For our Kerala holiday in March 2016, we decided to set base in Kochi for exploring nearby attractions like Kodanad Elephant Training Centre and the popular Athirappilly Falls of the Guru, Raavan and now Bahubali fame, besides exploring the coastal belt all the way down to Kanyakumari (more on that in the travelogue coming up shortly). In hindsight, it turned out to be the best decision we took on that trip. Lucky to have plonked ourselves at INS Dronacharya, we were right in the heart of Fort Kochi, which has an infectious allure about it. With buildings radiating a colonial charm, narrow alleys dotted with kiosks selling fragrant spices and colourful clothes, Chinese fishing nets in the distance and that typical sea breeze that I just can’t seem to get enough of, it was just perfect. The one thing that has stayed with me the most two years on was the delectable food we indulged in, meal after meal. Here are my top five picks for some unforgettable gastronomic indulgences for anyone visiting Fort Kochi:
Dal Roti, Napier Street
Still exhausted from the previous day’s journey and famished on account of having chosen sleep over breakfast, we were frantically looking for a good place to hog down some lip-smacking food. I’m not a fan of South Indian cuisine, husband dearest doesn’t fancy seafood, so Dal Roti, with its close-to-home appeal seemed like the perfect fit. It is a quaint little restaurant tucked away in one of narrow alleys of Fort Kochi. The place was packed to capacity when we first went in, so we had to settle for a table in a verandah covered by a tin shed. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most ideal seating in the sweltering heat of the season. The owner felt worse about it than we did, and carried our plates out himself the moment a table cleared up. The hospitality of the place is one of the biggest reasons to stop over for a meal here. He insisted on looking after our then 20-month-old baby girl while we enjoyed our food. The food was finger-licking good. The menu is limited but every item on the menu is prepared to perfection. On our first meal there, we had mutton gravy with rumali roti and double chicken kaathi roll. The portions are generous and you can’t help going back for more because you taste buds won’t stop tickling even though your stomach is begging you to stop eating! We went there three more times, and the experience was equally heartening every time.
Kashi Art Cafe, Burgher Street
I’m a breakfast person on holidays, and I like them truly king style. We went to the Kashi Art Cafe for breakfast on a friend’s recommendation and I’m so glad we did. The most striking thing about the place is its tasteful, artsy decor, which is kind of a given, considering the name of the place. But what stood out for me was how each item on display seemed to have carefully picked out, to create a calming, serene ambience. Their coffee is to die for! I totally recommend starting and sealing your breakfast with a cup of coffee each. We ordered mushroom and veggie omelette, cheese sandwich, and chocolate cake with fudge sauce, all of which were delectable in their unique ways. I wanted eggs with bacon but the dish was not available before noon, which was a bit of a bummer considering it is a breakfast place primarily. And they could do a tad better on the service front, if the waiters try to be more attentive. Other than these two tiny blips, the place is pretty spot on.
Seagull Restaurant, Calvathy Road
The Seagull restaurant has a nice open deck by the sea, making it ideal for enjoying a quiet evening with your significant other, family or friends. We settled for a table in a faraway corner. The sight of giant ships in the distance, glistening under the moon light, the waves lapping up beneath the dock, and helping of chilled beers is just what you need to make conversations flow seamlessly. We ordered Chicken Chettinad and Fish Pollichathu, along with the signature Kerala parantha, all done to perfection. The service was impeccable, with waiters taking due care to cater to the guests’ requirements despite it being a full house. It was also only place that was open and happy to serve us on Good Friday, while the rest of Fort Kochi wore a rather deserted look.
The Asian Kitchen by Tokyo Bay, Cochin Club
Situated inside the Cochin Club that is dotted with beautifully manicured lawns and has upheld its traditional English ambience all these decades later, The Asian Kitchen by Tokyo Bay gets some brownie points of its location alone. We picked out this restaurant for my ‘turning 30’ birthday dinner, and the place lived up to the occasion with its fine setting and delectable food. It is one of the rare places across India that have some authentic Vietnamese delicacies on its menu. As a fan of Asian cuisine, that itself was a foodgasmic discovery for me. We ordered Vietnamese Minced Pork with Steamed Jasmine Rice (it was delish as it sounds), Wok Tossed Flat Noodles, Crystal Seven Spice Chicken Dim Sums, Pork Ribs, Shredded Chicken in Schezwan Sauce, and Darsan with Vanilla Ice-cream for dessert. It was quite a full spread, and the fact that we managed to polish it off – and were left wanting for more – between two adults and a baby says a lot about how yummylicious it all was. The only dampener was that they neither had a cake nor agreed to arrange one for us, so I had to go without cutting a cake one the big milestone birthday.
Teapot Cafe, Peter Celli Road
If you are looking for a place that will blow you away with its cuteness, the Teapot Cafe is it. The place is all about the unique decor, where an old-styled island home has been transformed into an ode to teapots. You’ll find them in all shapes, sizes, colours and textures here. The best part is the extended seating area in the attic with a steep flight of stairs leading up to it. It is not a place you should visit hurriedly because that’d be a disservice to its ambience. Also, the service is here can be painfully slow, so make sure you have time at hand and interesting company or a good book to catch up on. We ordered a Teapot Special tea, filter coffee, and a slice of Chocochip cake. Although I wasn’t too happy with the cake, the kid was glad to devour it (and smear her face and clothes with it), which kept her busy for a good 20 minutes, allowing us the time to finish our beverages at peace. All you parents out there would know what a bliss that can be. It’s not a place to visit for its food per say, but an experience you must not miss out on.