It was evening by the time a rather exhausted traveller, flying in from Kolkata via a languid stopover in Chennai, stormed the Eighth Bastion. So he was relieved when he encountered a dim-lit reception area manned by a mild-voiced manager, interiors as quiet as the street the hotel was on (being diagonally opposite the eerie Dutch Cemetery helps), and no golf buggies to take on serpentine paths to a distant cottage. He just climbed a flight of stairs and there was his room, its spacious balcony overlooking a soothing water feature at the hotel’s entrance.
There being nothing pressing to attend to, soon after depositing my bags, I cornered a table at the restaurant. I was tired, but not so tired as to not notice the care taken in the presentation as my visual (and otherwise, happily) delight of a dinner unfurled at a leisurely pace. And, as I discovered over my next few meals, all dishes here are accompanied by a refreshing salad and a dash of the best pepper one can mill. My mutton curry that evening, for instance, was paired with a bell pepper, iceberg lettuce, yellow zucchini and pomegranate salad. The star of the show though was the trio of ‘dosa’ appetizer, featuring fillings of Indonesian beef rendang, dry spice shrimp and Kerala roast potato.
It was only after breakfast the next morning — an unfussy affair, comprising eggs, pancakes and ‘homemade’ papaya and pineapple marmalades that were absolutely delish — that I felt fortified enough to take on the Bastion properly.
Owned by Eight Capital (hence the name) and managed by the irreproachable CGH Earth group, the interiors of this 19-roomed boutique property had been conjured up by the talented and well-regarded firm of Design Combine — and that’s the reason I was here. Having met the designer duo from the firm a month ago at another resplendent project of theirs, the Vasundhara Sarovar Premiere in Vayalar, and seen how they were reinventing the resort architecture of Kerala, I was eager to see more. I had engineered this visit, therefore, to immerse myself further in Kerala Contemporary.
And I was not disappointed. The Bastion, a 1950s building, is just off Fort Kochi’s Parade Ground — where giant, old trees watch over extremely young footballers — and a doorstep away from the venerable Malabar House (which has just completed fifteen years as a hotel, incidentally, and is another Design Combine creation). The Bastion is a nice counterpoint to the sprawling Brunton Boatyard, their other Fort Kochi property, more efficient city hotel than resort.
The relative youth of the building perhaps emboldened the designers — they have adopted a nautical theme. The art on the walls features navigation charts and some lush oils of ships in the lobby area, scale models of legendary Dutch ships like the Batavia and the Friesland, Delft mosaic and tile tableaus. Even the jute-upholstered chairs sport the VOC logo (apparently, the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or the Dutch East India Company, was the world’s first MNC).
The restaurant, East Indies, stays true to the Dutch naval theme, with dishes inspired by Dutch trading routes to Indonesia, Ceylon, Surat and, of course, the Malabar coast. So satays, rendangs and local fare, all with Chef Saiju Thomas’s own twist but with an emphasis on seasonally available ingredients.
The rooms are minimal, all with ample balconies or sit-outs, the beds comfortable (who needs pillow menus?). Quirky metal doors sport wire-mesh glass of the sort common in office buildings. Terrazzo flooring is enjoying a quiet revival under Design Combine’s watchful gaze.
In Bastion’s immediate vicinity is the historic David Hall, now an exhibition and performance space restored and maintained by CGH Earth, to which is attached a charming art café. It was once the residence of Hendrik van Rheede, the industrious compiler of Hortus Malabaricus. Eighth Bastion is a welcome addition to this distinguished quarter of Kochi.
Where: Napier Street, Fort Cochin 682001. 42km from Cochin International Airport.
Accommodation: 19 deluxe rooms
Contact: 0484 221 3500, cghearth.com