Arrival/Check-in: Monsoon season had just kicked off as I arrived in Cochin, so the covered hotel entryway was a welcome sight, as was the lovely attendant who greeted me inside and offered a cold towel and a mouth-watering piece of chocolate before ushering me to a comfortable lobby sitting area while she processed my arrival. The main building, the lobby and some guestrooms at Taj Malabar are housed in a 1935 lodge on Willingdon Island. A short causeway connects the island to the mainland. The lobby reflects its heritage as an early 20th-century lodge. Illuminated by wall sconces, it’s a dark and cozy place with a wood-paneled ceiling and dark wood furniture. The lobby bar, one step up from the main lobby, is equally inviting. Within a few minutes, I was making my way up the creaky wooden staircase to my second-floor guestroom. (30/30)
Guest Quarters: Since the Taj Malabar Cochin is considered a 5-star property, I was a bit surprised to discover that the camp/lodge ambience continued into my twinbedded (real twins; not two double beds) guestroom. The bathroom was located to the right upon entry opposite a wall of closets and storage cubbies. The twin beds shared one central nightstand. A flat-screen TV was mounted on the opposite wall above a series of cabinets and a desk. An armchair in the far corner of the room was situated to provide a lake view. I requested an iron and ironing board, but none were available. As an alternative, the hotel offered free pressing service — and managed to miraculously spot-clean a muddy smear (monsoon season) from a pair of white pants. While the furnishings left something to be desired (rock-solid mattress and foam pillows), service was excellent. (26/30)
Services/Amenities: In addition to the historic main lodge, Taj Malabar also boasts a seven-story guest wing that was added to the property in the 1970s. Based on a cursory tour, it seemed that rooms in the newer wing, while furnished in the same manner, were actually a bit smaller than those in the original structure. Dining options include the Rice Boat, a restaurant designed to resemble a traditional Keralan kettuvallam boat, where the menu focuses on seafood, and Pepper, an all-day dining venue offering daily breakfast and luncheon buffets and, in the evening, a five-course dinner service. Thai Pavillion serves up Thai specialties complemented by herbs grown in the hotel’s garden and Dolphin’s Point is an al fresco eatery where guests savor grilled seafood and kabobs. I had the pleasure of indulging in a treatment at the hotel’s Taj Spa. While the facility was a bit worn — raggedy towels and a scheduling mix-up that left me sharing a large, though well-divided, treatment room with a colleague — the treatment itself was out of this world. (35/40)
The Experience: While the accommodations belie its status as a 5-star property, Taj Malabar Cochin offers a level of service that matches its pedigree.
Total Score: (91/100)
Taj Malabar Cochin
Cochin 682 009 Kerala, India
tel 91 484 2666811
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