I’ve been in an online relationship with Coco’s Cantina for a while now. But after months of post-liking on Instagram, link-clicking on Facebook, and following their staff trip to Italy with interest, a face-to-face meetup seemed long overdue. This week, that all-important first date finally took place.
Coco’s has been something of a K Rd institution since it opened in 2009. Unsurprisingly busy at 7pm on a Tuesday, we were more than happy to take a seat at the bar while we waited for a table, and reassured by our name and time of arrival recorded on a blackboard behind the bar. We’d missed Happy Hour by about five minutes (it is a daily event from 5-7pm), but a glass of rosé, a Peroni, and a side of mouth-roof-blistering polenta fries tided us over until a sought-after indoor table spot opened up.
The menu swings Italian, and is split accordingly into antipasti, pasta, secondi, contorni, and dolci. Carbohydrate quota already well satisfied by our generous bar snack, we decided to forgo the pasta this time, and instead order an assortment of other dishes to share. (Sharing food is a concept that has historically offended my inner gluttony, but given the prominence of shared plates in the current dining landscape, I’m almost compulsorily coming around to it. Mostly.)
I’m not sure if eating an Italy’s worth of antipasti is a laudable goal, but regardless, we achieved it. Our antipasto platter, bolstered by focaccia bread, consisted of broccoli, radishes, olives, salami, a cured pork called (at best guess from a quick Wikipedia search) lonza, a dreamy white anchovy paste, moreish smokey spiced almonds, and a terrifyingly tasty head of roasted garlic.
To accompany, we chose one of the daily specials (although it has the star power to become a menu regular), crispy broccoli with lemon and chilli. Almost tempura-like, the dish was the evening’s knockout, and my fraternal dining companion (he who, as a child, referred to broccoli as “little trees”) declared it the only way to eat the leafy brassica. Even the deep fried crispy lemon slices were irresistible.
Our meal was rounded out (quite literally, for those of you in the market for a pun) by the arancini of the day, flavoured with carrot and goat cheese. Red wine and more Peroni seemed appropriate beverages to pair with the meal, although the non-alcoholic options were pleasingly comprehensive. Birch water was of particular (and as yet unresolved) intrigue to me.
The restaurant’s mantra, emblazoned on the wall, is BE KIND, and this clearly informs how the place operates. The staff are friendly and relaxed, and it is obvious that they love their work. The generosity of their bosses (see above re staff trip to Italy) seems to imbue Coco’s fundamentally.
My general skepticism about online relationships has been well allayed, at least in this instance, and the second date can’t come soon enough. I think there’s a bright future for Coco’s and me.
$96.50 for two glasses of wine, two Peroni, polenta fries, crispy broccoli, three arancini, and an antipasto platter
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm
379 Karangahape Road, Auckland CBD