Fort Kochi's hotel Malabar Escapes: Trinity might be housed in a 150-year-old building – the former headquarters of the Dutch East India Company, as it turns out – but the interiors would do well in any fashion capital. Art-deco accents and quirky artwork on the walls give this serene sanctuary a South Beach-in-South India vibe.
Double rooms from $89.79 (€81), excluding tax at 29 per cent.
Rates usually include Continental or South Indian breakfast.
You can borrow mountain bikes for exploring Fort Kochi and its surroundings, and the hotel has a six-seat speedboat that can zip you to one its sister properties around the lake. Daily yoga classes are held each morning at 7.30am, or you can arrange private yoga sessions (both at an additional cost).
At the hotel
Bicycles to borrow from Malabar House, money exchange services, umbrellas, tailoring and laundry services and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, DVD player, safe, home-made toiletries, air-conditioning, mosquito repellent, minibar and coffee-making facilities.
Our favourite rooms
The Roof Garden Suite elicits the biggest gasps thanks to its extra mezzanine bed and sprawling yard-cum-shower. Its walls are lined with lithographs by ‘India’s Picasso’ M.F Husain. Each room is decorated with Indian art and has an open-air bathroom (complete with wooden Japanese sandals to make the hard stones of the floor easier on the sole).
There's no pool at Malabar Escapes: Trinity, but guests are welcome to use the pool at Malabar House.
There's no spa at the hotel itself, but guests are welcome to enjoy Ayurvedic spa treatments at Purespa in nearby sister property, Malabar House.
Something to keep the mosquitoes at bay; whether that’s insect repellent or chain mail is up to you.
The ground-floor suite is accessible for guests with limited mobility.
Under-5s stay free, and extra beds are available for older children (€30 a night). Babysitting can be arranged, with notice.
Trinity makes use of hydroelectric power, recycles where possible, and cleans with organic detergents.
Dine on the terrace, or if visiting Malabar House, get a table by the live musicians or the little pool.
In India, it’s usual pretty casual all the way, but here’s the place to zhuzh up and show off your chic.
Enjoy an Indian or Continental breakfast in the courtyard or out on terrace, and for lunch and dinner, head to the casual deli and restaurant, Passage Malabar, where you can fill up on hearty Indian dishes, like chicken tiffin and vegetarian biryani, and international fare like mediterranean charcuterie platters and Greek moussaka. For a more formal meal, fine dining restaurant Malabar Junction at Malabar House, Trinity’s mother ship, is around the corner for delicious Keralan- and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine.
Malabar House's Divine bar is your best port of call, 200 metres away. Part wine lounge, part tapas bar, this art-filled space pours out wines by the glass (including local Indian wines), chilled beers and non-alcoholic drinks.
Although very relaxed about meal times, Passage Malabar is open from 9am to 9pm.
‘It’s raining frangipani,’ said Mrs Smith as a gentle breeze loosened the bright pink petals from the branches above and sent them helicoptering down around us as we sat eating dinner in the courtyard of Malabar House. As the falling flowers filled the warm air with their sweet smell and the local musicians sang their soothing songs, I sipped on my Chenin Blanc and found myself drifting into a state of Zen-like calm.
Such reveries are typical of Kerala – a part of the world that has not unreasonably branded itself as God’s Own Country. Also typical of Kerala is synapse-frazzling taxi journeys (if it is God’s Own Country, the divine one is evidently contemptuous of the Highway Code), and those of nervous dispositions would be well advised to opt for one the state’s charismatic trains, which offer sublime views and generous discounts to both amateur artists and those on their way to job interviews.
When we arrived that morning we weren’t yet wise to the railways, and so it was only when I assured her that we’d stopped that Mrs Smith agreed to open her eyes. When she did, she opened them to discover a charming square and Trinity, the spacious annex of suites just a short walk around the square from its larger sister establishment, Malabar House.
The boutique hotels in the Malabar group are all aptly named: Privacy is a lovely secluded spot, and Serenity is as tranquil a place as I’ve ever visited. At the time of writing Trinity maintains this handsome record, boasting as it does just three suites: yellow, blue and red. A name change may well be in order soon, however, as work is afoot to expand the site and Trinity’s own pool – currently shut – will reopen once this work is done.
We were lucky enough to be in the red suite, a lovely room with a giant bed complete with mezzanine level for those Smiths crazy enough to take their children away with them. On the walls were hung paintings by the kind of artist David Shrigley might have been had he born in, say, Bangalore not Macclesfield. Beyond the welcoming cool of the air-conditioned bedroom, our outside space included a small terrace with elegant local furniture and an amazing al fresco bathroom complete with a shower that emptied into a magnificent bronze pot.
After we’d freshened up, we took a stroll through Fort Cochin with its engaging mishmash of Portuguese, English and Dutch influences – including Asia’s oldest church – stopping for a simple vegetarian lunch at the Fort House before ambling past the Chinese nets which rear up out of the water like Louise Bourgeois installations.
Upon our return, the school bell had sounded and the rust-coloured square was packed with boys playing cricket and football. Slightly intimidated by the pace at which the local boys were bowling, I decided football was a better option and was eagerly welcomed to join a game. Despite pretty much doubling the average age of my side and being the only one wearing shoes, I was hopelessly outclassed. And 15 minutes of shadow-chasing later – sweat-drenched and dust-coated – I was ready for the Ayurvedic treatments we had booked that morning.
Malabar House’s treatment room is a traditional space – all dark wood and dim lighting – the perfect place to recover after running around in the noonday sun. Ten minutes later, I was lying down on a raised bed covered in oil while two masseurs worked at my tired limbs. As the men worked, they talked quietly in Malay. Obviously I had no idea what they were saying. It might have been something like: ‘What a privilege it is to be kneading the knots from such an Adonis, he really is a paradigm, somehow, of the form.’
Sadly, though, I think it is far likelier it was along the lines of: ‘What an interesting body. He manages to be both fat and thin at the same time. And his skin is milkily translucent, a bit like an uncooked squid.’
After the massage I was treated to an invigorating head rub, which set me up perfectly for dinner in the courtyard under the frangipani trees. We started with a plate of seer fish fingers with a creamy, spicy mango sauce that I could quite honestly eat every night for the rest of my life without getting bored. For the mains my fish curry was good and Mrs Smith’s two cricket ball-sized hunks of perfectly cooked tuna were truly great.
As we rounded off the meal with coffees and sharply sweet ginger ice cream, a family of Kathakali dancers took to the stage. Ordinarily, I’m sceptical at best when it comes to this kind of hotel entertainment but this was a world away from Freddie Starr at Butlins. Dancing to a drum and a single stringed instrument, the beautifully dressed performers played out simple narratives to a rapt audience. Mrs Smith – a former member of the Royal Ballet – is not easily impressed by such things, but she couldn’t stop marvelling at the grace and control of the girls on stage.
The next morning, we took breakfast in the shared space at Trinity. We lingered over our fresh fruit, omelettes and coffee served in silver pots (that I had to physically stop Mrs Smith from stealing) to stretch out our stay a little further. If the group is to maintain its precise nomenclature, Trinity may soon be called something else. For now, though, it represents a perfectly triangulation of colour, luxury and romance; and what more, really, can you ask?
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