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Celebrating Fort Kochi's Past With Spice Harbour

A stylish design hotel emerges from what was an old sea captains' quarters. Brian Spencer reports on a small celebration of Kerala's past and its future. Photo courtesy of Spice Harbour.

Published on Apr 22, 2015


Among the crumbling colonial-era buildings along Bazaar Road, a two-kilometer spectacle of old-world architecture and the heart of the two-millennia-old spice trade in Fort Kochi, Crist Inman saw potential in a derelict warehouse. The place—along with an adjacent, ramshackle hotel, formerly a crash pad for ship captains—had been abandoned for decades. Inman took it upon himself to restore these neglected spaces. The result is Spice Harbour, a sleek, 16-room boutique on the waterfront.

Spice Harbour
A Harbour suite's private terrace.

"We wanted the buildings to respect the history of the exact location, while also reflecting India as an innovative culture," he says. "Getting the look we wanted from the architect was easy, but executing it was difficult due to the age of the original structures."

True to this vision, engineers retained the building's bones while giving these old captains' quarters a much-needed facelift. Rooms feature a clean design, with splashes of vibrant colors against earth-toned walls. Most include either a terrace or walkout balcony, many overlooking Cochin Harbour. "Many locals tell us we have the best views in Fort Kochi," says Inman.

Spice Harbour
Harbour Suite at Spice Harbour.

The old warehouse, became restaurant 51, where staff serve a fusion of Malabar and Mediterranean cuisine in a two-story dining room replete with birdcages hung from the vaulted ceiling. Here, seasonal specialties include Malabar seafood stew, pan-seared pullet rubbed in local spices, and chilled avgolemono (egglemon) soup, the recipe for which came from Inman's mother's village in Greece.

"We ignore recent colonial influences and tend toward those of traders bringing tastes and traditions from the Mediterranean to Persia," says Inman. "While menus change, our focus remains the same—local ingredients that capture the soul of the particular place." V-40 Bazaar Rd., Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala; +91 484 222 3119;

Spice Harbour
Chilling out in 51's laid-back lounge.


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