Brunton Boatyard Hotel, Fort Kochi!
A few years ago, I had spent some time with my daughter at one of the CGH properties in Pondicherry, about a three hour drive from Chennai and greatly enjoyed the experience, especially the food. After our pleasant experience I did some research into the hotel group and was impressed with their conservation and environmental rejuvenation efforts.
As many of you know, I have decided to finally bring life to my dream of taking groups of people on culinary adventures and decided that South India would be the perfect place for me to start. I thought that the CHG earth hotel group would be a suitable partner for my tours and after discussion with them, I embarked on my reconnaissance visit.
The first of the hotels on my list was Brunton Boatyard. I have no words to describe the experience. From the moment their driver picked me up at Fort Kochi airport we felt welcome and service was with a smile. Every single person at that hotel, including General Manager Manoj Nair, Executive Chef Midhun Cleetus, Restaurant Manager, Mr Rajeev, Mr Ronald and Housekeeping Manager, Ms Annie went above and beyond what can be expected of any hotel to make us comfortable, happy and feeling at home. Even now, when I think back to my experience there I can’t stop smiling.
One of the first eco-friendly attractions that caught my attention even before we got past the entrance was the Christmas tree made out of pineapple tops. They had collected the pineapple tops from local markets and constructed a Christmas tree instead of getting a plastic one or cutting down an existing tree.
We really loved our room as well. The red floors took me back in time to when I was a child in Mauritius, where many of the houses had red floors that they would regularly wax and brush with dried coconut heads to keep them shiny. One item that was completely unexpected but very welcome was the fruit basket in the room. At no point during my stay in India at this time of year did I think I would encounter fresh, local mangoes but at Brunton Boatyard, there was one in my room! They had managed to find a grower that had a few that grew even though the season was over! I also loved the small chest of drawers filled with chocolates and biscuits as well as the loose leaf tea, complete with a menu describing the teas and areas of origin.
And oh, the food. Not only did the staff go out of their way to explain the food to me and get extra bits and pieces when we were interested, the chefs shared the details with me as in how the ideas for particular dishes came about. One of the restaurants, called Armoury, had some absolutely beautiful Thalis, the only regret that I had there was that I didn’t have enough days to try them all.
The menu at History restaurant was especially appealing to me as it represented the different cultures that comprised the history of Kerala as a whole, from the Jews to the Portuguese to the Dutch, the local people to the Eurasians. There was a lot of history to learn from the foods themselves as well as the story behind each dish. Chef Raj suggested that I try the Vypeen Crab Soup and it was a winner, I think I had it three times during my visit. The creativity and ingenuity behind their sourcing of local ingredients, supporting local growers and producers is something that I have long supported and I was so happy to see likemindedness in a larger company
The local seafood in Kochi is abundant and stunning in quality. Brunton Boatyard hosts daily cooking demonstrations using local produce, usually conducted by Chef A. M. Sunny. He did a great job of explaining the techniques and spices used. I honestly loved his fish curry, it was so well prepared. When he asked me for feedback on his work, the only thing I could tell him was that he was doing a great job and to keep moving forward and learning as much as possible. His youthful enthusiasm was contagious and it was lovely to see a young chef so happy in his job..
Since we were staying there throughout Christmas, we had the opportunity to try Chef Midhun’s Christmas Menu. It was put together with so much thought and consideration. I can only imagine how much work and planning went into it. One of the palate cleansers was called Amla Sorbet 41. I knew that Amla is an Indian gooseberry but from the taste, I knew that there was much more to the sorbet than that and I had no idea what the 41 stood for so I decided to ask him. To my surprise, he told me that he sourced the gooseberries at the beginning of the season and fermented them with herbs for 41 days. That explained the umami taste and herbaceous aroma! I was blown away by their creativity as well as their willingness to share their knowledge and ideas. It was a wonderful way to spend Christmas, usually not something I enjoy but this time I loved it.
Brunton Boatyard has other activities like yoga and a daily sunset cruise. We loved the sunset cruise and on one day, happened to be the only ones taking up the opportunity so it was a lot of fun to have the entire boat to ourselves. Instead of cancelling the cruise due to low numbers, instead they gave us a personalised experience.
The General Manager, Mr Manoj Nair and Mr Rajeev were also very helpful, far more than could be expected of any hotel. I asked them whether they knew where to go shopping for some supplies that I was hoping to find for my business back in Australia and they immediately got me a driver and connected me with the business that supplies their hotel chain and told me who to ask for when I got there. I found everything I needed and more.
Overall, my experience at Brunton Boatyard was superior to anything I could have expected and no, I was not paid to write positively about them. The icing on the cake was when I had already shifted to another CGH property and was told that there was a delivery for me from Brunton Boatyard. I went to see and it was some fruit called Nungkku in Tamil Nadu. I had seen some on the side of one of the streets and had asked the staff whether they knew where was a good place to get some and they unexpectedly and unknown to me went and got it.
It goes without saying that Brunton Boatyard will be the hotel that my guests will be staying in when we come to the start of our journey in Kerala! We loved the place, staff and food so much that even when staying at the other property (which was also good) we had to come back to one more dinner. We arrived at the hotel, expecting to make some choices from the menu. Chef Midhun heard that we were there and after a short conversation and look through the menu, he suggested that he and Chef Anish create a menu for us with the assistance of Mr Rajeev. We we excited and intrigued and of course agreed. Once again, the food was mind blowing and expectations were exceeded. We left Brunton Boatyard talking about coming back within a few months.
Can’t wait to be back later on this year!