At the Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty (GHKB), they take their food very seriously indeed. There is no randomly tossed together multi cuisine fare being served at any of their dining spaces.
Their 3 restaurants that are dedicated to specific cuisines that include Continental, Kerala and Thai, take the guest’s palate across the world from West to East on a gastronomic journey to remember.
One can spend several hours engaging in very interesting conversation with the Executive Chef Hermann Grossbichler, who is Austrian by nationality but quite Indian at heart and who understands the pulse of the local palate … and also the local Pulses 😀 And yes he loves millets, a discovery that immediately propelled him into my list of good friends.
The chefs of the various restaurants are also highly passionate about their cuisines and it is a pleasure to listen and learn from them.
So let us whet our appetites and wet our lips in anticipation of the exceptional experiences that the GHKB is going to take us through.
Part 2 – Cuisine
About Chef Herman –
Chef Herman was born and brought up in the scenic and charming countryside of Maria Neustift near the ancient and picturesque city of Steyr in Austria. At the early age of 23 itself, he set out into the world in search of adventure.
Being largely enamored with Asia, most of his life has since been spent working in the hospitality industry in countries like China, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Guam and of course India. Through his experiences, he brings to the table a wealth of knowledge and a deep understanding of the profession.
Apart from his enthusiasm for millets and thoughts on sustainability and local love, what endeared him to me was his great sense of humor, his humility and his liberal views and I spent an interesting 30 minutes, learning not only about the concepts and workings of the restaurants of the GHKB but also about life in general 😀
The dining options at the GHKB –
GHKB has 3 main restaurants – the Malabar, Thai Soul and Colony Clubhouse and Grill. They also have the main bar adjacent to the Colony Clubhouse, called the Colony Bar.
In addition, they have the lobby side coffee shop at the Grand Lounge, a Poolside bar and the Grand Club which is an exclusive space for eligible guests.
Malabar, as is obvious from the name, mainly focuses on Kerala cuisine and is the 24 hour restaurant situated at the lobby level.
As with every other space at the hotel, this too is vast and can accommodate over 203 people across the inside as well as on the adjoining terrace where one can take in their food while taking in the grand views of the lake Vembanad that flows alongside the hotel.
The decor is a mix of the modern interspersed with the traditional, with metal utensils, earthenware, ceramic pickle jars etc that are displayed on racks that also serve to section the space.
The charm of the Malabar lies in the fact that this is managed by the head Chef Latha, who has broken stereotypes in a male dominated profession.
She hails from an impressive lineage belonging to the Kottekal Arya Vaidyashala family of Ayurveda practitioners and has over 30 years of experience in the field. Many of her traditional recipes have been handed down by her grandmother and that knowledge has been imparted to her team of enthusiastic chefs.
All the masalas are freshly made, using organic spices wherever possible and nothing is store bought. The guests of the Malabar are the lucky beneficiaries of these homely flavors which are the outcome of this dedication to authenticity.
The restaurant does not confine itself to the cuisine of the Malabar region only but serves ‘pan Kerala’ fare that includes the Syrian christian and Travancore cuisine.
At the Malabar one can get a pretty good idea of what Kerala cuisine is all about. All the Kerala staple favorites are available to the diner and they even have a dedicated biryani expert, again a lady, who makes the traditional Malabar version.
The pièce de résistance (I should really be saying Pisces de resistance) is the super fresh seafood that is served here. Being situated literally in the waters, Kochi has access right at its ‘shorestep’, to fish and other seafood that is lusciously and deliciously fresh and it is Water to Platter as the daily catch makes its way to the kitchen every morning. Frozen seafood is taboo here and the menu is bound by what the market brings forth. Karimeen Polichathu (Pearl spot fried and smothered in an onion tomato masala) is one of the gems served here.
