Welcome to our 5th Fine Dining For Less feature where we bring you gastronomic experiences without astronomic prices.
This month opens the doors to Malabar House, a 17 room heritage hotel in the heart of Fort Kochi. Previously owned by spice traders, tea traders and bankers, Malabar House became Fort Kochi's first boutique retreat in 1996.
Malabar House is far from a regular hotel. Behind the private walls, this highly designed heritage sanctuary, is an exceptional art gallery of meticulously chosen pieces, highlighting Kerala's diverse culture and connecting East and West.
A member of the Relais & Châteaux exclusive collection of hotels and restaurants, German designer Joerg Drechsel and his Spanish wife, Txuku Iriarte Solana, have created an escape complete with acclaimed restaurant Malabar Junction and Divine Wine Lounge.
Malabar Junction @ Malabar House: A Degustation of Fusion Surprises!
Malabar Junction holds top position in the Cochin Time Out Food Awards. Using the best of local produce and organic where possible, the creative East meets West menus are a foodie's delight.
"Blending Wine and Flavours" Degustation Menu is a 5-course wine pairing experience with tapas. A flawlessly constructed development of symbiotic flavours, wine to food and food to wine. Dietary requirements and preferences are discussed, an assortment of bread (dinner rolls, pappad, and small croquettes) arrive and it begins.
Paneer Reshmi Tikka with Mughlai Parotta & Makhani Sauce paired with Grover Viognier Art Collection.
Paneer Reshmi Tikka is a skewer of dense Indian cottage cheese marinated and grilled. Parotta, similar to naan, is cooked in the traditional Mughlai method. Makhani sauce is a butter-based tomato cream sauce seasoned with ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, and chilli and should be eaten with a spoon, it's so good. The Grover Viognier's intense tropical fruit aroma complements the rich sauce while not overpowering the subtlety of the paneer.
Grilled Squid seasoned in Rock Salt & Green Pepper with Chilli Jam & Scallions paired with Fratelli Chenin Blanc.
Tender squid fillets are scored to achieve their signature curl creating crevices for the chilli jam to stick. The jam, sweet with a spicy finish, could easily be devoured with that spoon mentioned earlier. The Fratelli Chenin Blanc's floral acidity takes the jam's sweetness back a notch and pairs well with the squid's flavour of the sea.
Sorbet of the Day paired with Grover Sauvignon Blanc.
Today's sorbet - blueberry, and I'll admit to a slight concern with its Sauvignon Blanc pairing. Expecting the familiar peach and grass, this Indian Sauvignon Blanc from the Nandi Hills of Karnataka is herbal with a hint of pepper while maintaining a crisp dry finish. Delicious!
Cheese & Onion Jam filled Tortellini tossed in Green Spinach, Cherry Tomato, Bajji Chilli & Parmesan Crisps paired with Chateaux de Banyan Zinfandel Rosa Rosé.
On presentation, we could have been in Italy until the flavour profile left one foot there and the other in India. Onion jam and spiced chilli complemented parmesan, tomato and spinach. The rosé paired well, though slightly sweet for me, I managed to power through.
Duck Confit Wraps with Shredded Greens & Sesame paired with Sula Cabernet Shiraz.
Again, vision belies taste. Visually, Chinese but fundamentally Indian, it's all in the confit. The spices coming from the duck are complemented by sesame and freshened with greens. Brilliantly paired with the Cabernet Shiraz, the finale of the degustation didn't disappoint.
"Discover the Flavours of Kerala" and "Highlights of Malabar Junction" join "Blending Wine and Flavours" as degustation options. These are larger than tapas and come without wine pairing. All 3 degustation menus differ from one another, but if the flavours in the tapas we experienced are to go by, we'll need to return to sample the others.
All 3 of these Fine Dining For Less degustations come at INR 2,000 - that's US$30 so next time you're in Fort Kochi, you'd be wise to visit Malabar House for this incredible value meal.
Divine Wine Lounge @ Malabar House.
The wine tasting experience at Divine Wine Lounge is something all wine enthusiasts finding themselves in Fort Kochi will love. The wine list reveals the complexities of India's Wine Industry.
Focusing on Karnataka and Maharashtra wine regions, Divine Wine Lounge offers a concise list across grape varietals.
The majority of the 22 wines on offer are available by the glass, although not for sparkling. If Indian wines are not part of your expertise (they weren't mine) a wine sampler is available. Select 3 wines from the list and they're delivered in 50ml pours.
This Fine Wining For Less tasting comes in at INR 420 (US$ 6.50). You could do this a couple of times before deciding on your favourite.
Indulging in flavours from East and West accompanied by delightful Indian wines: it's a thing we love....
Shona’s award winning travel blog shares tips and tricks on where to eat, drink, explore & shop in any given destination. At home ordering street food or perusing a fine dining menu, she seeks out venues with a conscience who promote local produce and sustainability. Find her in markets, museums, art galleries and on walking tours as well as wineries, breweries, distilleries and restaurants. Wherever she is, she’s always looking for something a little different to share with her readers. Follow her travels at www.paraphernalia.co or subscribe to her Shenanigans Report http://paraphernalia.co/subscribe-form/ so as not to miss a post. firstname.lastname@example.org.