An unparalleled hotel that builds around art, The Postcard Mandalay Hall is an ode to local heritage with its thoughtful construction. The service and amenities are pure bonus
By: Smitha Sadanandan
Posted on: September 6, 2022
LF Says: ★★★★
Once gritty, now artsy, The Postcard Mandalay Hall paints a quaint picture – a far cry from its vintage Jewish mansion origins. An intriguing hotel that offers a snapshot of contemporary art, this unassuming property sparks an appreciation for arts.
The Postcard Mandalay Hall, a five-room boutique luxe art haven, dwells on the cobbled lanes of the storied Jewish quarters in Kochi. The hotel is a respite of calm in the middle of Mattancherry and has an interesting location: it is just steps away from the 16th century Paradesi Synagogue.
When restoring the former Jewish mansion, previous owner and architect Tony Joseph worked a creative alchemy, astutely blending in art, design and comfort. The space echoes with rich art experiments and resonated strongly with Kapil Chopra of The Postcard Hotel because of his love for art and design; he was instantly drawn to it. The most fascinating aspect is that the numerous artworks aren’t just decorations but make a statement.
The curator of the Kochi Biennale, Bose Krishnamachari – a familiar name in the contemporary art world – has handpicked the artworks at The Postcard Mandalay Hall. With the inclusion of exceptional service and the unique Postcard experiences of anytime check-in and check-out, signature beverage on arrival and anytime breakfast with contemporary Kerala cuisine, Mr. Chopra has imagined a truly elevated luxury art hotel. “It felt like a match made in heaven and it is amazing to see Mandalay Hall transform into The Postcard Mandalay Hall,” he says.
Regional talents have enlivened the lobby, rooms and lounge. Pieces do more than perk up the walls; they build historical awareness and a social conscience. The book and curio lined coffee area upstairs is welcoming. The bedrooms are roomy and delightfully quaint and come with bathtubs nestled on pebbles. There’s nothing predictable with the room décor. Wall murals, mixed media, installations and paintings blend in seamlessly within this art-centric hotel – and this attracts a new breed of travellers who want to be surrounded by quiet and art.
Gallery 1 features installations by artist Sushanta Kumar Maharana, on the idea that “heaven always existed along with the reality of one’s unpleasant and fleeting life on earth.”
Gallery 1 – as the rooms are designated – was my home for two nights. It has an artistic vibe that makes the luxury feel almost low-key. It is purposefully uncomplicated. The spacious room features installations by artist Sushanta Kumar Maharana, who explores the idea that “heaven always existed along with the reality of one’s unpleasant and fleeting life on earth.”
Guests slumber in sizeable abodes, with art works framing the headboard. Overlooking the historic Synagogue Lane, this ample room features large windows and discreet furnishings. It is a legit way to sleep in an art gallery. There’s also a study by the window, for when inspiration strikes – sketch, write or doodle. Big old wooden windows let you peek across the street and lets light flood into the room.
Mural art forms the backdrop for the bathtub. A hearty fruit platter, assortment of local snacks and coffee station in the room makes you feel quite at home. Lush potted plants or a private front yard overlooking the trees brings play into nostalgic longing: a need for much beloved greenery.
If you are wondering what the other four rooms express, Gallery 2 celebrates the works of artist Anju Acharya, who channels her journey of becoming a mother and her experience of giving birth into her works titled ‘The Little Bumps and Nudges,’ ‘Pricks and Pinches’ and ‘Mother and Child.’ A video and a series of framed artworks draw you in, along with note cards featuring questions posed to the guests.
Gallery 2 celebrates the works of artist Anju Acharya, who channels her journey of becoming a mother and her experience of giving birth
Gallery 3 features Dibin Thilakan’s ‘Ode to Home’ series of works where different mediums focus on ‘home’ being the central subject. Reflecting on the pandemic that confined life within the walls, these walls transform into epitomes of hope for the future.
Gallery 4 allows Jigesh Kumar to experiment with the idea that the room could be well converted into an extension of an archaeological museum. An unconventional art gallery along with the ergonomic constraints of the room trains the eye to engage in meaningful explorations.
Gallery 3 features Dibin Thilakan’s ‘Ode to Home’ series of works where different mediums focus on ‘home’ being the central subject.
Gallery 5 takes a more thoughtful turn with ‘Welcome to Capitalism’ by Giuseppe Stampone, where he uses the ubiquitous Bic pen in blue and black ink to challenge today’s tyrannies: political dictatorships, globalisation, and the sheer speed of life.
Tracing the Roots
The food is influenced by the travels into the kitchens of Kerala, informs the hotel’s manager, Dinuj Vishwanathan. Chef Pradipta Panda and home-cooks Sindhu Sudheer and Shyla Naseer work seamlessly to rustle up breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything else you might fancy. Moving beyond the traditional, the menu woos us with its gastronomic charm that explores the many flavours of Keralan cuisine – Biryani, Chemeen Ada, Vattayapam Sliders, Kayi Beragiyathe. Despite their insistence that we keep going, we eventually tapped out.
Gallery 4 allows Jigesh Kumar to convert the room into an extension of an archaeological museum.
The hotel has a lovely antique jewellery store thoughtfully curated by Tony Joseph and his team. It offers a great insight into Kerala’ rich jewellery history. Pick up a few silver trinkets to gift or for yourself.
Reaffirming its artistic leanings, the relaunched shopping boutique at The Postcard Mandalay Hall houses curated artworks by noted contemporary artists in the country. Designer robes by Ira Berry and concept design products sourced from local artisans all over India have been added to the boutique. It surely is one of the most interesting design stores in Kochi.
In Gallery 5, artist Giuseppe Stampone uses the ubiquitous Bic pen in blue & black ink to challenge today’s tyrannies: political dictatorships, globalisation, and the sheer speed of life.
Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Shop, started by the late Sarah Cohen, nearby is a great place to pick up lovely embroidered gifts. Explore the markets of Jew Town, chill out at the coffee shops, or buy some spice from the several spice stores around the corner. Stroll across the historic warehouses in Fort Kochi or hop over in a tuk tuk to shop for contemporary Indian wear at Anokhi or browse the art at the David Hall Art Gallery.
Take in the sights with a boat ride at the jetty off Calvathy Road to glide past some of the islands nearby. Explore the Fort Kochi and Mattancherry areas on a walking tour with a local host, or bike around on a cycle.
The hotel's antique jewellery store, thoughtfully curated by Tony Joseph and his team, offers a great insight into Kerala's rich jewellery history.
The amenities, including a pool and personalised service, along with its new cuisine direction, are good reasons why you should check-in to The Postcard Mandalay Hall. With South Asia’s biggest art show Kochi-Muziris Biennale reopening in December, this is where you really should be. “Bridging Kochi’s past and present, each of the five luxury rooms is an immersive living gallery, exhibiting artwork and installations each by a different artist,” adds Mr. Chopra. You get why The Postcard Mandalay Hall will always remain distinct.
LF Says: ★★★★
Coordinates: VI/193, Synagogue Ln, Jew Town, Kappalandimukku, Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala, India