Brunton’s Boatyard Hotel – Rich and full, luxury heritage in Fort Kochi @cgh_earth

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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…img_5688….or something from their international and local menu like this Kathai Roll that just hit the spot! img_5686The 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.

Monsoon Magnificence at Wayanad Wild, Kerala @cgh_earth

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The monsoon is wild at Wayanad Wild, but magnificent! Up in Kerala’s tea, coffee, rice and spice growing hills…..

.…full of natural beauty…

….this new offering from CGH Earth Experience Hotels is a gorgeous place to be spoil by lovely staff who think of everything!

Surrounded by lush jungle nurtured by 5000mm annual rainfall, it’s perfect relaxation.

With no boundary between the hotel and the state forest, Wayanad Wild seems to go on forever.

Listening to the nearby stream, well fed by the monsoon and watching the rain from my balcony is like a mindful meditation.
Umbrellas are a part of life here in the monsoon but if you’d prefer a drop off at your door it’s no trouble.
I love how the tariff takes care of everything and includes all meals ….

…as well as in-house activities like talks and nature walks before and after every meal with naturalists Maneesh and Surya…
….daily cooking demonstrations with chef Vishnu, creating simple dishes like Malabar Fish Curry and Longbean Mezhukkulpratti.
In the monsoon the rate is very attractive at around $210 AUS per double room – for everything except off property excursions.

But why would you leave? The food is wonderful here.

Served in an open air restaurant integrated with the environment…

…Manoj overseas a great team who create wonderful meals!
Often it’s a buffet like this breakfast of puttu and kadala curry, appam and egg roast ….
…or another of iddyappam and vegetable stew and idly with sambar. Eggs to order and dosa!
Or this buffet dinner of Malabar grilled fish, prawn, paneer with cashew and mutton curries, black pepper chicken, eggplant, okra, potato and beetroot dishes, Dahl and ghee parotta.
Dinner is sometimes also a barbecue.
But meals may be a la carte if guests are few like a Thali lunch of tiny grained gandhakasala rice unique to Wayanad, fish curry, prawn marsala stir fry, raw banana with beans and pumpkin curry, cabbage and fresh coconut thoran, green dahl and mahi-mahi fish Marsala grill accompanied by lime, mango and bitter gourd pickles, finished with a locally grown bamboo rice, jaggery and coconut payasam.
A la carte dinner may be Corriander prawns (or the vegetarian starter of beetroot patties with mint chutney)…
..followed by soup and then a special Wayanad Wild Malabar stuffed fish in spiced coconut sauce stuffed with green chili, corriander, ginger and shallots, served with string hoppers (iddyappam).
Last may be Watanad’s unique fresh jackfruit mousse!
Meal times are flexible and fit in with guests needs. Staff are wonderfully attentive. Everyone seems to have worked for CGH Earth for years, at their different properties. If they try elsewhere they seem to come back and I can totally understand that!
The rooms are spacious and attractive…
…all with great balcony views into the trees, the perfect spot for watching the rains.
Daily chats (snacks) are refilled daily and the mini-bar soft drinks are free for the first time.
Monkeys make themselves at home.

And there’s a refreshing pool for a post walk swim.

A pickup from Kozhikode costs around $65AUS and takes about 2 hours. From Kochi it would be 6-7 hours but the cars are very comfortable so this is not a problem. But you can also fly to Kozhikode.

Book directly through the website or by contacting Roshini who is always so helpful directsales@cghearth.com
Excellent value for the holiday dollar it’s lovely for couples but also great for a group of friends or family.
#meandcghearth #kerala #wayanad #cghearth #favourite #loveindiatravel #foodindia #wayanadwild @cghearth @wayanadwild

Celebrating Eid in Kozhikode, Kerala –  Malabar Muslim Cuisine 

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It was all happening down on the beach last night at the Eid Festival in Kozhikode, famous for it’s Malabar Muslim Cuisine.



