The sea breeze does two things to me: one, it relaxes me. Two, it makes me hungry; very hungry. And it was this hunger that saw me wander into Hotel Seagull, one of those quaint old places, which adds up to the charm of Fort Kochi.
Since they opened shop in the 80's, Hotel Seagull has been one of the most prominent places to relax over good food with friends, family and a drink. One of the favourite haunts of artists at the time, people gathered here during evenings to relish its simple fare. The goodwill spread and over time, the business prospered. The food, mainly seafood, has been their speciality ever since its beginning. No connoisseur of seafood can really give Seagull a miss. And once your taste buds have a tryst with its tantalising bill of fare, you keep coming back, again and again.
The ambience is what sets Seagull apart from other eateries around the area. It faces the waterfront and has its own jetty. You can practically climb on to the restaurant from a boat, sit back, relax and enjoy your meal. And this serene ambience is their unique selling point. Enjoy a nice meal, and perhaps a drink as seagulls, ships and boats float by.
"The pier alone can seat about 30 people," says Jayakrishnan, the owner of Seagull. "And on weekends, advance reservations are a must." According to him, none of the other hotels in this area has this view; 'on one side you get the seas and on the other, you have the mainland of Ernakulam.'
"We serve fresh food. We have never compromised on quality," Jayakrishnan adds. "Our chefs go to work once the order is placed - so yes, sometimes it takes a little longer for the food to be served."
Needless to say Seagull is a seafood speciality restaurant. However, they do serve chicken and beef. As we relish the squid rings and prawns fry, Jayakrishnan tells us that they are among the fastest moving item on the menu.
For the main course, you could either order the grilled fish or porotta/rice and 'Chatti meen curry' (fish curry served in traditional mud bowl). Grilled fish comes in two avatars – the spicy and the non spicy. While the local crowd prefers the spicy grill, the foreigners and north Indians prefer the non spicy one. They also serve crab and other sea food when the catch is good.
Chilli chicken, butter chicken, and beef ullarthiyathu has many takers. So do the other traditional chicken dishes. The potions are substantial and the waiters, helpful. An ideal meal for two would not really burn a hole in your pocket.
"It used to be a different story when we had the bar," says Jayakrishnan. The hotel used to be the meeting place for everyone. Movie stars, other prominent people, business men and the local crowd used to arrive at Seagull to spend some quality time. Seagull has been so much a part of the collective psyche that it featured in one of the movies, Big B, which starred Mammotty recently.
Now, a lot of it has changed. Seagull doubles up as a hangout for the youngsters and families alike. A romantic date, a party night – you name it, Seagull is the perfect spot.
Most of the patrons prefer the waterfront seats. And it does not come as a surprise. You can place your order, sit back, read a book, talk to your loved ones or just watch the busy waterways. Time will just glide by.
Seagull is definitely not for someone who wants to grab a quick bite and move on. It is for those people who love to enjoy their meals – be it dinner or lunch or a little something in between, all the while watching the day turn to night.
Hotel Seagull is on the Calvathy Road, Fort Kochi. On a bright sunny day, it is ideal to take a boat from the jetty near Marine Drive to Fort Kochi and then walk up to the hotel. The Seagull does not have any other branches.