The message of what is served at Pankayam restaurant, on Pazhaya road near Medical College, is loud and clear. On a large board made of old wooden planks, the word Pankayam, meaning paddle in Malayalam, is painted in big letters with ‘sea, backwater, land’ beneath it. The edges of the nameboard also have drawings of fish and ducks.
Crossing a small artificial pond surrounded by bamboos and other plants found near water bodies, we enter a dim-lit restaurant that has the décor of a typical countryside eatery. A shiny Bajaj M80 scooter, the standard vehicle of many fishmongers in Kerala, welcomes us into the restaurant with walls of wooden planks and big metallic barrels placed in a line in the centre upon which banana leaves and water jugs are kept.
Hot black tea arrives on cue, as soon as we take our places. The tea is free and unlimited. The menu, a polished wooden board, presents a variety of naadan non-vegetarian options with an entire side dedicated to seafood delicacies. The gastronomic adventure kicks off with fluffy appams and fiery Kottayam neimeen (king fish) curry. Appam soaked in super-spicy chilli gravy is a delight to have with well-cooked cubes of fish. It is the same story with puttu and Kainakari duck. The thick, peppery curry has duck pieces that melts with a bite and is perfect with the soft puttu.
Meanwhile, the centrepiece of the feast arrives. Marinated in an assortment of spices, wrapped and cooked in banana leaf, the classic avoli pollichathu arrives in a steamy bundle dressed with tomato and onion slices. The fish, big enough for two, is fried and flavoured to perfection. After devouring it within no time and still not having enough of it, we go for a final round with prawn roast and appam. Fat prawns cooked in masala gravy arrive within a few minutes in an earthen platter. Chunky prawn doused in the caramelised gravy sets off an explosion of flavours when had with the appam. We wash it all down with another glass of black tea and call it a day.
Apart from the usual assortment of breads, Pankayam also serves special puttu variants with chicken, beef and mutton. For those looking for flavoured rice, there is the Pankayam pulao. Chicken and quail fries too are on the list.
Although most of the fish delicacies are available all through the day, traditional sadya is the only main course option at lunch with a never-ending supply of pappadam and lime juice.
Food for thought
A wholesome meal for two, which doesn’t include avoli or karimeen pollichathu, will cost around ?500.
Pankayam is open on all days of the week from 11 am to 11 pm.