It was also the perfect night to try the famous regional biriyani at the iconic Paragon Hotel served with delicious sides of date pickle, coconut chutney and curd based pachchadi, with the famous Malabar parotta.



We were well looked after and recommended the house specialty, a stir fried, spicy seafood dish with thick fresh coconut crescents ( mentioned in Charmaine O’Brien’s Penguin Food Guide to India). Together with a couple of sweet mint lime drinks came to just $10 AUS. Amazing!
But the night was not over as we called in to the Hangout and Ashim created a wonderful fresh Alfonso mango ice-cream for us!


We have to go back! And I’m having that mango icecream again!


@hangouticecream @calicutparagon #kerala #kozhikode #eid #hangouticecream #paragoncalicut #loveindiatravel #monsoon

Eighth Bastion Hotel, Kochi – a top spot to stay @cgh_earth

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Eighth Bastion, like all CGH Earth hotels, is a great spot to stay in Kochi, especially with the generous low season price ($125AUS including the fabulous breakfast).


Near the Dutch cemetery and Thakur House, it once was a Dutch mansion itself.


It’s close to the beach for great people watching and wandering.


It has just 19 rooms with some (quieter) rooms overlooking the pool and other (noisier) rooms overlooking local life and out to the sea. Room 305 was great, a little noisier as it was on the corner, but great views, space and privacy. It was lovely sitting on the balcony watching the rain with a tea, or listening to the rain overnight on the roof. So relaxing!


There’s gorgeous common areas, a lovely infinity pool and complementary bikes and umbrellas to use.




Staff are wonderful, relaxed, warm and genuinely thoughtful.


The breakfast team Binesh, Ajeesh, Mathai and Sayanth.

Interestingly Mathai told us about the pasta he makes using a mix of flours made from jackfruit and wheat that gives a result lower in glycaemic index and higher in fibre. Very clever!

They are joined in the kitchen of East Indies restaurant by chef Shinto.


Breakfast is generous and delicious including house made pineapple jam and muesli, full English breakfast, pancakes and Indian breakfasts like idli and sandbar, aval (rolled rice with jaggery and spices), dosa, oothappam with sambar and coconut and tomato chutneys and a great black chenna with Kerala red rice puttu.



There’s even the Bruder Bread, unique to Kochi that dates back to the Dutch influence. Made locally from a family secret  it uses caramelised sugar, eggs, vanilla, spices and raisins.


While weekdays in low season are just the la carte menu for breakfast without the buffet, there’s no missing out.



Book directly through the website. Roshini at Reservations is fantastic, so very helpful. (directsales@cghearth.com)
She can also organize a very comfortable and welcome pick up from the airport at a competitive price which I recommend.

A top spot for a boutique stay in Kochi!

Can’t wait to try Bruton’s Boatyard next month!

@cghearth #meandcghearth

Singapore stopover – my top tips 

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Let me start by saying – these top tips are a work in progress.

A better title might have been – what I just learnt about stopping over in Singapore!

I’m not one for winging it when I travel. Hating to miss an opportunity, I usually have all my meals scoped out.

So it threw me completely when I found out my flight to India no longer lined up and I’d have to spend a night in Singapore. I haven’t been a fan of Singapore as a destination. It’s hard to get the same value for money available elsewhere in Asia.

I hastily booked the best I could find in the CBD on Booking.com and ended up with the Amara Singapore for $175 a night – no brekkie. It turned out to be a good spot nonetheless, with a very thoughtful upgrade thrown in.

I also psyched myself up to pay those Aussie prices I remember from my last visit.

But luckily I grabbed my ten year old Lonely Planet Guide as I left the house.

Between the Lonely Planet (never let’s me down), some helpful tips from friend Elayne, and very useful posts on trip advisor, we left Singapore having only spent another $25 between us.

So these were the top tips:

  • Take the MRT from the airport. Just $2.50 a person and less than an hour door to door, it was easy to navigate. The Amara is minutes walk from Tanjong Pagar Station. A few things to know, the ticket machine only takes $5 or less and you need to change trains at Tanah Merah (but so does everyone).
  • Eat with the locals at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre.