Also in keeping with its herbal and ayurvedic concepts, Malabar serves seasonal dishes during certain relevant periods. For eg the Karkidaka month which occurs during the monsoons, is considered to be a month of rejuvenation since the body is said to be receptive to treatments in this period. Hence there are some wellness oriented recipes like the oil free Jeeraga Kozhi (cumin chicken), Uluva Kanji (fenugreek gruel), Jeera Kanji and other herbal concoctions that find their way onto the menu, giving the guests an option of benefiting from these dishes that are otherwise available only in traditional homes.
The Malabar is open 24/7 and a typical day begins with breakfast that is served from 6.30 am-10.30 am, followed by lunch from 11 am-3 pm. From 3 pm-7 pm the Chai kada becomes operational, a traditional tea stall that serves tea and snacks in the adjacent Grand Lobby. 8 pm-11 pm is dinner and then from 11 pm-6 am there is a snack menu that is offered through the night.
The la carte menu is always available at both lunch and dinner. Apart from this, there is a very popular vegetarian thali served from Monday to Thursday and a full fledged buffet from Friday to Sunday. Likewise, there is a buffet dinner available everyday. While the buffets serve mainly Kerala cuisine, there are a few other options like shawarmas, pizzas etc
Since Chef Latha was unavailable on the day that I visited, my interaction was with Chef Selva from the team, who accompanied me while I sampled from what they had to offer. Chef has 10 years of experience and is also an expert on Kerala cuisine and he was kind enough to give me all the information that I have reproduced here.
My meals at the Malabar –
Being Independence day, there was a multi cuisine buffet of sorts at the Malabar (because that is what the nation wants *eyeroll*).
My main meal though, was at the Colony restaurant and I came to Malabar only after lunch and my first experience of the Malabar was the dessert menu that played with the colors of the Indian flag, just as the rest of the country was doing that day. However on subsequent days, things went back to normal 😀 and I had the pleasure of experiencing a typical buffet breakfast and a buffet lunch during my short stay.
The Malabar serves a daily buffet breakfast which encompasses several local dishes alongside the usual pan Indian and Western.
Live counters twirl out appams from cast iron kadais (woks), which is way better than the non stick pans that are used in most places. The crisp, lacy edges and fluffy core of the appams, is a texture that the cast iron can create like nothing else can.
They also have the Puttu, kadalai, dosas, idlies, vadas, a host of chutneys and sambars. The hyper traditional Pazham Kanji – a rice gruel that is eaten with green chilli and an accompaniment of mulaku chammanthi, thenga chutney, kachiya moru and pickle, also had pride of place here, being as it were, a quintessential item of a Kerala breakfast.
I have to apologize for totally ignoring the non Kerala fare at the buffet because that gave me more time to trouble the chef to produce a banana leaf to showcase the local items 😀 And once you see what my camera has captured for you, I am sure you will forgive me.
While my camera consumed the whole gamut of offerings, I on the other hand stuck to my eternal favorite, the appam and stew and the crisp, lacy and spongy appam with its accompanying stew made from creamy dreamy freshly pressed coconut milk, was a great start to my day.
Since I had to experience all the other restaurants during my short stay, I only managed one buffet lunch at Malabar and that one meal was enough to create lasting memories, courtesy the tenderly fried tender masala squid, moist yet crisp slice of Seer fish fry and succulent prawns that had me literally sucking my fingers. It was with deep regret that I declined the rest of the buffet because I was too full but I have captured the essence for your viewing pleasure. You will taste of it when you visit and you will report back to me what I missed. Yes you must!!!
I did taste a bit of the payasam though because the stomach at times magically creates place for dessert.
Do not miss having a meal at the Malabar if ever you are GHKB. It brings you Kerala on a plate and how!!!
Colony Clubhouse and Grill –
The Colony Clubhouse and Grill, as the name would suggest, draws its inspiration from the rich colonial past that has played a strong role in the formation of Kochi’s character. Influences of the European colonizers continue to be retained in the culture, customs and cuisine of the place and the Colony restaurant is an attempt to capture all the nuances of the various cuisines and tinge them with a twist of the native. It is an attempt to serve colonial nostalgia sprinkled with local tones. A grill house that serves European and Arabic food with infusions of Kerala’s flavors, is how this place can be aptly portrayed.
