In the middle of Panampilly Nagar, the undeclared suburbs of Kochi, Hortus Malabar opened its doors merely a couple of months ago. For a city that is quickly gaining in its status as a metropolitan hub, Hortus Malabar is a cocktail bar and restaurant that is unique. Especially owing to its central location, it is the first of its kind and a unique addition catering to the discerning craft alcohol and cocktail lovers of Kochi.
Inspired by the verdant lands of Kerala and the book Hortus Malabaricus (Gardens of Malabar) published in the 17th century that writes about ‘the botanical treatise on the medical properties of the flora of the Malabar Coast’, Hortus Malabar is deeply rooted in its cultural legacy and its founding concept. The cocktail bar and lounge feature a maximalist interior that is decorated by interior design company Minnie Bhatt Design which has worked on other standout projects around India like the Butter restaurant in Pune as well as Burma Burma in Noida, Delhi and Bangalore.
When approached by the founder of Hortus for this project - Isaac Alexander of the Avenue group, the designer delved into the concept. On her vacation, she visited museums in Fort Kochi where she saw botanical illustrations that eventually served as her inspiration for the bar. With huge ceilings with suspended lights and large-scale botanical murals, the art and colours serve as the focal point of the space. Featuring four illuminated suspended ceilings, and lounge-style seating with plush couches and armchairs with coffee tables, Hortus Malabar is a maximalist fever dream come true.
The bar portion of the space is inspired by Malabar Butterfly and features engraved tiles in black and a mirror, with a backsplash of antique mirror panels arranged like a honeycomb. The space also has an elevated private area with pale mustard walls and botanical murals, intricate mouldings, and antique brass hanging light fixtures. The section is separated by a wooden rack with glass cloches that contain dried flowers and leaves. Wooden flooring and terrazzo are used extensively, as well as soft furnishings that range from pastels to jewel-toned floral patterns. All these details are set against walls and ceilings that have been painted a deep regal green, imparting a plush and premium ambience to the space, but with a million tiny interesting details.
With signature cocktails created by the team at Counter Top India, who has created signature drinks for renowned bars like Johri and Sons, the drinks at Hortus Malabar are just as deeply rooted in its core concepts. Some of their signature drinks include The Zamorin - with tequila, tamarind, coriander, chilli and citrus, as well as the dessert drink Naura Branca - White rum, coconut cream, puffed rice orgeat, jaggery, fresh cream and cardamom tincture. But for this writer, the Dutch Punch with gin, mango oleo, Malabar spice broth, lime acid and coconut cream sounds like the most intriguing among the signature drinks. Their standard cocktail menu also includes classics like Moscow Mule, Whiskey Sour and Old Fashioned.
When it comes to the food, the restaurant has taken an approach that marries the best of both worlds - the West and the East, and a few local treats like Malabari fried chicken as an appetiser and a Kanthari Grilled Fish in Main Course. But they also have dishes that would complement their drinks - from sushi and other Eastern dishes like burnt garlic noodles and Thai Linguine. They also feature continental fares like Pasta Milanese, Crab Au Gratin and Tenderloin Steak with creamy mash, haricot beans and pepper jus.
With its plush yet intricate details, an intriguing cocktail menu that has been meticulously developed and a menu that caters to a wide array of tastes, Hortus Malabar is a welcome venture that adds to the growing alco-beverage landscape in Kochi.
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