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  • You’ll find it across the road from The Amara and one block up toward Tanjong Pagar Park (diagonally opposite Carlton City Hotel). Like all Singapore’s Hawker Markets (food courts), not only is it cheap, but it’s a great chance to mix and mingle with those who live here and geat a window into local life.
  • We  first got waylaid at the Si Xiong Ju Noodle House  which was directly opposite the Amara in Tanjong Plaza proper. Here we chose two types of tofu, green stir fried greens and mushrooms for $4.

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Then we found the Hawker market proper. We’d found our stride by then and when we saw someone eating something good we asked them where they’d got it. Following this approach we tried the Teechew Satay Bee Hoon for $3

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..and the Healthier choice Singapore Health Promotion Board approved lower in calories $3 Mixed fishball noodles at Teo Chew Fishball Noodles. 

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Sadly the Famous Peanut Ice Kachang in Singapore had moved.

But it was a opportunity to return to the gorgeous gal at Kueh Ho Jiak who had so thoughfully given us a delicious sweet potato with coconut sweet to try. I just had to have another of these as well as try the sweet potato with red bean paste. Do go here, it’s a real winner!

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Lastly on the way back we stopped at Tea Royal on the corner of Carlton City Hotel
Purple potato icecream and Matcha ice cream $1 a scoop. (The matcha was not so great though).

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  • For something more upmarket, carry on a little further along Tanjong Pagar Road and you’ll come to some lovely heritage houses, filled with lots of fine eateries. These are also a great choice, although you will start paying Australian prices here (albeit the lower end of midrange).

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After all this deliciousness at just a fraction of what I was expecting, we headed to the airport for the next leg of our journey.

I’ve changed my mind about Singapore. I stopover is a great idea and breaks up the journey to India nicely so you can arrive fresh. No visa required for Aussies.

Next time though, I will be better planned.

  • I’m updating my Lonely Planet Guide to Singapore.
  • If it’s Ramadan, I want to stay near Paya Lebar MRT station and enjoy the Geylang Serai Ramadan Festival in the evening. This stop is only six stops from the airport.
  • And I’d love to stay near Little India MRT station and explore Little India. Village Hotel Albert Court looks good. A boutique hotel with good prices through Booking.com.
  • Or near Bugis MRT station (on the same line as the airport and closer than the Amara) to discover the Arab Quarter.

Next year!!!

#VisitSingapore #kuehhojiak #teochewsataybeenhoon #teochewfishballnoodles #ironladychef #singaporebestfoods #amarasingapore #singapore

 

 

 

Zaab brings Thai-Lao street food to Lonsdale St

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The very lovely Ms Frugal Ears is keeping the blog warm today while I head to India to bring back a whole bunch of new tips for South India foodie travel. She’s treating us to a wonderful trip to the new Zaab! Happy and delicious reading!

Betel leaves

Zaab bills itself as providing Thai-Lao style street food. Often claims about providing authentic street food mean deconstructed, hip food that looks only a little bit like the original ‘inspired’ dish. But here the dishes really are similar to popular South-east Asian-style street food.

I felt that Zaab’s offerings probably looked a bit too much like street food, depending on what you were expecting. And I’m not sure what I was expecting, other than something that grabbed me as being unique and different. My dining companion had lived in Southeast Asia, and you know when you have been there that nowhere in Canberra can compete with the original backpacker/traveller atmosphere – nor the price – of South-east Asian dining. Even if the food doesn’t grab you, Zaab provides a great backdrop for reminiscing about travels to Southeast Asia and planning new ones. It is also a whole lot of fun.

We dined on a balmy mid-week night, arriving very early, and sat right out the front – the entrance is open to the street. The place was quiet – not dull, but subdued. A few weeks later I happened to walk by at the midnight pumpkin hour on a Saturday night, and Zaab was pumping. A street food cart, which was parked on the front verandah when we dined (I wondered if it was supposed to be part of the décor), had been moved out onto the pavement and they were serving up meals to passing Lonsdale St customers. It looked and felt like a pub in Southeast Asia, with music blaring and crowds of happy people drinking beer and cocktails.

