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Shelagh Davies stayed in fine style at the Brunton Boatyard in Cochin, and at the Coconut Lagoon in the backwaters of Kerala near Kumarakom.

My friend "J" and I have just returned from a trip to Kerala, the main purpose of which was to trace tangible memories of my Scottish grandparents who lived as one of the tea planter families in the High Range, part of the Cardamom Hills in the southern Western Ghats. We were more than successful, and the memory of finding my grandfather's grave among the moss-covered headstones, surrounded by tall dark trees and encroached upon by wild bushes and flowers on the gently sloping hillside overlooking Christ Church in Munnar, will endure forever.

Having filled our hearts in Munnar, we continued on and enjoyed the rest of our holiday, this time filling our senses in a more gastronomic manner - by exploring a little of Keralan cuisine.

Brunton Boatyard Our first culinary experience was at the Brunton Boatyard Hotel in Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, on the evocatively named Malabar Coast. Steeped in the beguiling history of an ancient sea-port into which sailors and traders have entered from the Arabian Sea over many centuries, the architecture in Fort Cochin, where the hotel is located, displays a fascinating mix of cultures - Portugese, Dutch, French, Jewish and British influence evident in an eclectic mix. Kochi is still a thriving coastal city of traders and shipping businesses. As its name would suggest, the Brunton Boatyard was once a shipyard, sited in a perfect position looking out to the Arabian Sea. It is one of small group of top-quality hotels which, until only a few weeks ago, (as explained to us by Mr. Erine Louis, Manager), were owned by the Casino Group but now comes under the acronym of CGH Earth Hotels. The building created out of the ruins of the boatyard has been constructed precisely using authentic local designs and building materials. The style is very spacious and traditional - cool, open spaces, natural materials and lots of fine wood, with elegant but simple soft furnishings.

There is a choice of restaurants, all directed by Executive Chef Sanjay De. Chef Sanjay, a man of great passion for his craft and who still has room for many other interests, 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" to the ancestral and colonial homes of Kochi in order to discover the true culinary secrets and influences of the region. 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. 

The Brunton Boatyard
1/498 Fort Cochin
Kochi 682001

Click here for Shelagh Davies' review of the cuisine at The Brunton Boatyard

The idyllic charm of The Coconut Lagoon at Kumarakon Coconut Lagoon

Our second feast was taken some days afterwards at the Coconut Lagoon -  an exclusive haven with a unique cultural heritage, located in the backwaters of Kerala near Kumarakom. It can only be reached by boat and the accommodation is in "Tarawad" cottages. Our cottage, though traditionally built of wood and furnished in an understated but elegant manner, had welcome air-conditioning in the large bedroom. Our bathroom, on the other hand, was a charming surprise. We opened the door from the cool bedroom and entered a little walled courtyard virtually open to the elements. A large banana tree was growing out of a little pebble-strewn garden with the shower in one corner and the loo and basin in the opposite corner. It was fun to use the "facilities" after sunset and watch the stars twinkling in the sky above. Our cottage overlooked a backwater and from our verandah we sat and watched the occasional wooden canoe punt by and listened to the birds singing. The grass around the cottages is quietly munched by "mow" cows - once they have efficiently trimmed a part of the lawn, they are led to the next coconut tree, there to be tethered once more to continue their "mowing".

We were there during the busiest season for tourists, but in spite of that, the staff were calm and efficient. The general manager, Subrahmanian, and his deputy Dinu always had time to talk to us and other guests. Our days were spent either relaxing by the swimming pool or lying in a hammock gazing over the vast Vembanad Lake with its fringe of coconut trees, and, in the evenings, we enjoyed dining in the two restaurants within the resort.

The Coconut Lagoon

Click here to read Shelagh's review of the cuisine at The Coconut Lagoon

Casino Group Hotels has a useful website

Our trip to Kerala was seamlessly organised by Kerala Connections -

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