Heritage Classic tag
The `Malabar House' a signature hotel in Fort Kochi, has been conferred the prestigious `Heritage Classic' certificate, the first hotel in Kerala to attain this stature. PRIYADARSHINI SHARMA finds out what's special about the hotel, whose clientele is a virtual who's who in the global context, like Bertolucci
The Malabar House Residency in Kochi has made it. It is the first `Heritage Classic' hotel in the State and it gets the honour after a rigorous scrutiny by the Heritage Classification Committee.
A period piece, the hotel has been home to celebrities like Bernardo Bertolucci, the distinguished Italian film director, British ambassador to Pakistan, Andrew Welch, French minister Jack Lang and the first occupants being the renowned publishers, the Hamyln family.
Malabar House Residency is a charming getaway, standing gracefully at a corner of the old Parade Maidan in Fort Kochi. No billboards blaze it as the ultimate holiday escape but it is only by word of mouth that the guests who come here return for more.
Mr Francis the affable general manager says, "Every one is presenting old Ilams' and `Tharvadus' as heritage but there is a definite procedure for this classification. Only buildings prior to 1930 get the heritage certificate and the additional `classic' category is conferred only if the property meets international standards. At the Malabar House cultural traditions have been blended with modern amenities to meet international standards and hence the classic certificate".
Mr Joerg Drechsel and Txuku Iriate Solana, his attractive Spanish wife, who own this `boutique' hotel, are upbeat. The property is an extension of their fine sensibilities. Mr Drechsel, a curator of Islamic art, immediately sensed the potential the place had. He could visualise his eclectic art collection within the premises. Thus you find fine objects of art imaginatively displayed in the hotel.
"The passion with which the edifice was restored and adorned is quite evident," remarks a neighbouring resident who frequents the place. The stark lobby with a life size wooden horse; ochre yellow and flame red walls immediately draw one into a surreal ambience. The foyer has an all encompassing lure which leads one on to the warm patio with hot pink frangipani drooping over the blue pool.
The crisscross pattern of light and shade, which the artistically grown foliage provides, fall on the patio, creating a sit out with a unique Kerala flavour. The evenings are steeped in mystic warmth as candles and oil lamps suffuse the patio in a tropical glow. An open veranda serves as the restaurant, rightly named `The Malabar Junction'.
In keeping with the high profile clientele the hotel receives, it emanates a great degree of sophistication.
Being a small Dutch manor the hotel is able to give high quality personalised service. Remembers Kalpana, the cordial in-charge of the hotel; "Madhur Jaffery was here for the shooting of `Cotton Mary', she would cook in our kitchen every evening. In fact she taught our chef an Indianised version of Pasta, with curry leaves and cauliflower!" Now we serve it at the restaurant as `Cotton Mary Pasta'.
Mr Dreschel, the enterprising proprietor expanded the luxurious experience of his signature hotel deeper into God's own country.
Recalls Mr Francis, of an incident, which prompted them to spread their wings. An eager tourist in search of a backwater experience booked himself a weeklong trip on the houseboat. Soon tired of an overdose of it, he came to the hotel and wished for a place, which could combine best of both worlds in good capacity.
That is how the idea of `Privacy at Sanctuary Bay'at Kumarakom came about. It offers seclusion and the Kerala experience in good measure. `It is genuinely private' says a visitor. "The solitude it offers is all consuming. I was reminded of poetry when I first stepped ashore.It has a timeless quality"
`Serenity' is another place Mr Dreschel started on the same lines giving privacy priority, which is enroute to Periyar. Mr Francis said that the 1920 estate bungalow at Kanam rubber estate proved a right stopgap for tourists heading to Periyar. " It gives the true feel of a plantation.""The two retreats called `Malabar Escapes' carry the red carpet hospitality all along."
With a new feather in its cap, the heritage classic certification, they are raring to go.
`The Independent' writes about it as `a place which you don't want to leave' but a local who saw through the entire restoration and re-creation feels that, "The Malabar Hotel is a pioneer in the concept of `Boutique' hotels in Kerala. Besides it is very subtly a roll back in time".
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