Perched on the edge of Fort Kochi's harbour, Brunton Boatyard is a grand monument to a colonial past. Ask any local and they'll tell you the hotel is Kerala's best: steps away from the Arabian Sea and the narrow, picturesque streets blooming with bougainvillea makes Brunton Boatyard a cool oasis amidst the vibrant chaos.
Fort Kochi exists as a refined, aesthetically-conscious and tranquil microcosm within the sprawling industrial city of Kochi. Life happens here at a more relaxed pace than most of India. Sitting on Burgher Street sipping an ice coffee, you could be forgiven for thinking that you're in Mediterranean seaside town if it weren't for the bumble-bee coloured Tuk Tuks buzzing past.
The Brunton Boatyard building, once a thriving shipyard, was restored to preserve the architectural influences of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British and is nestled amongst the Chinese fishing nets that are best seen from the water, on board the hotel's boat that takes guests for a complimentary sunset cruise.
It's not often a hotel's reception area is notable enough to mention, but at Brunton Boatyard every space reveals a different part of Kochi's fascinating past. Here portraits and old photographs hang the walls, and traditional, hand-pulled giant fans are suspended from the roof, whilst the sunlight pools into the open courtyard, casting soft shadows on the floor in the late afternoon. Traditional dance performances can be organised on request, on the outdoor stage and it's also where the hotel collects rainwater into tanks, which is then purified and bottled into pure drinking water (a rarity in India where most drinking water is treated with chemicals).
The spacious rooms are gracefully furnished with beautiful teak antiques, the most impressive being the huge four-poster beds that are so tall you require a step to clamber in. These were all salvaged from local Keralan homes and are each over one hundred years old.
A contemporary paint palette of navy blue and white continues the naval theme and creates an atmosphere of serenity. All of the rooms have their own balconies overlooking the sea, and the small islands that scatter round the mainland. It's a relaxing place from which to watch the busy life on the water as fishing boats, ferries and giant liners glide silently and majestically past the hotel's front, or else you can enjoy the view whilst soaking in the bath.
Despite being a relatively small hotel, Brunton, as its familiarly known, boasts three excellent restaurants. During the daytime, you can enjoy a light lunch or a cup of spicy Keralan chaya tea on the waterfront at The Armoury, which becomes a sultry cocktail lounge at night with live music and bar snacks. The best dining experience though is at the History Restaurant.
Each of the dishes on the menu have been collected from locals from the city's different communities (Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, British and Jewish) and is accompanied by a story of its origin. Favourites include the traditional style Tiffin Box, Anglo-Indian ‘first class railway curry' and Syrian roast duck. For dessert, the chai creme brûlée is divine. Alternatively, you can try your hand at cooking your own dish with one of the hotel's expert chefs on the terrace. There's also the speciality seafood restaurant that serves fresh fish on an open rooftop overlooking the bustling bazaar and jetty below.
The real charm of Brunton Boatyard lies in its effortless authenticity. Nothing about this hotel is superficial or overdone. It combines history with beautiful, contemporary design to create a space that's intensely relaxing and timeless. It's impossible not to be enchanted.
Book your stay: Brunton Boatyard
Word by Millie Walton