Even as she was working in a major banking company in Scotland, Archana Mohan couldn’t resist the call of her hometown. Finally, she moved back to the capital city to settle for good. That’s when the entrepreneur and present proprietor of a former Ammaveedu at West Fort struck upon the idea of saving the majestic heritage structure from ruins by making the best out of it.
In the last decade or so, some heritage buildings and graceful mansions in the capital have been given a facelift and turned into restaurants for fine dining and homestays. The latest is Archana’s Padmavilasom Palace at Enchakkal road, which opens today.
Archana says she has a deep-seated personal connection with the place. “My maternal grandfather acquired the building [around 1978] from the erstwhile royal family. Then, through my mother, I inherited it. I grew up in this very house and cherish a lot of good memories about the place,” she says.
A sprawling Mahogany, a kanikonna in full bloom and a regal entrance offer only a partial sight of the stately building from the outside. Walk in and a fruit-bearing mango tree greets you by the portico of the imposing white-walled edifice. Under its cool shade, the garden area offers parking space. Belonging to the lineage of Vadasseri Ammaveedu family, the former royal abode reflects the history and architecture of a bygone era in its regal essence.
Archana avers that refurbishment was minimally done to restore the original ambience of a royal household. Portions of certain walls were recast with limestone and given a fresh lick of white paint and some wood carvings were restored to their former state. The plumbing lines and electric connections have also been improved to suit modern standards.
Archana’s husband, film director Deepu Karunakaran, reiterates that the makeover has been kept as realistic as possible. “The idea is to recreate that regal ambience and not just to beautify the place to make it look better. This is how the interiors of a palace used to look like during the Travancore era. We have tried to break away from the claustrophobic atmosphere of a traditional diner with air-conditioning and closed doors and windows,” says Deepu. The couple deliberately discarded the idea of central air-conditioning, providing the facility in only the two ‘Royal Suites’ on the first floor of the two-storeyed building.
Constructed during the reign of Sri Moolam Thirunal, the building’s architecture boasts a Victorian-Travancore hybrid style. “Historical records attribute its construction to the master architect Shankaran Thampi. He was appointed to construct the major buildings associated with the palace. The Ammaveedu was exclusively built for the royal family to perform puja when the annual aarattu was on. The structure stands apart from the other historical buildings in this area for its unique mukappu ,” says Archana.
Inside, the glistening wood flooring, white walls, tall ceiling, magnificent chandeliers, soothing lighting, predominantly rich brown old-style doors and windows, antique furniture and curios reflect a grand old Kerala tradition. The cross-ventilation and wooden roofs ensure that the interiors remain cool, while a naalukettu near the kitchen has pride of place.
Sharat Sundar Rajeev, conservation architect and history enthusiast, points out that architecturally, the Ammaveedu marks a slight departure from other similar buildings of the era. This one stands as a completely independent structure inside a compound rather than being located close to the side walls. The highlight is the spacious balcony above the portico that offers a great view of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple aarattu passing through the road before, serving as a convenient gathering spot for dignitaries of the period during the festival.
The new avatar of the structure promises an experience of class and comfort and wholesome, traditional vegetarian fare. It offers two ‘Royal Suites’, each with a corridor, dressing area, study, wash-room, bedroom and private dining.
For guests staying in the suites, the place offers a “personalised walk” through the Padmanabhaswamy Temple with darshan. Royal treatment indeed!
What’s on the menu
On the menu is breakfast thalis and a range of traditional Indian dishes and Kerala sadya for lunch. The thali, at Rs 250 per head, comes with unlimited tea and coffee. The sadya, at Rs 350 per head, comes with traditional curries from in and around Kerala, accompanied by sweets and prasaadam from the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Breakfast: 7.30 am to 10.30 am
Lunch: 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm
Contact: p firstname.lastname@example.org or 7902203111