Fort Kochi in Kerala, South India is brimming with history and culture. Coming for the spices, the Portuguese, Dutch and British fought over Cochin for nearly 500 years.
Surrounded by waterways, seafood is plentiful. The local cuisine makes the most of spices, bountiful coconuts and the influences of colonialists as well as Arabian traders, Syrian Christian and Jewish migrants. It is superb!
For travellers who want to enjoy the food and experience their own piece of Old Cochin in style, there’s no shortage of boutique heritage accommodation. But Brunton’s Boatyard offers so much more than just accommodation, at very competitive prices.
I love coming in the monsoon when there’s fewer travellers and it’s cold at home. It’s wonderful watching the rains from my balcony, drink in hand and there’s great low season rates. For the best prices do email Roshini directly. She’s immensely helpful and lovely!
This gorgeous place started over 100 years ago as George Brunton’s boat building yard. Having fallen on hard times it’s been beautifully renovated and modern comforts added to make a wonderful luxury heritage hotel. It’s full of cane, wickerwork, wood, heritage tiles, spice chests, terra-cotta floors, high four poster beds with footstools and deep baths. When I arrived, like at other CGH Earth Experience properties, there was something to wear and something to drink that reflects the local culture and history. This time it was jasmine and marigold along with refreshing cardamom, lime and ginger. My days always began watching the fishing boats and liners from my balcony…… and sipping one of the luxurious leaf teas from all over India, provided in my room. There is early yoga and meditation with the master Sathya Raj, free to all guests every morning. When I went along I had my own private class.Breakfast is included and served in the Armoury Cafe. Fresh juices, fruits, house-baked breads, cereals….…..French toast, eggs, idli, vada, dosa….…..and a changing Mattanchery Experience Kerala breakfast. The Chicken Pidikozi was completely new to me….….chicken curry with boiled rice dumplings, a little like large gnocchi! Other mornings I enjoyed the Kallappam with Portuguese chicken and vegetable stew or with ‘egg roast’. Brunton’s is just up the road from Mattancherry’s Spice Bazaar that has been trading for centuries. Along with the Dutch Palace and Jew Street, it’s a fascinating area to wander down, stopping for a coffee, chai or ginger lassi in one of the cafes.
Brunton’s is also near the ferry dock and it’s an interesting 10 cent ride over to explore modern Kochi.
For lunch it was great to head to CGH Earth’s David Hall near the Parade Ground. Originally a 350 year old Dutch East India Company House, it was bought by the influential Kochi Jewish Koder family and now renovated as a space where contemporary artists can work and exhibit free of charge. I love the garden cafe specialising in wood fired pizza, like the Fort Cochin topped with seafood . Also good for a hot or cold drink, the Spicy Chicken Chappati wraps are on my list for next time.
But if you’re heading back to Brunton’s for a swim….…..you might have their thali for lunch…….or something from their international and local menu like this Kathai Roll that just hit the spot! The gorgeous bed was always hard to resist in the warmth of the day with a lovely fresh fruit basket delivered daily.
Afternoon tea is also ‘on the house’ each day at 5pm and might be delicious cucumber, tomato and mint chutney sandwiches with house-made bread and home-made banana cake or hot potato or banana fries and homemade biscuits. It’s such a lovely gesture and just perfect at that time of day.
From here don’t miss catching the complimentary daily sunset cruise, on the last boat made by Brunton’s Boatyard 60 years ago. Leaving from Brunton’s private dock it’s a must do! Guided by the lovely Saranya, we passed local fishermen at Aspinall House – a successful boat building family last century, the old warehouses on Spice Street…….continued past huge ships unloading at the port, Chinese fishing nets introduced 600 years ago, great fleets of local boats that supply Kerala’s love of seafood, and seven islands in the bay. Also complimentary before dinner is Chef Nithin’s daily demonstrations and tastings of carefully explained traditional Kerala dishes, like Kerala Fish Red Curry, Fish Moilee and Portuguese Vegetable Stew. Dinner is luxurious and relaxing at Brunton’s History Restaurant whose menu reflects Kochi’s heritage. Particularly famous is the signature dish, First Class Railway Mutton Curry – reflecting British influence on Kochi’s cuisine. Slow cooked for 5 hours it’s served with a rice pilaf, sautéed spinach, corn masala and house made kulcha buns. The signature dessert at Brunton’s Boatyard is their delicious Vattelappam, a local Syrian Christian recipe based on a coconut custard set over caramelised jaggery. It reminded me of the Sri Lankan Wattalappam but smoother. After all Sri Lanka is not far way! My favorite Kerala dish is the Portuguese heritage stew, Fish Moilee with appams. The Vypeen Moilee version from Brunton’s Boatyard is one of the best, full of fish, squid and prawns. Very pretty is the butter tiger prawn starter with beetroot and paneer mousse and curry leaf hollandaise…
…and very delicious was the Baby Squid stuffed with Biriyani!
Diners are also surprised by little complimentary treats like nuts, gorgeous warm house-baked breads, salad or spicy carrot and red pepper soup.Brunton’s is also within a 5-10 min walk of three more of my Fort Kochi favourite restaurants if you stay for a while and want to explore more menus.
I’ve tried to put my finger on what makes Brunton’s so good. I love the high standards, the quality and authenticity of the property, the food and the many included activities, but I think most of all it’s the team at CGH Earth that make it so special. There is always great warmth in their smiles and their eyes light up when they see you. You are the centre of their attention! They thoughtfully anticipate guests’ needs and are genuinely caring and concerned that each person has the very best experience both in the hotel and of community and culture around it. They are well supported by the attitudes and values of CGH Earth whose approach reflects their commitment to environmental sustainability, preserving local culture and generously sharing true South Indian hospitality. This was my fourth CGH Earth experience and I’ve seen it in all of them. They are truly unique in what they do and they do it so well!
For a full and rich Fort Kochi experience in heritage luxury at great value for money, Brunton’s Boatyard is the place to choose.