Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.
~ Audrey Hepburn
There are some cities which, I find, people seem to feel one of two or three main ways about – like Paris (“most romantic place in the world” or “city of delicious food” or “full of arrogant people and dirty streets”).
Auckland… doesn’t seem to be like that. Though it seems to be a place people either love or hate (as opposed to feel nonchalant about), ask people to elaborate on their thoughts about Auckland and chances are you’ll get 20 different responses from 20 people.
I’d hesitate to write a guide book about this city. Mostly because I’m in two minds about Auckland myself.
She’s a hard city to love or hate as a whole. She’s got all these horrid bits, like the bus system (what system?) and shops that close too early and questionable buildings and certain smelly streets – but then she’s got a certain depth and unusual charm, too, that she keeps well hidden until you ask her out for coffee. Or a dance. Or a walk on the beach.
I’m beginning to see, though, that she values persistence. Persistence will lead you to her jewels.
Like Coco’s Cantina.
If you’re in the mood for a fast, mean burger, or fawning waiters and gourmet dots and stripes of sauce on big plates, skip Coco’s. You’ll get neither cheap instant gratification nor royal treatment.
But if you’re ready for fun, confidence, honesty, smoky seduction and hearty food… this is your place.
I heard or read about Coco’s some months ago; I can’t even remember why or when I jotted the place down in my mental notebook under “to try”. I’d been wanting to visit for some time, but just hadn’t… until recently, when M asked where we should go for dinner. Then the place sprang to mind, and two minutes later we were in a car racing towards quirky K Road.
Photo above © Cuisine
We eventually got a park for the car (seriously – no mean feat in the area at dinner time) and wandered down to Coco’s. I remembered reading that this place can get madly busy, so I was pleasantly surprised that we actually got to pick a table! (We went in on the right side of 5pm – it did get busy later). I took in the cheery gingham tablecloths, rustic decor and trendy mural on the wall. The spirit of the place felt tangible… radiant, casual and unmistakeably hip. The waiters reminded me of some waiters I once encountered in Spain (fun, sharp, no nonsense – made me smile!).
The summery “tea me up” peach tea and refreshing mojito-like liquid in a glass were welcome fare for two slightly sunburned people.
The menu was just right – extensive enough to cater to different tastes and make you deliberate for more than a minute, but not long enough to frustrate. All the options sounded delicious, but we weren’t in the mood for something too heavy, so we decided to share two pasta dishes.
M picked the gnocchi – I’m really not a blue cheese fan, but I quite happily ate my half of this. How they managed to make the gnocchi keep its shape but melt rapidly in the mouth, I don’t know. But the mini pillows mingled seamlessly with the comfortably rich gorgonzola sauce, peppery rocket leaves and fresh walnuts…
I regretted not writing down what this ravioli contained, because I could not place it as I ate! But there were pine nuts and raisins, and it was simple, elegant and oh-so-enjoyable to eat. I sneakily ate just a little more than my allocated half of this… M liked this dish better than the gnocchi too (though we agreed that both were very tasty).
We also ordered a side dish of brown lentils and greens, which were tossed with diced onions, fresh mint and other goodness – faultless and refreshing.
When the adorable dessert menu arrived, we were regrettably full and M had to go to the airport – but it looks like a second visit to Coco’s is in order!
P.S. Oh, and if you have time to drop by The Ponsonby Belgian Beer Cafe en route to Coco’s, or afterwards, do. It’s got the wonderful attributes of a stately exterior, a lovely open courtyard (complete with an actual fireplace for cold nights), and a good selection of quality beer and wine.
M and I got a cold beer each and discussed trivial/not-so-trivial matters in the sun… a sweet evening!
Coco’s Cantina – 376 Karangahape Road, Newton, Auckland – Phone: 09 300 7582
The Ponsonby Belgian Beer Cafe – 1-3 St Marys Road, Ponsonby, Auckland – Phone: 09 376 6092