Both rich and colourful, Kerala cuisine is flavoured with the spices from its fertile land. Layers of turmeric, pepper, cardamom and ginger are paired with Kerala’s abundance of fish. Kochi’s role in Kerala’s production of spice has always been significant, which together with its now burgeoning foodie culture, has transformed the famous port city into a modern culinary attraction. We explore the top ten places to dine in Kochi.
If you wish to overlook the Arabian sea, inhale the fresh salty breeze and eat the freshest fish, then Arca Nova Restaurant is the place for you. Situated in the family run Fort House Hotel and specialising in Kerala Latin-Christian cuisine, Arca Nova is the perfect spot in which to relax and enjoy Indian fine-dining. The food is flavourful yet not overwhelming, with the blended spices perfectly balanced to avoid an assault on the senses. Enjoy an unrivalled selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes or indulge in the Tuna Pepper, best eaten with appams – a fluffy fermented rice pancake – to taste a local Kerala delicacy that will leave you wanting more.
Whilst traditional South Indian fare is both flavourful and diverse, every now and again the call for an element of regional variety arises. Dal Roti provides the palate with a variety of Northern Indian delights. The owner, Ramesh Menon, ensures that every customer receives attention and impeccable service. The kathi rolls are a consistent favourite and not to be missed. Whilst Kerala’s food, with its wonderful of flavours, is enticing in its own right, an occasional switch to North Indian cuisine provides a stimulating change.
The Ginger House specialises in serving delicious food accompanied by a slice of history. As India’s only restaurant located within a museum, the restaurant makes the most of its evocative location. Tucked behind an antique warehouse, everything in Ginger House tells a tale from history. True to its name, the restaurant specialises in ginger-based dishes, offering everything from ginger prawns, ginger ice cream and ginger lassi to ginger milkshakes and the zingy ginger tea. The waterfront view, coupled with Kochi’s old world charm, makes Ginger House a perfect place to relax and watch the boats sail by.
Kashi Art Café is a Zen-like oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling city. The space also doubles as an art gallery and artist residency space and for this reason, artists and art enthusiasts alike flock to rest their weary feet at this one-of-a-kind venue. The café serves all-day breakfasts, thick soups and uniquely flavoured sandwiches in addition to brewed tea and coffee. To complement a cup of Indian coffee, Kashi Art Café also serves homemade cakes and pies, which are prepared daily to ensure ultimate freshness. Its signature dish, Kashi’s French toast, has attracted its fair share of devoted fans, who frequently return to begin the day with this Kochi sweet treat.
Whilst Kochi mostly attracts international attention for its outstanding seafood, the humble biryani is also worthy of note, being one of the city’s defining culinary characteristics. Although officially entitled the Rahmuthalla Hotel, Kochi locals popularly refer to the space as Kayikka’s, after the man who first discovered and honed the original biryani recipe in the same spot. Kayikka’s has cultivated a cult following, each enjoying the deliciously sumptuous richness of a dish cooked in copious amounts of pure ghee, or clarified butter. Whether it’s for the evergreen chicken and mutton biryani or the fish and prawn biryani served with date pickle, Kayikka’s loyal fan-base can always be found frequenting this popular haunt.
Whilst in Kerala, do what the locals do. If abiding by this mantra, sampling seafood is top of the list. The Vivanta is housed on a stationary ‘kettuvalam’ or rice boat and boasts the juiciest seafood in Kerala. The fresh daily catch is enhanced by the spectacular waterfront view of Fort Cochin, complementing the rustic décor aboard the boat. The signature dishes such as tiger prawns in coconut oil, white snapper in banana leaf and soft-shelled crab with tartar sauce come to life with the flavor of local spices, especially the fragrant turmeric and coconut. The restaurant also caters to the pared-down palette of the visiting Westerner, serving lobster bisque, crab au gratin and crepe suzette.
The food, service and ambience at Malabar Junction are all infused with the soul of Kerala. Located in the midst of a beautiful Portuguese courtyard, Malabar Junction is serenaded nightly by a Carnatic music band, with the scenic garden offering a calm antidote to the lively city. The staff are courteous and extremely knowledgeable about both the Junction’s food and the scope of local Kerala cuisine. The dishes are prepared using quality ingredients that have been locally sourced, a particular speciality being their delicious thali an Indian equivalent of a tasting menu ensuring visitors enjoy a selection of quintessential Kerala dishes.
The quaint Solar Café is tucked away in an ornate building, set apart from the well-worn trail of traditional tourist destinations. The interior is both well-lit and spacious and the food delicious, fresh and healthy. The balcony is a perfect spot to sit and watch the languid movements of the ferries whilst enjoying a warming cup of aromatic coffee. The Solar Café breakfast is both nutritious and wholesome and the fresh fruit juices promise to refresh and rejuvenate. Solar Café has a wide selection of books on the subject of climate change and environmental sustainability, available to browse whilst waiting for your meal. Farooq, the owner, is extremely knowledgeable about Kerala’s energy and culture, and known to help tourists explore off the beaten track.