears multiple hats – from being a chef to a hotelier to running a handicrafts business – and is on a mission to put the Sawantwadi Palace Boutique Art Hotel on the world map

Published On Mar 20, 2024 | Updated On Mar 20, 2024


A business management graduate, a Culinary Institute of America, New York trained culinary arts chef, a certified sommelier, managing director for Sawantwadi Lacquerwares and chef and owner of Sawantwadi Palace Boutique Art Hotel, Yuvrani Shraddha Bhonsle, dons several hats. But given her educational background and natural affinity towards managing people and working with communities, it is not surprising that she is adept at multi-tasking. 


A typical day in her life involves managing the handicraft business, a legacy left behind by her late grandmother-in-law, running the kitchen at the Boutique Art Hotel, managing the guests that stay at their hotel, attending social events in Sawantwadi, including the school and college the family runs. “My work day sometimes stretches to 14 hours, but honestly, I love being busy and believe that this is the time for me to hustle and do whatever I can in my power to achieve the goals that I envision for myself and for Sawantwadi,” she analyses. 

Along with her husband, Yuvraj Lakham Bhonsle, whom she met at Culinary School and married five years ago, the duo converted one of the wings of the erstwhile Sawantwadi Palace - taisaheb wada – belonging to the powerful women in the palace, to a boutique art hotel with a view to preserving and showcasing the cultural heritage of the palace. 

The princely State of Sawantwadi was ruled by the Royal Family of Sawant Bhonsles. The Sawantwadi Palace, spread over 6.5 acres and built by Khem Sawant III during his reign from 1755-1803, stands as a pride of the city. The royal family comprising Khem Sawant VI and his wife, Shubhadadevi Bhonsle, Yuvrani Shraddha, Yuvraj Lakham and their pet, Sushi, continue to reside in one section, while, another wing, houses the museum showcasing artefacts, and the artisans work in a different section of the palace. 

According to Shraddha, Ganjifa art, which her family is trying to revive, is evident in the woodwork in each of the six suites, which are uniquely inspired by different avatars of Vishnu. 

“We both wanted to offer exceptional experiences to our guests and being from a Hospitality background, we understand this well. It has been a time-consuming, but extremely satisfying and rewarding project,” she elaborates. 

They may be over the big hurdles which they encountered during the restoration phase - overhauling the roof, enlarging windows, clearing bats and the Palace Boutique Art Hotel is up and running, but according to her, “a lot still remains to be done.” 

Hospitality and comfort of guests with personalised service, is her mantra, as she grew up observing her maternal grandfather, being particular about the way food had to be served fresh and hot to him and he did the same for his guests. She too has imbibed that and at their hotel, guests are served hot food, almost as if they were seated at their dining table at home. 

Working closely with travel agents and using social media, particularly, Instagram, Shraddha has been relentlessly marketing the Sawantwadi Palace Hotel and has succeeded in creating an awareness, as the growing numbers, daily and on weekends, bear testimony. 

Sustainable practices, are close to her heart and she implements them in the running of their boutique Hotel. From energy-efficient lighting to being plastic-free and sourcing ingredients locally from farmers and markets, she ensures they do more than their bit to preserve the environment. 

A Mumbai-bred girl, from a Gujarati business joint family, Shraddha has moulded herself to fit into the royal family. “Being a part of the royal family comes with its perks, but it also brings with it, great responsibility. I feel privileged and blessed, but also responsible, for the impact I can make on the people surrounding me. Every decision I make is well-thought of and I try my best to influence, people in the right direction. I believe in leading by example and put 100 per cent effort into achieving all that I desire,” she states simply. 

Shraddha admits to having had her fair share of struggles. “As a woman I have had to prove my mettle, be it in the hospitality world or the social arena. It often takes more out of us to prove that our intentions are good, but fortunately, my advisors have been very wise. My husband and best friend Lakham, often tells me that you must put your head down and continue to work and recognition will follow.” 

A strong believer in Karma, Shraddha sates philosophically, “I believe that by doing good, good will happen to us, and that helps me stay positive. I find happiness in small things and moving to Sawantwadi has taught me many life-lessons. It has moved me away from the materialistic life one tends to lead in a bigger city and has taught me to realise that building a strong community is more fulfilling.” 

While she essays all her roles with convivial ease, she loves being a chef the most, as that is her real calling. She started her career at a Michelin-star restaurant (Oceana) in New York and went to work at a Southern American and a Korean-infused restaurant in Charleston. Shraddha considers herself lucky having worked with the Late chef Floyd Cardoz at the Bombay Bread Bar in New York. Her experiences have made her a seasoned expert in Japanese and Korean Cuisine. 

She calls herself, “the heart of the kitchen” with her savoury offerings and feels, “her menu expresses her best.” While her husband Lakham, a trained pastry and bakery chef, is “the soul of the kitchen” with his desserts and sweets, and complements her. From a Sawantwadi-special Eggs Benedict to fluffy pancakes, a multi-course tasting menu with South East Asian flavours, read, hand-rolled Shoyu Ramen, to exotic desserts, plated with artistry, they offer it all to their guests. 

Restless and always striving to better things, Sawantwadi’s lack of identity bothers Shraddha deeply. “Sawantwadi city is often referred to, as a place close to Goa, but it does not have its own identity as a city that belongs to Maharashtra. I plan to change that and I work every day towards achieving this goal.”

Photo: Shraddha Bhonsle