Colonial Treasures from the Queen of the Arabian Sea

Check out unique boutique hotels that preserve the charm of the bygone era

The more one explores Fort Kochi, the more you tend to wonder if you are still in the commercial capital of Kerala. The ambience here is distinctly different and literally, every building transforms into a monument that has a compelling history behind it. Time and again, this enchanting corner of Kochi, evokes an old world charm that is an addictive concoction of its art, architecture, beauty, culture and history. Fort Kochi and Mattancherry were once bustling little towns with its trading hub attracting and entertaining guests and foreigners from far and wide. Today, though the trading harbour is no longer functional, it still continues to attract tourists. RITZ checks out some of the top boutique hotels here that have managed to preserve the charming beauty and history of its bygone era.

Text: Riya Sonny Datson

Old Harbour Hotel 

The 300 year old Dutch style building with hints of Portuguese influence was once known as the Old HarbourHouse. It was known to be the first hotel of old Cochin and later, for a brief period, it became home to employees of English tea broking firms before it was closed down. The property was acquired by a passionate art collector, Edgar Pinto, who with the help of Karl Damschen restored the building to its former glory and grandeur.

The rich ambience, antique furniture, varied art and a charming courtyard with it’s beautiful fountain,instantly transport you to its vibrant past. 13 rooms, each adorned with art and antiques are unique in size, design and décor. The rooms that have been named after the streets of Fort Kochi, either overlook the courtyard or the Chinese fishing nets. Special garden cottages are also available in the property that have been built keeping in mind the traditions of Kerala. The restaurant that specialises in continental sea food, has indoor and alfresco dining area and is very popular with residents and visitors. The hotel also hosts a swimming pool, an Ayurvedic Spa and a stage for cultural performances among its other amenities.

Address: 1/328, Tower Road, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001
Phone: 0484 221 8006

Xandari Harbour

Close to the Dutch Palace in Mattanchery was a beautiful waterfront merchant property that once stocked spices and lodged ship captains. Post-independence, the property gradually fell empty and began to deteriorate. But it stood the test of time, until it was bought over by the Muthoot hospitality group, who transformed it into the ‘XandariHarbour’. Nestled in the busy market street, this 16 room property has simplicity at its soul with it’sname ‘Xandari’ meaning elegance, simplicity and tranquillity.

The ancient go-down has now been restored as the popular restaurant, ‘Restaurant 51’, that serves Malabar Soul Food, which essentially brings together Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. The farm to table philosophy adopted by the group focusses on using fresh supplies of fruits and vegetables, animal livestock and dairy products from its backwater farm property. Their alliance with the local fishing community has brought about the sea-table extension of this philosophy. The infinity pool right at the centre of Xandari Harbour, overlooks the sea and is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the sunset in the evening. Watch out for Xani, the colourful rickshaw that has been parked in the courtyard to engage guests! The giftshop, Viakeralaoffers ethnic and handcrafted products that serve as perfect souvenirs.

Address : V/40, Bazaar Rd, Kochi, Kerala 682002
Phone: 0484 222 3115

Brunton Boatyard
Set amidst the colonial background, the Brunton Boatyard takes you back in time with its charming blend of English, Portuguese and Dutch styles of architecture. The high ceilings, traditional pankhas and a host of vintage artefacts are reminiscent of the bygone era. A former shipyard during the British rule, the property has now been transformed into a boutique hotel by CGH Earth group. Of the 26 rooms, 22 rooms overlook the sea. History is the fine dining restaurant at this property while the Terrace grill is the seafood specialty restaurant and the Armoury Restobar offers casual dining.

Dining at the Pier is only on request as its chargeable at INR6500 per person. The property has a swimming pool, fitness centre, Ayurveda centre and a gift shop among other amenities.   Being the winner of multiple awards for ecotourism, the group’s business model is based on sustainable and responsible tourism. Every thought and action is born out of this commitment to the environment and the local communities where it operates. Brunton Boatyard too emphasizes on initiatives like rain water harvesting, use of solar panels, recycling plastic and paper wastes and conservation of energy.

Address: 1/498, Calvetty Road, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001
Phone: 0484 2846500

Ginger House Museum Hotel

The Museum hotel was originally built in the 18thcentury at Jew Town of Mattancherry as Ginger House Building and later it was transformed into the exquisite museum hotel. As the name suggests, the Ginger house museum hotel is a luxurious hotel with all modern amenities that is adorned by ancient artefacts and antique furnishings. It offers a royal holiday amidst the grandeur of Kerala’s glorious past. With only 9 rooms furnished in ancient Kerala and Chettinad styles of architecture, each room hasintricately carved wooden doors, vintage furniture, high ceilings and king sized beds.

The rooms open into a small garden with the infinity pool facing the Vembanad lake. And if you would like to purchase any of the artefacts, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the front office as each piece of the antique decor is for sale. Versailles is the fine dining restaurant at the property that has mostly authentic Kerala cuisine on its menu with the added options of French and Jewish delicacies. The Ginger House Café also offers a cosy corner to relax and enjoy the open view of the lake. Ayurveda and Yoga are the wellness experiences offered here.

Address: Jew Town road, Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002
Phone: 073566 03901