Fort Cochin and Malabar House (Gourmet Chick in India)

Kerala feels like a different country to the rest of India.  It is India lite and I think that is why I liked it so much.  Kerala is all together more casual than the Northern states with tuk tuk drivers leaning against street corners dressed in sarongs and spice sellers squatting passively on their haunches with infinite patience.  It is a place where huge rain trees shelter the old colonial buildings of Fort Cochin from the afternoon humidity and ancient Chinese fishing nets haul in the days catch.  The food is also subtler and less punchy than India’s north but no less complex or delicious.  It draws on the local abundance of coconut, tropical fruits and seafood from what Keralan’s proudly describe as “God’s own country”.
Cherai beach – just outside Fort Cochin

Dal Roti
Our favourite lunch spot in Fort Cochin was Dal Roti an austere white washed building with quite possibly one of the friendliest and most genial owners you have ever come across.  Dal Roti serves up the food from Ramesh’s home state of Uttar Pradesh and he is a wealth of knowledge about different Indian dishes.

Iced tea at Dal Roti

We ate at Dal Roti twice and could not go past the koti wraps (Rs80), Ramesh’s take on street food.  Flaky, light parantha bread was wrapped around vibrantly spiced vegetables and tandoori charred chicken to make a meal that was simple as pie but delicious as hell.  The peach iced green tea (Rs50) was also so refreshing it was addictive.  The only downside was that Dal Roti does not have a liquor licence so was not such a good dinner option if you felt like a drink.

Koti wrap at Dal Roti

Details: Dal Roti, 1/293 Lilly Street, Fort Cochin, Kerala, India.
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve.

The kitchen at Shala is staffed by local housewives and they serve up fresh, organic Keralan food like prawns in a spicy curry sauce.  Curry of seer fish in a coconut sauce lacked some of the rich, creamy flavour of the coconut milk but the spices packed a subtle punch.  The cafe is painted in bright, colours and has a slick modern feel.  Once again there is no alcohol allowed and on this basis I think Dal Roti is a better bet for a cheap and cheerful meal.

Seer fish in a coconut sauce at Shala

Details: Shala, Peter Celli Street, Fort Cochin, Kerala, India.
Damage: Reasonable

Malabar Junction
Dinner at Malabar House’s high end restaurant was served outdoors in the courtyard by candle light to the sounds of Indian musicians resplendent in traditional dress and wielding sitars (which always reminds me of Moulin Rouge for some reason).  The menu features refined Indian cooking and happily straddles the East/West divide with dishes like fish fingers fried in a light beer batter and served with a spicy mango chutney (Rs250).

Chocolate brownies at Malabar Junction

Seafood is a specialty at Malabar Junction and tiger prawns (Rs600) curled into fat, juicy spirals were given a burst of sweetness with an accompaniment of fresh mango and then doused in rich coconut sauce.  This was accomplished cooking.  However caramelized squid and prawn risotto (Rs440) had a muddied flavour despite containing generous quantities of fresh-off-the-boat seafood.  It was worth leaving room for the dessert menu at Malabar Junction as dessert of a nut flecked chocolate brownie (Rs180) slathered in white chocolate sauce had an extraordinarily seductive texture and grown up taste.

Details: Malabar Junction, Malabar House, 1/268 – 1/269 Parade Road, Fort Cochin, Kerala, India 682001(Ph +91 484 2216666).
Damage:  Pricey.

Malabar House
Elegant and stylish Malabar house is the place to stay in Fort Cochin so I could not say no to an invitation to visit it.  The owner, Joerg Dreschsel, has converted an 18th century Dutch colonial residence with exquisite taste and verve.  Antique furniture sits alongside bright splashes of colour and creature comforts like televisions, wifi and bar fridges with tea and coffee making facilities.

Pool and courtyard area at Malabar House

Our room was so effortlessly cool that it was all I could do not to barricade myself inside and refuse to ever leave.  It contained hands down the  most comfortable bed I slept in while I was in India, with mountains of fluffy pillows and soft linen.  The hotel itself was small and intimate with a central courtyard framed by frangipani trees and anchored by a plunge pool.  The pool was more of a focal point than a sun bathing area as it was shaded for most of the day and overlooked by reception.

Our room at Malabar House

Accomodation at Malabar House is on a bed and breakfast basis and breakfast included a buffet of fresh juices, pastries, fruits and yoghurts.  There was then a choice of Western fare of poached eggs or omlettes alongside the far more interesting Indian breakfasts.  A papery thin dosa was served with a spicy masala of potatoes and vegetables or, fusion style, teamed with excellent bacon and a gooey fried egg.

Video review of my room at Malabar House

Details: Malabar House, 1/268 – 1/269 Parade Road, Fort Cochin, Kerala, India 682001(Ph +91 484 2216666).
Damage:  Pricey.  A deluxe room is €230 a night.

Gourmet Chick was a guest of Malabar House.

Fishmongers by the Chinese Fishing nets in Fort Cochin

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. 
  • In the fort Mattancherry Palace and the Pardesi Synagogue are both good to visit and we liked walking around the antique stores and watching the Chinese fishing nets in operation.  You can buy fish fresh there from the fishmongers and have them cook it for you as well.  


  1. roti roll looks amazing. might need to head down to roti roll in soho (closest thing to it)!

    had a south indian fish coconut curry in norbury yesterday, agree that coconut was lacking for my taste too.

    have fuuun x

  2. What a lovely place to stay and the food looks just divine. I love a nice buttery roti and curries, especially seafood ones! I wish somewhere here did roti wraps!

  3. Slutty Cutlery – It was a great roti roll – I hope the Soho version delivers!

    Lorraine – I think they would go really well in Oz as a lunch option.

  4. It looks wonderful – Fort Cochin looks a wonderful place to relax

  5. Thank you so much for your kind review on dal roti. The Kati roll is in fact a farmer’s lunch in Uttar Pradesh.

  6. Heather – It was a nice change of pace from the rest of India

    Dal Roti- Glad you liked the review and thanks for letting me know about the origin of the kati roll.

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