|Tea plantations at Tyfords Tea Factory which you can tour from Paradisa|
I was invited to review Paradisa which is set high up in Kerala’s lush cardamon hills. The team in the kitchen is headed up by the talented and affable manager of the retreat Roy Mathews and the food is authentically Keralan drawing on the traditional recipes and produce of the local area. Breakfast at the resort started with a refreshing lime and ginger juice and then moved on to an abundant platter of fresh tropical fruits followed by either a masala (mixed) omelette or puri masala, a traditional Keralan dish of puffed bread with a stew of masala potatoes.
|Tropical fruit platter for breakfast (this was to share between two)|
For lunch, a fillet of seer fish with a thick crust of spices was teamed with thick grained, fluffy Keralan chamba rice and vegetable kotu curry roaring with garam masala.
|Seer fish fillet|
Dinners during my stay at Paradisa were epic feasts leaving me barely able to waddle down the steps to my room. To start a vegetable cutlet with mashed vegetables shaped into a patty, delicately spiced and fried. Next was a peppery pumpkin soup with added zing from flecks of ginger and garlic. Then our plates were heaped with a pungent fish curry made from meaty, firm seer fish alongside aromatic and moist okra and a dish called thoren which was made from snake gourd mixed with coconut. This was accompanied by the lightest most ethereal paratha bread and a sweet banana chutney. Dessert was simple but delicious grilled pineapple dusted with palm sugar and cinnamon.
|Pomegranate, Orange and cucumber salad|
Meals were served in an open air pavilion with panoramic views of the plantation and surrounding hills. The only negative to the dining experience at Paradisa was the limited nature of the drinks on offer which are confined to beer and quaffable Sula wine.
The job of Paradisa’s chefs is made much easier by the retreat’s setting in a verdant 23 acre working organic coffee and spice plantation. It brought home the concept of paddock to plate to wander around the plantation and see the spices growing and then taste them in dinner that night.
|The swimming pool – check out the quirky shape|
Paradisa was the dream of the owner, Keralan local Simon Paulose. He set about building a personal getaway for himself in the hills which turned into the intimate resort that exists today. “The eccentricity of youth”, explained Simon. Simon is passionate about Keralan culture and the property contains 12 traditional wooden Keralan houses (ours dated back 168 years) which have been loving restored. Paradisa has Simon’s personal stamp all over it with 1,000 year old stone columns he has carefully preserved leading the way to the dining pavilion and a swimming pool which is quirkily designed in the shape of his wife’s foot.
|Inside our traditional Kelaran house at Paradisa|
The retreat is understated rather than ultra luxurious so the power goes off occasionally and there is no room service. It does not have the polish of some other resorts and there is also no television, telephone or internet but this all adds to the feeling of getting away from it all. Simon has succeeded in creating an intimate and unique retreat for food lovers where I felt I discovered the real Kerala.
Details: Paradisa Plantation Retreat, Kottayum-Kumily Road, Near Thekkady, Kerala, India (Ph +91 469 2701311)
Damage: Pricey. Rs12,500 ($247/£155) for bed and breakfast and an additional Rs1,050 for meals.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Paradisa Plantation Retreat.
Gourmet Travel Tips
- Kingfisher flies from London to Delhi for £500 return. A flight with Indigo from Delhi to Cochin costs Rs6,000 and takes just under three hours.
- Paradisa can organise transfers from Cochin to the retreat for Rs2,700 one way however it is best to hire a car and driver for your whole time at Paradisa as it is quite isolated.
- We spent our time exploring the plantation’s grounds on walks, having a cooking class with Roy, visiting the nearby Tyford tea factory and just relaxing by the foot shaped pool.