Kochi is the gateway to Kerala, fondly known as God’s Own Country. When it comes to luxury hotels, choices in the city are limited to only two or three hotels. Taj, Marriott & Le Meridian are the only hotels that come to one’s mind. The Grand Hyatt Kochi, on the Bolgatty island, however, is the newest one, and shakes up that status quo.
Later this week, Kochi will receive a new luxury resort after years, under the aegis of Hyatt who are opening their first property in Kerala. And while they are at it, they are also making it the biggest hotel in Cochin.
The Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty takes over almost the entire Bolgatty Island, leaving room only for the Bolgatty Palace, who are their neighbours. Bolgatty Palace is one of the oldest existing Dutch palaces built outside Holland. You can walk down from the hotel’s back gate to this beautiful quaint mansion that was built by the Dutch traders in 1744.
The Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty boasts of one of the largest convention centres in south-east Asia, one that can accommodate 10,000 people at a time. If you don’t want to drive to the hotel, you could choose to land straight on the island. The hotel has three helipads.
However, should you choose to fly into Kochi and drive to the hotel, the 40 minutes drive is beautiful alongside the back waters. Grand Hyatt Kochi appears just like any other big hotel as you pull into the driveway. However, you’ll change your mind the minute you walk into the lobby and take in the views.
One side of the hotel opens out to the waterfront and the other side offers city views. Just that the city view is nothing like what we’d expect living in crowded, concrete cities. The city side has incredible green views of swaying coconut trees and backwaters in the background.
The feeling of space is just not outside the hotel, but the lobby, décorated in hues of gold and beige, the high ceilings and the common spaces, all add a welcome touch to the property.
The Grand Hyatt, at 264 rooms, is the largest hotel in Kerala. There are three categories of generously-sized rooms along with many suites on offer. The hotel had the foresight to build villas, tucked away from the main hotel building, which is perfect for long-staying families.
Standard/ View Rooms
The standard rooms, at 41 sq.m., come with complimentary lush green views of the city. No plug-in keycards here for the room to come on, just tap on the door and enter your room. The rooms are equipped with motion sensors, so the power comes up as soon as you open the door, and curtains unveil the view as soon as you walk in.
Catch up on work while digging into some room service Malabar Biryani on the community table that doubles up as a work desk. Or if you are on a weekend detox you can watch your favourite flick on the swanky 49 inches TV. Alternatively, just watch at the world go by sitting on the couch by the window.
Rightly named, the windows of the View rooms open out to the infinite views of the lake.
You can expect more from the bathroom which is sophisticated. Just bubble up the tub and soak in for some ME time.
Grand Club Rooms
To suit the needs of the business traveller, there are Grand Club rooms which allow access to the Grand Club. Here you could grab a quick breakfast or enjoy drinks and canapes in the evenings after a long day at work. Staying in these rooms gets you airport transfers, so no need to worry about how to get to the airport from the hotel.
The hotel has lots of suites too, 38 to be precise. There are 4 kinds, starting from the Grand Suite going all the way to the Presidential Suite.
Grand Suite & Grand Terrace Suite
The Grand Suites are double the size of usual rooms and come with a separate living room and a bedroom. You get lovely views of the waterfront. We stayed in the Terrace Suite, which had a private terrace opening out on the waterfront. It’s perfect to enjoy the sunsets, cigar and scotch in hand.
Our living room had a sofa and a community table as well. The minimalist bedrooms have a soft bed, where you can wake up to the water views every morning from floor-to-ceiling windows.
Grand Executive Suite
At double the price of a regular suite, there is three times more space available in the Executive Suite. There is a large living room with a separate dining area and a fully equipped kitchenette. If you get the time and want to cook something, then there is an induction plate as well.
There is a beautiful bedroom but given the views from the balcony, you’ll probably only head to the bedroom to sleep. The suites, all of them, come with access to the Grand Club.
Heck, even the bathroom comes with a view here, just in case you like to read a book in the tub.
Oh! And then there is the very luxurious Presidential Suite, one of the most awesome hotel suites I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen quite a few. Inspired by the hues of the Middle-East, it is done up in beige and gold and can fit in two Mumbai apartments and a private office too.
Not to forget the bathroom or the bathhouse which has all the trappings of luxury. As big as my bedroom, actually.
For those who want a home, away from home, there are the duplex villas. As mentioned earlier, the hotel has 3 two-bedroom villas and 1 three-bedroom villa, perfect if you’re over with a big family or a group of friends in tow. You can walk into a private plunge pool to keep your cool, or to the main fish-eye pool which is not very far away. The Villas are built next to the main hotel building and come with a private plunge pool. Each Villa has a kitchen, dining area, a plush living room and a lounge cum office.
Recently, while planning a trip to Bali with friends with kids, we crossed out so many nice hotels since we couldn’t figure out where to accommodate the nanny. Here is some smart thinking, if your house help is travelling along then there’s a separate room and wash area for the help.
The coffee shop on the lobby level has a terrace overlooking the waterfront, which is the perfect place to sip coffee and watch the sunset.
If you want to grab a drink while chilling out in the pool, they will bring you a martini in no time from the pool bar.
Then, there is the Grand Club on the fifth floor, which is open to eligible guests. Apart from these, the hotel runs three other restaurants.
The 24-hour diner that, true to its name, specializes in Malabar cuisine and serves lip-smacking food. Chefs here don’t shy away from using local spices and herbs and the food is an honest affair.
