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Shelagh Davies stayed at the
Brunton Boatyard Hotel in Kerala

As its name would suggest, the Brunton Boatyard was once a shipyard, sited in a perfect position looking out to the Arabian Sea. There is a choice of restaurants, all directed by Executive Chef Sanjay De, a man of great passion for his craft and who still has room for many other interests. He was gracious enough to help us through the dizzying list of temptations on the menu of the History Restaurant. In 2003 he hosted a ten-day gastronomic event during which he set out to "lay siege" on the ancestral and colonial homes of Kochi to discover its culinary secrets and influences. He has successfully included many of his "conquests" in the dishes offered, while at the same time adding samples of many other types of Indian dishes.

Our meal took the form of a long slow feast. To begin with Sumesh, the excellent headwaiter, brought us a refreshing palate-cleanser, a ginger based concoction. Then we were offered a Vasco De Gama Square - an aperitif which is rum-based and deliciously combined with pineapple juice and coconut milk.

We began with Patrani Machchi - a mint-infused fillet of snapper, steeped in coconut milk and one of Chef Sanjay's chutneys, wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed. We gather this dish has Parsee influence; it was delicious, accompanied by Devilled Okra, chosen as a contrast to the texture of the steamed fish, an excellent idea. Strips of Okra are dipped in peppery garam flour and deep-fried. The whole thing was finished with a Chat massala and finely chopped coriander leaves, an ideal partner to the snapper.

We followed on with Fish Mappas - a very Keralan dish. The succulent chunks of a fish called Sea Bral, resembling halibut, were cooked in a smooth coconut and cashew nut creamy sauce with just enough spice. J gave this her highest accolade. As would I, had it not been for the next course - Attirachi Achaar. I will try not to exaggerate! Generously described to me by Chef Sanjay (because this is his exclusive creation) it consists of cubes of boneless mutton marinated in a "pickle" which is mixed with Kabag Chini, mild vinegar, caramel sugar, oils and rock salt. The meat is later seared and then cooked with a cashew gravy, green chillies and yogurt. The result is utterly tender meat coated in a genuinely exotic and delicious sauce. Attirichi Achaar tops my list of favourites.

To accompany this we ate Khansammer's Green Dal. A refreshingly simple dish of wilted spinach finished with asafoetida, this was perfect for the rich mutton dish. Deceptively simple, there were hints of garlic, together with cumin, turmeric and other traditional spices. The second partner was Vendakkai Piralan - Okra fried together with curry leaves, ginger, green chilli, onions, garlic and tomatoes and finished in coconut cream.

Anxious to try some of the various breads offered, we first tried Pudina Lachedar Paratha, which is a mint-topped flat bread, roasted in a Tandoor and basted with butter. The second bread was a revelation - an Appam. which Chef Sanjay told us, means "pan hopper". The ingredients include rice paste and flour, coconut milk, sugar and the raising agent is Toddy, a coconut milk alcoholic beverage. The result is a very light, perfectly white dumpling with a lacy "skirt". (I have made many attempts to describe this little gem, and that is my best effort to date.) This is used to great effect when mopping up the sauces of whichever dish it accompanies.

And now the rice dish: Kuttanadan Meen Choru This is a seafood pulao dish from Aleppey and has the flavour of grilled fish, squid and prawns infused into the rice. Scrumptious, we both agreed.

Finally, we sampled three of the desserts offered: Vattalappam - Chef Sanjay's absolutely delicious version of a type of crème caramel. Instead of the ordinary dairy milk basis of this ubiquitous dish, he uses coconut milk and palm sugar and infuses the liquid with cardamom seeds. It is finished off with a dark sweet caramel made from Jaggery (refined molasses). Both J and I agreed that this was quite the most perfect way to end the meal. It pushed into the background two other desserts which were both extremely good - a Tender Coconut Mousse ("tender" as it is made from the jelly-like flesh of a young coconut) and Pazham Nirachathu, a traditional Malabar dish of steamed banana sliced open and filled with grated coconut, dried fruit, jaggery and infused with cardomon, brushed with ghee.

To accompany the whole meal we drank very chilled Kingfisher beer. The unobtrusive background music of a trio playing traditional music and the general cool and airy ambience of the room added to our complete enjoyment of a very special evening. The seamless service and attention from the friendly but unobtrusive staff was impeccable. 

Shelagh Davies, January 2004 Click here for her introduction to the Kerala experience

The Brunton Boatyard
1/498 Fort Cochin
Kochi 682001
email: brunton@vsnl.net

Our trip to Kerala was seamlessly organised by Kerala Connections - www.keralaconnect.co.uk

Read Shelagh's account of her wonderful stay at the Coconut Lagoon in the Kerala backwaters


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