Many of the dishes are unique to the restaurant, being the outcome of the creativity of the chefs who infuse the colonial fare with local spices, flavors and textures using unique elements ranging from ancient grains to new born microgreens.
The Colony restaurant is perched atop the GHKB and this position of vantage offers spectacular views of the beauty that lies in the vast expanse between the hotel and the distant horizon. It is the only restaurant in the hotel with views of the water on either side.
One can gaze at the Goshree bridge and the Vallarpadam railway line that span the waters of the Vembanad and closer home one has the view of the roof of the Lulu Convention center and of course the 3 helipads which totally fascinated me 😀 The sunset is said to be the highlight of the evening but the clouds had decided to dominate the sky during my stay.
With a inherent capacity of seating 120 people both indoors and on the adjoining terrace, the Colony can also accommodate larger groups at private parties, where food stations are set up along the terrace and guests can dine and wine against the backdrop of the splendid landscape, in a setting that is world class.
The Colony may as well be within the confines of the GHKB but it has the character of a stand alone restaurant and as Chef Herman puts it, once the guests are within the dining space, they will be transported to a different realm and will be treated to an experience that is exclusive.
A rack containing local spices greets diners at the entrance, as if to indicate to their palates, of the flavors to come.
The heart (or hearth) of the restaurant is the Mibrasa charcoal grill cum oven which uses eco friendly natural coconut shell charcoal. This is the magic box that the seafood and chicken and duck and lamb and other meats go into, to be transformed into smoky and flavorful offerings to delight the palate.
The Chef believes in sustainable practices and supporting local growers as far as possible. His commitment to the cause has even turned his team of chefs into micro growers and the nearly 40 varieties of microgreens that are sprouting in locally crafted earthernware pots of course, that sit within the specialized cabinet that they have invested in, are a testimony to their adherence to their convictions.
It is sheer delight to behold the snipping of tiny greens of beet or mustard or radish or amaranth or various lentils and watch them being sprinkled over your dish.
Fresh seafood is easily procured in Kochi but the restaurant makes sure to buy mainly from certified sustainable and ethical sources.
The restaurant is open only at dinner on weekdays and both lunch and dinner are served only on weekends.
My meals at the Colony Clubhouse and Grill –
Yes the restaurant is open only at dinner time on weekdays but lunch is served only for special guests. So guess where my first meal here was 😀
Chef Herman requested sous Chef Varun to guide us through the lunch.
He picked for us an eclectic selection of their popular dishes from the menu. And my palate was transported from texture to texture and across flavors, as I enjoyed that first meal of my stay at the GHKB.
We began with a Colony chunky broth, a hearty soup swimming with cubes of vegetables and enhanced with drumstick pesto and chironji seeds.
This was followed by their mezze platter with an interestingly textured multi grain, multi seed pita bread that was served with an array of 5 dips made up of a Green peas and avocado hummus, a chickpea hummus with a local twist of Jackfruit seed, Pomegranate and chia seed mutabal, Almond muhammara and Labneh with smoked olive oil.
Being Independence day, I could not resist the urge to do what every cook in the country was apparently doing and the dips were lined up in their hues of saffron white and green, as the colors of the Indian flag were yet again imagined at the table 😀
Their signature crusty bread also accompanied the platter.
The meal was interspersed with sips from vividly colored mocktails which I did not arrange according to the Indian flag colors, more so because I realized too late that I could have done it. An inadvertent sparing of my readers 😀
As always, I managed to (not so) subtly make my love for seafood known and the luscious pan seared crab cakes that followed were worth the blatancy 😀 As Chef Varun explained, they use 80% of crab meat and very little home made bread crumb, resulting in a moist patty that is bursting with the flavor of crab. This was definitely my favorite dish and a must have for any crab lover.
Delicate spinach dumplings encasing roast pumpkin and walnut were next, along with the Fettuccini lamb chorizo with custom made chorizo tossed along with fettuccini, arugula, parmesan cheese and plum tomatoes.
These preceded the mains of Roasted rack of herb and mustard seed encrusted Mulwarra lamb and a 5 millet tabbouleh. Well I was quite full by now but the horned one was tempting me and so I took just a tiny bite and on that succulent note, I ended my first meal at the Colony Clubhouse and Grill.
My next meal here was a dinner on the last day. The highlight of the meal here is the fresh seafood counter where one can point excitedly to the oysters or tiger prawns or sea bass or whatever the nets have trapped for the day and these are then weighed and transformed, using the cooking method and seasoning of your choice.
I began with the Munnar Tea smoked Tofu and Sprout salad that used home grown sprouts, tea smoked tofu, grape fruit segments, home grown microgreens in a tender coconut water and lemon dressing. I learnt of the very interesting dehydrated tender coconut powder that is added to lend a coconut flavor to the dish and I also quite enjoyed the drama of my salad being smoked 😀
I then allowed Chef Varun to tempt me into trying out the Native oyster Rockefeller with fresh Kerala oysters which were gently topped with herbed butter and lightly grilled in the Mibrasa. Did you really believe that I needed much convincing 😀
Chef Varun then suggested that I try the Toddy battered fish n chips and while I was already quite satiated, he had me at toddy 😀 So the fresh seabass, homemade sweet potato chips and chutney Tartare sauce also made their way down to join the oysters.
I was unable to make space for the tarts and cheesecakes that were gazing at me from the counter but again, I will leave something for you to try out and let me know.
And if my narrative does not tempt you, then you must be made of sterner stuff than I have imagined.
Thai Soul –
Those who know me, know that to a large extent I shy away from non local food whenever I visit a destination. However, Thai food is my weakness and I have already had my fill of Kerala cuisine several times over 😀 hence I was quite excited to be dining at the Thai Soul.
A cart bearing Thai ingredients greet you at the entrance and colorful suspended umbrellas hover over you as you enter the place.
This restaurant is themed on the street food of Bangkok and has rows of live cooking stations that are open to the diner’s view.
Enticing Thai ingredients form the interesting decor of the place and baskets of blue pea flowers, shimeji mushrooms, eggplants, pakchoy, galangal, fried rice noodles etc tantalize you from the various counters.
Open both at lunch and dinner, the place brings alive the streets of Thailand with the sounds and sights of sizzling, steaming, sauteing, stir frying and yelling 😀 and it is exciting to watch your food turn from exotic ingredients to delectable final products.
Chef Wimon who is yet another of the GHKB’s lady chefs, ably runs around orchestrating a symphony of Thai delicacies which the Indian team of chefs seem to have become quite adept at reproducing.
With most of the ingredients being flown in from Thailand and a Thai chef running the show, there can be no doubt that the food will be authentic too. Only some of the fresh ingredients, especially all the seafood, is locally sourced.
Thai Soul is located below the lobby floor at the parking level and is also adjacent to the outdoor pool. It can seat 80 diners both indoors and on the patio outside.
The biggest draw of this place is the Saturday Drunch Market that is based on the concept of a street market and is held in the patio outside the restaurant. The drunch goes on from 4 pm – 11 pm and several stalls resembling street carts rustle up an amazing array of all the popular street foods from starters to mains to desserts. This mela of sorts also includes the usage of the swimming pool and one can alternately plunge into the pool and plunge into the food through the evening 😀 At Rs 1499/- all inclusive, this is absolute value for money.
My meals at the Thai Soul –
Dinner on Day 1 was in the company of Chef Wimon who decided that I was capable of demolishing an entire platter of assorted goodies. My protests notwithstanding, I was presented with the Khong Wang Thai Soul which was an assortment of Spicy minced chicken salad, Shrimp spring rolls, Rice cracker with peanut dip, Beef satay and Fried chicken in pandan leaf, served with an accompaniment of a tongue tickling onion and vinegar sauce. The freshness of every item was evident and the food was high on flavor.
And before I could say Phad Kapraw nue kai daow, a bowl of stir fried minced beef magically appeared along with a mound of rice topped with a fried egg.
Since I had mentioned my love for crabs, a steaming bowl of Gaeng Tai Poo landed like a typhoon, a delicious crab yellow curry that I used both my hands to do justice to.
Of course there was dessert too because the day has yet to dawn when I will say No to Tub Tim Krob and the appeal of this dessert of water chestnuts in coconut milk was further enhanced by the addition of slivers of ripe jackfruit.
To go with the Thai theme, I sipped on a Thaimarind … ok tamarind cocktail.
Since the night light was not conducive to good photography, I wanted to have a meal here at daytime to capture the beauty of the food. At least that is what my story was and sssh do not tell them that.
So it was one more lunch and this time I had 3 more companions from the hotel which made it convenient to order a wide range of dishes and sample a variety.
In order to justice to all the sections of the menu and not hurt any feelings 😀 we ordered the Pomelo salad, Shrimp cake, Beef and noodle broth, Steamed fillet of fish with lemongrass chilli dressing, Crispy duck with gai lan greens, Green chicken curry and also on special request, the chef made us a grilled mushroom salad with the Shimeji mushrooms that had been haunting my thoughts since the previous night. Everything was fabulous but my favorite was the crispy duck!!!
This feast was washed down with a cocktail.
This was truly a Thai feast and we ended it with a medley of desserts that included the Thai tea ice cream, coconut ice cream, Banana fritters that reminded us of the Kerala Pazham pori 😀 and the Num Keang Sai – a concoction of shaved ice, Thai syrup, fresh fruit and cubes of Agar jelly. Of course I did not forget to have my Tub Tim Krob yet again, jackfruit and all.
The Thai Soul is truly food for your soul and I would have loved to have dined there repeatedly.
It is unfortunate that I had to leave on Saturday evening and hence I just about missed the Drunch but this certainly tops my list of reasons to return, long as that list maybe!!!
Colony Bar –
Colony Bar is the latest addition to the GHKB and was opened a few months ago in April 2019. In this short span of time it has become one of Kochi’s popular watering holes.
Being on the topmost floor across the hall from the Colony Clubhouse and Grill, you can get High at Hyatt in more ways than one, as you gaze down from the adjoining terrace at the panoramic views of the Vembanad lake. If you think the picture is slanting, you must have already had a couple of drinks 😀
The bar stocks a fine collection of alcohol and also serves interesting cocktails that are themed on local spices and flavors.
The Poolside Bar –
You can also sip as you dip, with their signature cocktails and beverages that are served by the poolside.
The Grand Lounge –
A part of the main lobby, this space functions as a deli of sorts.
It also has the Chai Kada session every evening from 3 pm – 7 pm. The Chai Kada translates to Tea Shop and is a typical Kerala feature where tea and snacks are served from roadside stalls or carts everyday. At the GHKB, tea is served with a combination of snacks like the ubiquitous Pazham pori (ripe banana fritter), sandwiches, samosas etc.
The Grand Club –
Open only to guests of the Club category rooms, this is an exclusive space where a daily breakfast mini buffet is served. There is an all day service of tea and coffee and from 6 pm – 8 pm during the Canape hours, one has access to unlimited house brand liquor and an assortment of canapes.
I experienced one breakfast here in the company of multigrain croissants, muesli, fruit salad and fresh juice … how healthy was that!!!
Now that we have had this Grand feast to appease our palate, let us move on to the experiences that the GHKB also offers, to indulge the tourist in us.
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Aug 15th-17th, 2019