We gorged on The Local Market Thali for lunch, which is traditional Kerala food served in the steel plates.
If you are a non-vegetarian it comes with along with fish and chicken curry. You won’t regret eating here but beware of the mandatory siesta that follows after the lunch.
The full breakfast is also served here every morning. While the spread is expansive, there are a few dishes that stood out. We tried the regular appams and the egg appams, both of which are a must try. If you don’t know how to eat them, they will also teach you how.
The chefs in this kitchen are all health-conscious, so they make pancakes and waffles with ragi and millet flour instead of refined flour. I was a bit sceptic to order it, but once my waffles arrived I polished them off in flat two minutes.
Another place in the hotel that offers great views. Weather permitting, enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the patio.
Colony Club House & Grill
The terrace restaurant, Colony is inspired by the colonial history of the city. After all, Kochi was the entry point for the Europeans and the Arabs in India, and the birth of the colonization of India. So here the food has significant Dutch, Portuguese, English and Arab influences.
Top it up with high-end kitchen equipment which doesn’t shy away from using old school techniques to give you flavour like you should have it.
The menu is expansive, and almost everything served is local and sustainably sourced. The restaurant does eight types of mezze including one with jackfruit seed. What I really liked about here was that there is a variety of dishes to suit the vegetarian palate as well.
The Tellicherry Peppercorn Soup is a smart take on the French Onion Soup. The kick of the pepper, with caramelized onion & a garlic bread with melted cheese dunked inside. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the soup will melt in your mouth and give you a nice hit of spice.
The next evening we tried the Beef Tenderloin for dinner, along with grilled corn in the husk, or an option of mash potatoes. If you are a meat lover, this should feature on your list for two reasons, one, the steak was cooked medium, just as requested. Two, the sauce that comes along is not like anything I’ve eaten before. It was made with bone broth and local spices, a real burst of flavour in the mouth.
Thai Soul is the GH Kochi’s take on Bangkok street food. The hotel has recruited Thai chefs who cook up a storm in this open kitchen, with chilli that hits you hard.
Just watch the chef toss the Hakka noodles in the open kitchen and you’ll be hungry for more. True to the Thai spirit the red chilli here is spicy. They serve some nice mocktails and hearty food that you can’t really fault. You’ll definitely need some dessert to close your meal.
I’ve been to Kochi many times before and with every trip the charm of Fort Kochi and the spice market fades away. The area hasn’t changed and there is really nothing new. This time, the hotel concierge offered to show us a different side of the city and we went with the flow. We spent an evening, doing a village tour on the tiny island of Kumbalangi, and learnt 10 uses of the coconut tree including how toddy is made.
The village is surrounded by backwaters and Chinese Fishing nets cover the island. You can see prawn and crab farming in the mangroves, even hold them if you wish. The tour ends with a beautiful boat ride on the backwaters.
The second day, we indulged in a little bit of history and took a tuk-tuk ride across the city. We visited the Kerala Folklore Museum, which is an individual’s private collection of artefacts dating back to the 14th century. The three floors of the museum have three distinct South-Indian roof styles and you can see almost 5000 years old rare objects.
We then headed to Fort Kochi, only that this time experience was very different. We explored the area with a writer, who is the force behind the Kochi Biennale, the internationally famous art exhibition.
The hotel has curated a number of activities to suit everyone’s needs. For the nature lovers, there’s the village tour, for the adventure lovers you can do kayaking on the backwaters, if it’s too hot to go outside you can learn how to make Pookalam (floral rangoli) from in-house specialists. There isn’t a minute you’ll get bored here.
It’s almost like living on a private island here, although not the kinds where Tom Hanks has marooned on in Cast Away.
There is tons of stuff to do indoors and on the island. Two beautiful pools to cool off, one inside and one outside. The Cabanas are going to be hot property, so grab one early morning if you’d like.
A fitness centre and a large yoga studio to calm the body and the mind.
A nice play area to keep the kids occupied through the day and give the parents some couple time. Rent a bike to cycle around the island.
What is Kerala without Ayurveda? The hotel has a beautiful spa where they offer international and traditional Ayurvedic treatments.
And if you don’t want to do anything like me just head up to the terrace and watch the other side through the telescope or plonk yourself on the terrace couch and watch the sun go down in the horizon.
With all the little luxuries that this resort offers an average night in a standard room is priced at INR 8,000/ USD 120. The hotel is running an opening offer where for INR 8,444 / USD 127 members get 3,000 bonus World of Hyatt points. That means even as a base member if you stay 3 nights in a standard room you can easily earn a free night. Plus, if you are a Globalist, you can hope to get a suite as well.
Another opening offer at INR 8,888 includes complimentary breakfast, massage, free use of play area for the kids which otherwise will cost INR 750 per day and a local cultural experience.
At the cost of repeating myself, I’ll say it again. This is a beautiful resort, perfect for a weekend getaway with the family or just enjoy some me time. Kochi is connected to all major cities in India and Kerala is beautiful in the rains and the island has lots of open space and stunning views of the water. If you have Goa on your mind during the monsoon season, you should consider enjoying the rains in Kerala this year. I’m already trying to find a spot on my calendar to go back. Here are my 5 Reasons to do so.
Oh! And I still can’t get over the island and the water views.
All pictures by Ajay Awtaney. Do not reproduce.