Want to catch your fish and eat it too? Catch ‘N’ Cook, a restaurant on the deck of a Chinese fishing net in Fort Kochi, is your answer

Though a beleaguered curiosity, the antiquated Chinese fishing nets in Fort Kochi remain a draw for tourists. The ancient contraption is a wonder in operation. From the many that once stood against a stark horizon, only 11 remain. They stand bravely against the onslaught of modern fishing methods and bide time to see a hopefully brighter future. Proprietors of the nets have, from time to time, tried different ways to keep the business up.

One such endeavour is by the trio of proprietor K.P. Alosyius and his friends Jacob Shybin and Baiju. The three have started a restaurant Catch ‘N’ Cook on the deck of a fishing net. The eatery cleverly combines wonder, history, beauty and eating out. “The eatery in no way hampers the operations of the net,” says Shybin adding that it enhances the curiosity of the guests many of who participate in its lowering and hauling.”

The idea for this unique enterprise came about after years of deliberations. With falling fish catch and with a minimum of eight men required to haul the net the operations had become unviable. Alosyius who bought the business nine years ago, was wondering about a feasible alternative that would preserve this piece of heritage.

Team work

His friends DJ Shybin and Baiju, with his experience in hospitality, were the other two who put their heads together and came up with this plan. Shybin carefully explains their modus operandi. “This is a tourist place. The evenings are beautiful, it’s good place to sit by the seaside and eat fresh fish. But the place around the net, along the walkway was always littered and messy. We thought we could put all these things together and try something novel.”

The three manually cleaned up the surroundings, raised part of the gap between the net and the walkway by placing sand bags. They planted Erica palm and placed potted greens.

Alosyius constructed a narrow wooden bridge from the bank to the net deck. Under the bridge a big trough of water holds the big size catch — red snapper and mullet. On the deck are two large aquariums that fill up with small fish. Bright red and green tables and chairs on either side of the centre make up the eatery. A small open kitchen is manned by a local chef recruited by them. Guests can walk right through to the net and engage in the operations.

Alosyius, excited about this new venture, is a carpenter and was a professional cyclist. He used to ride 40 km on an average day earlier and has won the Cochin Carnival award for five consecutive years. He has earlier participated in the national cycling championship and won the sixth position, says Shybin proud about his friend’s achievements. His own young past has been musical, as he worked as a resident musician for a group in Chennai. He began teaching music and now works part time as a DJ.

The eatery that was set up in November finds itself a cynosure of curious eyes. “Is it an exhibition or a restaurant, people ask?,” says Shybin about the throng that gathers around the net.In the restaurant, tourists sit casually eating fried or curried fish which they have selected from the catch. A fast number plays out loudly from the system and raised chit-chat floats on a windy evening breeze. Ships pass by, silvery fish jump in the blue nets as they rise propped up by age old teak columns pitched in shallow waters.

“We are happy when people order red snapper. It’s tasty of course and we get a good price for it,” says Shybin, pleased that their venture is drawing crowds. And such initiatives may hopefully give the Chinese fishing nets a new lease of life.

More In: Food | Metroplus | Kochi | Features