During school days, going on a vacation meant a trip to Cochin. And all those trips were complete only with a visit to the Grand Hotel. Years later, I shifted my base to Cochin to do my Bachelors and still, I looked forward to the rare lunch at Grand. This ‘once-in-a-while’ ritual continues even now and the craving for the meals at Grand takes over and it can be satiated only with a visit there.
All those closely associated with Cochin, residents and visitors alike, are sure to have a long-standing relationship with this hotel, right from the first time they visited up until now. My family too is one such family. And ever since the first visit, I have been in awe of this place.
Situated on MG Road, right at the heart of the city, this is one of the oldest restaurants in Cochin. The wide building that has become more of a landmark now, the charming white and baby pink exterior, and the simple yet regal interiors, all add to the charm of this place.
If your intention is to have lunch from here, make sure you reach the place by 12:30 in the noon. Else, you might find yourself in the rear end of a long line of similar hungry souls craving for some ‘Naadan’ food.
In spite of a wide variety of options on the menu, the regulars here stick to the Meals or the Biryani. I too prefer the same. In fact, I am yet to figure out why would anyone pass the scrumptious meal or the tasty Biryani here for anything else!
As soon as you are seated, a basket of pappads, a bowl of coconut chutney, and pickle are placed on your table. A waiter arrives at your table to take your order. The food is served quite fast if it’s a meal or a Biryani. I must also add that, in all these years, I have never been let down in terms of food and service.
The Meals, here, has a homely touch and includes a Thoran, Mezhukkuparatty, along with Sambhar, Rasam and Buttermilk. For the non-vegetarians, add a fish fry to it, that is served along with Challas and a slice of fresh lime, and you will instantly be transported to the magical world of heavenly, comfort food! You have the option of red rice and white rice – the Malayali in me, has always chosen the red rice over the white! You can also opt for a Fish Curry Meals or Chicken Curry Meals, though I would rather go for the spicy coconut-based fish curry rather than the chicken. There is also a Dry Prawns Coconut Chutney for the non-vegetarian meals, which tastes absolutely delicious that you’ll lose count of the number of servings that you’ve taken of it to mix with your meal. For the chicken lovers, the Trivandrum Chicken Fry is worth a try, where the chicken is fried and sautéed along with onions and tomato, and seasoned with oodles of curry leaves.
It is simple yet never once has it let me down in all the times that I’ve visited. It might not be exotic, but the taste lingers, popping up every time someone mentions Cochin and you are reminded of the meal you had at the Grand and that urge to rush back for yet another lunch rises.
Like I said, you need to reach here early for lunch, if you want to taste this delicious meal as it gets over pretty soon. However, those who are late needn’t be disappointed since the Biryani is equally delicious. Tender and juicy meat pieces amid perfectly cooked rice sums it up in one sentence. It is not too greasy and is packed with flavours, that although there have been times when I’ve cribbed about missing the meals, by the end of my lunch, I’ve been happy for missing it.
The service is excellent and considering the rush, the food is served as fast as possible. There is always someone hovering in case you need a second serving or wish to place an extra order. The food is a bit pricey, but the taste and memories associated with the place makes it worthy.
I’ve heard my father’s friends talking about how they come to Grand once in a while for a dinner of Kanji, Payar and Pappadam, leaving me wondering why on earth would you go to a restaurant to have a meal as basic as this. But thinking of it, it cannot get more homely than this and I am sure for them, having it at Grand is more about the feel than dining out!