Read why staying at a Fort Kochi heritage hotel is the best choice if you’d like an insight into local history. The Brunton Boatyard in Kochi, Kerala is one of the most interesting hotels you will come across in the area. If you are planning to visit Fort Kochi, your stay here will take you on a journey into the Brunton Boatyard history through a relaxing experience and delicious local food.
One of the things that I look for when I travel is places and experiences that connect me to the culture and history of a destination. This comes in a variety of shapes. It could be a local dish, a journey by public transport or staying at a historic place. This is why I was so excited about my stay at the Brunton Boartyard, a heritage hotel in Fort Kochi that is steeped in local history in more than one way.
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The Brunton Boatyard History
The history of the Brunton Boatyard Hotel is pretty unique. As the name indicates, it was once a boatyard set up by Mr. George Brunton and his two sons over a century ago. Within a very short period of time, they made a name for themselves as renowned boat builders. In fact, some of the boats they built are still cruising the sea around Kochi!
The Bruntons were pioneers, and in addition to the boatyard, they ventured into other businesses. They are remembered locally as they introduced the first movie cinema in Kochi.
But back to the boatyard, which thrived over time together with all the other boatyards throughout South India. Back in Britain, shipbuilders protested about the negative impact this had in their businesses, and this led to the gradual decline and eventually the collapse of this once famous boatyard.
A Fort Kochi Heritage Hotel
After years of neglect and disrepair, CGH Earth acquired the building and set to bring it back to a new life. The building was renovated and transformed into a unique heritage hotel in Fort Kochi, blending the old and the new, the leisurely and relaxed ambience of a bygone era, and all the comforts and conveniences of a luxury hotel.
This restored period building now blends in nicely with its colonial era surroundings and the neighbouring great trading houses of British India when pepper from Kerala was considered as precious as gold.
The lounge is reminiscent of the days for the British Raj, with its high ceiling and the old-fashioned fans called ‘punkhas’. The architecture and the interiors reflect an eclectic blend of English, Portuguese and Dutch styles and influences that include the display of artefacts and curiosities that remind you of Fort Kochi’s colonial past.
The Brunton Boatyard, living up to its Fort Kochi heritage hotel name, is located in the heart of the historic centre, in a privileged waterfront position. Little remains of the fort itself, but the legacy of its importance can be seen and breathed everywhere around.
The Best Things To Do in Fort Kochi
The Brunton Boatyard has 22 rooms, all of which overlook the sea and the delta, as the hotel is located at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. And it’s not just the rooms that have sea views, their en-suite bathrooms offer views of the passing ships and fishing boats too. You may even spot dolphins as you relax in your balcony or even as you soak up in your bathtub!
I stayed in a Sea Facing Room, which had a small foyer and a spacious balcony with sweeping views over the harbour, ideal to observe life on the water. And let’s not forget the super comfy four-poster bed!
The room had all the facilities that you would expect from a five star hotel, but arriving at sunset time and having tea delivered to your room as a welcome was a really lovely touch.
The hotel has its own rain water filtering plant within the premises, so you will have an endless supply of on-site bottled water at your disposal too.
The Brunton Boatyard is not just renowned as the Fort Kochi heritage hotel of choice, but it is also well known for its eclectic cuisine and varied culinary styles. This is a direct result of the diversity of the communities that have lived harmoniously in Fort Kochi for centuries. From the chillies the Portuguese left behind, to pork dishes from the Christian Syrian community; from the coriander from the Paradesi Jews of Cochin to the Dutch puddings. A true journey of flavours!
The Armoury Café gets its name from the way the restaurant is decorated with historic guns and other weapons from times gone by. The chef’s recommendation here is the First Class Railway Mutton Curry, a unique recipe invented by the local Anglo Indian community of Fort Kochi. It is a favourite of celebrity chef Rick Stein, and I have to say that it became a favourite of mine too!
The Armoury Café also has a terrace for those romantic dinners while enjoying the sunset.
It is open for breakfast from 7.30am all they way to 22.30h, so you can enjoy this lovely café any time of the day.
The History Restaurant is a specialty restaurant and its cuisine reflects the diversity of the cultural influences of Kochi – Portuguese, Dutch, English and Jewish. A must try is appam, a pancake made from fermented rice batter, coconut milk and sweet toddy. Traditionally associated with the Christian Syrian community, appam is slow cooked in clay or iron vessels with a curved bottom.
The Vypeen Crab Soup is also a must try, a crab fumet with aromatic vegetables, star anise and a splash of cream. And so are the Syrian Style Beef and Tapioca Cutlets, made with beef tenderloin cooked with a mélange of spices, mixed with steamed tapioca, coated in crumbs and fried to a golden colour. It is served with homemade pickled chutney, and I liked them so much that I actually had them twice!
I loved the old world feel of this restaurant, and as its name indicates, you can really feel and breathe the history of the Brunton Boatyard here. And with the live background music, you can guarantee a very atmospheric evening.
The History Restaurant is open in the evenings only, from 19.30h to 22.30h.
There is a swimming pool on the water’s edge of the property, so you will almost feel like you are swimming in the Arabian Sea. Take a dip to cool off after a hectic ramble through the historic streets of Fort Kochi or when you feel like some brisk laps to get your sluggish circulation going.
The pool is open from 8am to 7pm.
You can take a sunset cruise on the Brunton Boatyard’s very own boat that sets off every evening from their private jetty. It’s a fabulous way to enjoy the Chinese Fishing Nets, which are super photogenic at sunset and one of the best things to do in Fort Kochi.
There is an Ayurveda centre within the hotel, where you can experience a range of healing herbal massages and relaxing therapies to help you unwind and perk up.
Ayurveda Experiences in Kerala
The hotel also offers bicycle hire, foreign exchange and it has a left luggage facility for when you have a late departure.
All in all, I loved my stay at the Brunton Boatyard in Kochi, Kerala. CGH Earth have done a great job of bringing this historic building back to life and maintaining its historic character. You can certainly feel that if the walls could talk they would tell you a million stories about the people who lived in the area and worked in the boatyard itself. This is the second CGH Earth hotel I stayed in and I would more than happily stay here again or in any other of their properties.
Book your stay at the Brunton Boatyard
If you’d like to experience staying at a Fort Kochi heritage hotel, this is definitely the right choice. The Brunton Boatyard tariff will vary according to seasons, but you can check here if you have some dates in mind:
Have you ever stayed at a heritage hotel in India like the Brunton Boatyard?
Let me know about your experience and where it was in the comments.
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Disclosure: A big thank you to the Brunton Boatyard Hotel, who hosted me during my stay. As always, all views are my own.
Teresa is an award-winning travel blogger based in London. She’s on a mission to explore the world through responsible cultural and adventure travel, and through deeper, more meaningful local experiences. She’s a lover of adventure, the outdoors and everything food related, and she’s always looking for ways to make a positive impact through sustainable travel.