Enjoy Delectable Cuisines in the Midst of Old-world Charm

Thiruvananthapuram: Flickering candles, soothing violin notes, basils in coconut shells and heirlooms arranged on windowsills – Villa Maya is the kind of place that instantly draws you in with its warmth and subdued elegance. A quiet retreat in the heart of the city, the beautifully restored ‘ammaveedu’ oozes old-world charm and promises an amazing culinary trip.

‘’We do not invite people to dine at Villa Maya, we want them to experience it,” says Sashi Jacob, Vice President, Food & Beverages, The Muthoot Skychef.

The boutique 5-star-accredited restaurant, which is a favourite haunt of foreign as well as domestic tourists, is dotted with quaint curios ranging from old butter-churners to dull-yellow ‘urulis.’ “They are not artifacts, they are antiques. The place used to house royal consorts in the past and was known as Arumana Ammaveedu,” explains Sashi. The interior is classy, yet minimalistic with coeval furniture and handcrafted lamps.

“When we took over, just the structure was here – the doors, windows and ceiling. Since the building is constructed in Dutch colonial style we used only fixtures that gel with the architecture. Every element of Villa Maya has some part of the past in it,” Sashi says as he takes us on a tour of the property.

The manor has three levels, each offering a varied dining experience. At the ground level is the ‘thamara thottam’, the gorgeous water garden where gazebos stand surrounded by lotus blooms. From there we walk to the Kappi Lounge where a spate of coffees and cold beverages are served. “The lounge is open from 11 am to 11 pm and can comfortably accommodate around 16 people.” Next to the lounge is the Peacock Hall, getting its name from the huge wooden peacock that graces the dining space. “This is an ideal option for business lunches and family celebrations,” he adds.

On the first floor is the unique bed lounge, where you can relish your food reclining on a bedstead. The area can accommodate only 8 people on two cushioned beds with retractable wooden trays. “In the earlier days people used to dine on the floor and we wanted to bring that element in. Here you can sit and relax and this is something you will not find anywhere else,” says Sashi.

Now we reach the ‘thattinpuram’, the banquet area at the attic with polished wooden floor. “The thick walls and the high ceiling maintain a cool and peaceful air inside the hall. It is usually booked for seminars, board room meets, training sessions and private dinners. If you look through the window you can see the whole area. The king’s consorts used to watch the ‘aratt’ from here,” he says.

Before dinner we visit Pullu Medu, 2,000-sq. ft. of manicured lawns, perfect for wedding ceremonies, receptions or private parties. “The area can accommodate around 150 people in various seating arrangements.”

The ambiance is high on antiquity and nostalgia, but the menu, bound in wood, is a surprise. “It includes cuisines from all the countries that were involved in spice trade with Kerala. So, along with the ethnic, you will find a little bit of Morocco, Iran and Italy,” he says.

First comes the tender coconut soup, an innovative recipe by the chefs of Villa Maya. Surprisingly pleasant and light, it offers you a total break from thick, spice-laden concoctions. “We do not boil the coconut water, it is just kept warm. Then some herbs are thrown in and your soup is ready,” he says. Spice box, an assortment of kababs, arrive in that old wooden box with multiple storage compartments, something straight out of your granny’s kitchen. The kababs are succulent and melts in your mouth with the yummy pineapple chutney. “We use different spices for chicken, mutton, fish and prawn,” he adds. The place offers a variety of desserts and we go for chocolate truffle. Drenched in caramel and cream and served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, it turns out to be totally addictive.

Run by MPG (Muthoot Pappachan Group) Hospitality, Villa Maya is open on weekdays from 11 am to 11 pm and on Sundays the timing is 7.30 am to 11 pm. For reservations, call +91 471 2578901/02/03/04/05 or log on to their website www.villamaya.in.