Entering the lobby of the Brunton Boatyard, off the traffic-filled streets of Cochin, is stepping into another world.
During a recent site inspection of the hotel, a sturdy wood reception desk caught my eye first, a commanding presence in a space designed to evoke the essence of the site's history.
Dating to the late 1800s, the Brunton Boatyard was home to the prestigious shipbuilding company George Brunton & Sons. Today the five-star hotel, owned by CGH Earth (formerly Casino Group of Hotels), is both one of the city's finest properties and an exhibition of its South Indian roots.
Thanks to its location on the southwest coast of India, Cochin drew the interest of foreign powers as a trading hub and gateway to the country. The space reflects this diversity. The architecture — a fusion of English, Dutch and Portuguese — is reminiscent of the city's colonial past, and the warm hues of the brick, wood and terracotta used throughout the property echo the 19th century Malabar regional flair.
It is museum-quiet, fittingly. Portraits of Cochin's founders hang on the walls of the oblong lobby. The centerpiece of the open green courtyard is a giant anchor, an homage to the location as a cornerstone of Cochin's past.
The general manager guided me on the open-air path along the quad's perimeter. He pointed out artifacts small and large, such as a dark, human-size ceramic vase that was once used to crush grapes by foot.
As we stood near the pool overlooking the water just after sunset, he gestured toward a boat on the dock, where an hour-long sunset cruise circles the harbor each evening. The cruise is one of many amenities at the hotel, including yoga classes, cooking demonstrations and the use of bicycles.
The 22 rooms are all sea-facing. The nautical mix of wood with hues of blue and white as well as original sketches of the site creates a seamless fusion with the property's ethos.
Beyond its attention to historical detail, the hotel is an ecological model.
"We emphasize wasting as little as possible," my guide said, walking me over to the drinking-water processing plant where I glanced inside a tiny window to admire the machinery. "We use reverse osmosis and glass bottles to eliminate plastic," said the guide.
The menus of the on-site restaurants reflect the blend of past and present, "a melting pot of cultures," the hotel's brochure states. Their offerings integrate historical influences: Portuguese red chili, Syrian Christian pork dishes, Jewish coriander and Dutch pudding, according to their website.
For starting rates and more information, visit www.cghearth.com/brunton-boatyard.