Lakeshore luxury

Lakeshore luxury
The inviting entrance to The Zuri Kumarakom, all lit up,
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The Zuri Resort and Spa at Kumarakom is a haven of luxury and mouth-watering cuisine

Hari Menon
March 18 , 2014
06 Min Read

What is it about having a lovely meal next to water that adds so much to the experience? Perhaps it’s just a happy trick of the light, though I’m thinking it has to be some additional alchemy that makes the dining so much nicer. The food doesn’t hurt certainly; Chef Chandra has been spoiling me with masala fried prawns, chicken in black pepper, Kerala-style beef, mutton and fish, and I’m already wondering how to work all these delights off my waistline. I’m at The Zuri Resort and Spa at Kumarakom, on the shores of Lake Vembanad, the most well-known of Kerala’s backwaters, and my hosts assure me as they fill my plate yet again that there will be many ways I can eat this well and stay healthy.

I smack down my inner cynic and listen to what they have to say. I’m warned with a smile that dinner will be even better than lunch, so I have even more motivation to explore both the ‘resort’ and ‘spa’ terms. And indeed the gym is a delight. I get to spend a fabulous 40 minutes in the gym. I’m still recovering from an ankle injury I picked up in my last race, so I can’t let it rip. But who cares when there’s a gym with a view like this, arguably the second-best view the resort has on offer? (The best isn’t as grand, but it’s lovely and intimate: the view from the pool in a lakeshore villa.) 

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It’s just the right time of the evening, and as I work off my lunch, there’s the majesty of a sunset over Lake Vembanad, with the hotel’s gateway-like structure limned in evening’s pale gold. It’s just stunning, and after I’ve wound down a bit and had a quick shower, it works as just the ideal mood setter for the massage that comes next. Kerala has a long and now world-famous tradition of Ayurvedic massage, and as with any such tradition, virtually every resort offers it, quacks abound and the much-touted benefits seem iffy. I’m no expert on such treatments, but I’ve seen enough to recognise the real deal. In fact the spa’s Ayurvedic rejuvenation massage is so relaxing that I sign up for another treatment the following day, just to see what their spa offers in the non-Ayurvedic space. For research purposes only, I keep telling myself.

So in that spirit I conduct more research that evening into a wonderful non-vegetarian interpretation of the traditional Kerala sadhya, or grand festive meal, knowing that my indulgences and sins are to be kneaded out of my limbs in the not-too-distant future. There is a demonstration of Kalaripayattu, Kerala’s ancient martial art, a precursor to most Asian martial art traditions. The sight of whipcord bodies glistening by the firelight, evading flashing steel and whirring clubs with warp speed is gorgeous enough to make me reconsider the second helpings of mutton ularthiyathu (mutton in a tomato-based curry) and pavakkamezhukkupuratti (a wonderful dry bitter gourd dish)I had been contemplating. But only briefly, though; all that fitness is fine to look at, but great food must never be ignored.

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And in any case there is the gym and the spa for the next day. I’m feeling virtuous the following morning after a light workout and a fruit breakfast. The Cloud 9 massage that follows is as good as the branding might suggest. Mine isn’t an isolated opinion. The spa at The Zuri Kumarakom has twice ranked No. 1 among Indian resort spas, in 2007 and in 2008, in audited ratings by the Asia Spa Awards, an industry body. All this cosseting does come at a price, so it’s worth asking: is it expensive? Well, yes, but it’s worth taking a hard look at what you’re getting for your money. For the market it aims to serve, The Zuri Resort and Spa does a great job. While they’re on holiday, lots of my successful corporate friends like their exotica in bite-sized doses, with lots of pampering in between; I’d have no hesitation in recommending The Zuri to them.

My backpacker pals would perhaps find little here, and The Zuri’s certainly not for those who wouldn’t quite appreciate the sense of secluded luxury the hotel offers its guests. And that secluded luxury is important. Kerala, like many of the world’s beautiful places, is still finding the balance between local conservatism and the need to welcome guests. So while it doesn’t have as many grim stories as the more overtly aggressive North, the state still isn’t the greatest place for female travellers. That’s where the advantage of going either boutique or luxury in your choices is actually a much bigger deal than it is in, say Goa or the North — because in Kerala the only fail-safe way for a traveller, especially a woman, to get ‘me’ time is to go upmarket. So here, the step up from mid-range to upmarket in the quality of the guest experience is huge, and any upmarket resort that gets its service and pricing right is offering a quite tempting package of comfort and insulation from the more trying bits of the Indian holiday experience. You could spend lazy days at The Zuri; watch Kathakali and Kalaripayattu, eat your fill of appams and prawn curry, chat in leisurely fashion with lots of locals, and still be essentially insulated from the fact that you’re living in one of the most crowded places on earth. Whether you’re a one-off boutique or a brand spread over various international properties, this isn’t easy to pull off consistently well, but so far The Zuri Kumarakom definitely gets our vote.

The information
Where: Eastern shore of Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom (65km from Kochi)
Accommodation: 18 rooms, 16 deluxe rooms, 28 cottages, 10 pool villas
Tariff: Rs 17,000 (rooms),Rs 18,500 (deluxe rooms),Rs 23,000 (cottages),Rs 75,000(villas)
Contact: 0481-2527272,www.thezurihotels.com


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