Kochi – A Boatyard Turned Boutique Hotel

You wouldn’t imagine from its almost monastic architecture, that this beautiful boutique hotel was resurrected from the remains of a Victorian ship building yard just under seventeen years ago.  A resurrection that appears to have taken pains to recreate the Portuguese/ Dutch Colonial vibe so intrinsic to Fort Cochin.

Ironically, my daughter and I, here on a long overdue girls only getaway last month – a belated birthday gift from me – struggled to connect with that vibe outside of these walls. For precious little of the architectural heritage of this famed port city, once the hub of the spice trade that launched the voyages of discovery, has survived mass tourism and general apathy.

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Brunton Boatyard is the only one of the handful of luxury properties in Fort Kochi to boast a prime waterfront location with grand views over the harbour, separated only by a beautiful pool and private jetty. The main door faces inland. A large sunlit internal courtyard is bordered by shady walkways that seem to me to replicate the feel of a medieval European cloister. The arcaded verandahs lead to dining and living spaces spread over four levels.

The foremost verandah serves as the reception and lobby, its stark, period re-interpretation, setting the mood for the rest of the property. Narrow arched openings on the outer wall are punctuated by rows of sepia portraits* of nearly every individual connected with the early history of Cochin. Rows of punkahs – indigenous hand operated ‘fans’ – above, underscore the Indo-Colonial theme. While the gold bordered pristine white saris of female staff create an elegant bridge to the traditional Kerala aesthetic.

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My urban heart sank at the sight of all those open, non air-conditioned spaces! But cross ventilation afforded by the open plan design and the strategically suspended vintage fans, ensured we remained cool even while the rest of the city wilted under the mugginess of early summer.

The spacious rooms, with high antique beds (that need steps to climb on!) and wooden armoires, were of course, fully air conditioned. Our last minute reservation failed to garner us a sea facing room, so we missed the luxury of panoramic harbour views, not just from our windows and tiny terrace, but from our bathtub as well! The complimentary sunset cruise that departs from the jetty for an hour long round of the harbour every evening, made up for it somewhat.

It was evident from the variety of tea leaves and ground coffee on offer in-room, in lieu of the standard tea bags and instant coffee sachets in most hotels, that the people at Brunton Boatyard adhere to the core values of eco conservation and resource management that their parent company – CGH Earth Group* – is based on. Most impressive was the complimentary water in pretty re-usable glass bottles, that had been sterilised and date stamped in their conspicuously located rain water purifying plant in the ground floor!

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Ensuite bath in a sea facing room! Pic courtesy: Brunton Boatyard

My daughter, who is even more of a ‘Google Rani’ (her name for me!) than I am, had come armed with a long list of places to eat in Kochi. The restaurants at the ‘Boatyard’, however, trumped all those from her list that we did end up trying.

Varied, set breakfasts were served in the airy Armoury: the coffee shop in the ground floor, opening out into the harbour front. There was the option of waterside dining at breakfast, as well as for romantic celebratory dinners.

History – the fine dining restaurant on the third floor – specialises in authentic Anglo Asian food, its menu drawing inspiration from the cuisines of some thirty odd communities that constituted the melting pot that was Colonial Cochin. Anglo Indian cutlets (we tried the duck) and First Class Railway Mutton Curry, Arabian Samak Bil Harder Asfu (grilled fish), Syrian Christian fish Moilee (a curied stew with coconut milk), Portuguese Vindaloo and Dutch pudding were some of the highlights. Cooled down in this instance with spiced ice cream.

But it is the ambience of the open air rooftop Terrace Grill, with its exquisite seafood ‘experiences’, paired with a chilled crisp white and served to the background score of fog horns, that won us over completely. We vowed not to wait for milestones to celebrate more such birthdays.

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The iconic Chinese fishing nets of Cochin, best photographed from the cruise.

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Disclaimer: Our two night stay was generously discounted by CGH Earth

*Mr. Brunton is sadly missing from that hall of fame for want of an authenticated portrait.
* Visalam, a traditional mansion hotel in Chettinad is also a part of the CGH Earth Group.

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Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

54 thoughts on “Kochi – A Boatyard Turned Boutique Hotel

  1. Beautiful writing and pictures! Visiting your blog after long and wondering why I stayed away! 🙂 The place seems like a dream – love that you have to use steps to climb into bed. That bench is calling out to me and that view of the sea from the bathroom is to die for! Sigh!

    1. Chaitali, I am touched by your lovely compliments. Thank you very much. Look forward to connecting with you more often.

  2. Google Rani, oops, Madhu, this is the kind of accommodation I would love to stay! It’s so dreamy, i love your descriptions about the verandah, architecture of the building. Glad that you and your daughter had a great time. I gather there will be 1 or 2 more posts on Kerala? 😉

    1. Ha, yes, that’s my daughter’s back handed compliment when she needs help with something 🙂 Our visit was limited to Fort Cochin Kat, I am yet to visit the backwaters. I am going to be concentrating on my interrupted Spain travelogue, and a couple of posts on Tanjavur next.

  3. How idyllic Madhu. This place looks magnificent – thank you for sharing your lovely pictures. I gather a lovely time was had by both. I look forward to more posts on this part of the world.

  4. What an incredible place, and I think it is the verandah that locks me into the sense of austerity and history of the place…I could live there I believe from what your picture show. Not sure if I’d ever want to fall asleep ~ wonderful writing Madhu.

  5. What a beautiful retreat for you and your daughter, Madhu. The hotel is just gorgeous and set in such a lovely location. Your wonderful descriptions of everything made me feel as though I was there and experiencing it myself. The Chinese fishing nets photo with the full moon overhead, is really worthy of a frame, and that dessert looks to die for. 🙂 xx

  6. What a lovely adventure to share with your daughter! I had to laugh at the expression “Google Rani.” As always, lovely photos–my favorite is the fishing nets against the orange sky.

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