I ordered (on the waitress’s recommendation) a Crazy Coconut cocktail, which was a vodka, strawberry and coconut concoction served in a coconut shell. I felt like I was on a cruise ship to Hawaii.  It didn’t taste very alcoholic, which can be dangerous. My companion had a Singha beer – Zaab has a selection of Asian beers including from Lao, Thailand, China and Japan.

Larb bites

Larb bites

We opted for small snacky things to share rather being bogged down with substantial meals. I liked the Betel Leaf canapés ($4) each, which we were encouraged to down like oysters. The waitress could not tell me where they source betel leaves from; presumably, they come from Sydney. Larb bites ($8) were potentially interesting but disappointing; they were more like Mum’s rissoles than the Lao classic larb.

Son in law eggs

Son in law eggs

But if you dine at Zaab, do order Son in Law eggs ($10). Why the name?  Apparently, this Thai dish is cooked by a mother-in-law if her daughter’s husband hasn’t been behaving too well. The not so subtle message of the deep-fried eggs communicates that he had better behave or a certain part of his anatomy could be deep-fried next. The story put me off these eggs a little bit at first, but I got over it quickly because the creamy, crispy fried eggs with sour tamarind sauce were yummo.

Seafood platter

Seafood platter

We were a little underwhelmed by the grilled seafood for two ($28), which was not as abundant or fresh as I would have liked it to be, although the grilled calamari had a nice flavour.

Crying Tiger

Crying Tiger

My favourite dish was the Crying Tiger ($16) which was served spicy hot, rather than the more usual extra fiery hot, at my request. The dish is kind of like a Thai style carpaccio of medium rare beef slices covered in a spicy sour sauce. While it wasn’t a super large serving, it is a great dish to enjoy with beer – or another one of those Crazy Coconut cocktails.

What:  Zaab Street Food

Where:  Unit 2, 9 Lonsdale St Bradden

Websitewww.zaabstreetfood.com.au

Facebook:  facebook/zaabstreetfood

Open:  5pm until late Monday to Sunday

Monster Kitchen – deserves Canberra’s top spot 

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Monster Kitchen is Good Food’s number one Canberra restaurant – and it’s not hard to see why.

Quirky and welcoming, the eclectic decor is engaging.

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But it’s the food that is the real star.

Our lunch dishes were perfect! Beautiful, well priced and a unique combination of ingredients and textures.

The two of us first shared the:

Fried tofu with pickled shitake, boito soy, spring onion oil and sesame $18

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Eggplant, smoked goat’s curd, katsuobushi and sesame $20

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Pulled lamb shoulder with pistachio, yogurt, vine leaf, pomegranate and brik $30

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I especially liked the pairing of the goat’s curd with the eggplant and the yogurt with the lamb shoulder. Thses gave the dishes a delightful creamy highlight. But I also loved the salty elements of the soy with the tofu and the katsuobushi with the eggplant.

The textured coating on the tofu had a lovely light crunch. I loved the colour and crunch of the pistachios and pomegranate with the lamb’s shoulder and the gorgeous green tinge on the tofu.

We finished with a dessert of Soft chocolate with mandarin, almond and rosemary $20.

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This was also a perfect balance of textures and flavours, especially the ice-cream that came with it.  The crisp garnish was excellent as was the puree garnish but the fresh mandarin would be better preserved.

Still on my wish list for another time is the Yabby Waffle $20, the Boxgum grazing beef tartare $23 and the Green tea dessert with coconut, raspberry and mille feuille $18.

I also want to try the Monster Light Lunch that offers specials like Spagetti with wagyu tongue, peas, capers, reggiano and chilli $17, Baby beet salad with wild rice, pear, walnut $16, Pork belly banh mi $13 or Boxgum grazing ham, pyengana cheddar and green tomato pickle $15 sered 12-5pm daily.

Monster Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato