The spanking new Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty fits snugly into a city known to accommodate the modern while celebrating its rich heritage. By Aindrila Mitra
It’s raining, and the vista is lush green, almost as if an emerald veil has been thrown over the land. Especially after an insufferable tryst with the sweltering heat of Delhi, Kochi comes as a breath of fresh air. I’m picked up at the airport by Najib, a rather cheerful Keralite who has recently moved back to his hometown after living in Abu Dhabi. “We get a lot of guests from the Gulf,” he admits, never wiping his smile. Forty minutes of drive through the lanes of Kochi, and I’m faced with what looks like a massive stadium. This is the all-new Hyatt Convention Centre, Najib corrects me, and coolly drives me down the driveway, right up to the entrance of the swanky new Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty. One of Hyatt’s newest and largest properties in India, standing tall on 26 acres of reclaimed land right by Lake Vembanad, the hotel boasts three helipads and three jetties.
“You can reach Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty via air, water, and land,” delineates Kunal Salooja, who heads events for the hotel and is still evidently excited about their official launch party that was held on April 28 and saw over 4,000 delegates flock to Kochi’s latest hotspot. The doors to the property were officially opened to the public the following day.
General Manager Girish Bhagat is candid. “It is MA Yusuff Ali’s gift to his motherland. (Ali is a Kerala native, the key investor, and the Chairman and MD of Lulu Group International, which boasts an annual turnover of US$7.4billion). He wanted to bring Middle-Eastern luxury and influence of the Arabs [with this property].” And clearly, he has succeeded—whether it’s in the opulence of the 264 rooms or the finesse with which meals are prepared under the able guidance of Executive Chef Hermann Grossbichler.
Over the next 24 hours, I not only discover the beauty of Kochi, which houses a population of close to two million, but also why the behemoth, snazzy Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty is probably the right answer to the harbour town’s true potential. (Kochi is derived from kaki, which means harbour in Tamil.)
The city today is a confluence of culture, religion, and local and international communities. Shana Ninan, a true-blue local and the marketing communications manager of the hotel, accompanies me on my trip to the Old Spice Market. She is quick to point out that there are over 30 communities residing in the old city. Home to everyone—from Jews to Baha’is, Muslims, Christians, Tibetans, Memons, and Kashmiris—this gateway city of Kerala is living proof of India’s diversity. This is where you see a Dutch palace, a temple, and a synagogue perched peacefully side-by-side.
I take a rickshaw tour of the Spice Market on Jew Town Road in Mattancherry. Kochi houses the International Pepper Exchange, where black pepper is traded globally. The Spices Board of India is also headquartered here. The fresh aroma of black pepper, cardamom, and oudh mingle to create a distinct aroma—one that I can trace back to the dishes I am served at Malabar, the hotel’s restaurant dedicated to authentic Malabar cuisine. Chef Latha K, an industry veteran with 28 years of experience who heads the kitchen here, has already given 350 recipes to Hyatt. I’m privileged to try the special
Whether it’s their signature dishes like kozhi pathiri (wheat pancake filled with minced chicken), achayan tharavu (duck roast), or parippu pradaman (sweet lentil payasam), each dish comes with a distinct flavour and fresh ingredients.
In fact, the menus for all three restaurants—Colony Clubhouse & Grill (an old-world grill and rooftop eatery that promotes sustainable seafood practices), Thai Soul (where the menu is Chef Suppatra’s take on Bangkok street food), and Malabar—are driven by ingredients that are locally sourced, grown in-house, or imported. Quite naturally, when you do dig into those mud crab cakes or the five ancient grains risotto at Colony, or salivate with a whiff of pla rad pik (a crispy fish fillet) or the khao soi gai (egg noodles, chicken with condiments) at Thai Soul, you sense the sincerity with which each item is prepared and served, one element at a time. Chef Hermann has done a stellar job of steering 110 chefs in the right direction.
I take a jolly boat ride early evening on Lake Vembanad. As an avid traveller, I can tell you this: if you really want to experience a destination, go where the locals go. With tour guide Shagzil Khan for company, I discover Vallarpadam and Vypeen. I can’t help but be fascinated by the Chemeenketu (prawn farms). Kochi is a major fishing port and supplies to local and international markets. Khan explains that there are three types of fishing that take place here: lake, troller, and cage fishing. Chinese fish nets dot the river bed, and as the sun goes down, the view of this bay is stunning.
At Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, you can experience the city’s flavour through 20 unique excursions. Pottery classes, guided tours of museums, kayaking on the Vembanad, etc.—this is the one-stop getaway if you’re looking for a rejuvenating staycation. Not to forget the spa at the hotel—Santata—spanning over 1,000 square metres with seven treatment rooms. I’d strongly recommend the Balinese massage.
As a bustling port city with the world’s first fully-solar-powered airport, Kochi is indeed the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’— not just as the financial, commercial, and industrial capital of Kerala, but also as a cultural melting pot with its upmarket stores and the art galleries that host the Kochi Biennale. And standing tall in this charming little city is the Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, a microcosm of the city’s character—contemporary but not oblivious of its history and heritage.