376 Karangahape Rd,
09 300 7582
The ViewAuckland Review
Other than a pretty decent selection of ethnic eateries, K Rd is not exactly a key destination when to comes to dining out. The newly opened Coco’s Cantina promises to change that with a combination of rustic Italian-influenced bistro food, savvy and energetic service, and a buzzy cosmopolitan atmosphere. And if a recent packed Tuesday night is any indication, Coco’s is already generating hugely positive word of mouth. Lurking in its bohemian nooks and crannies we spy the Lotto lady, and that TV guy who reputedly loves the South, but seems to spend most of his life in the cafes and restaurants of Auckland.
After the obligatory Auckland-is-such-a-small-town star spotting we consider the menu. The restaurant’s name and décor – think Cuban movie posters and a long wooden bar – may hint at a Spanish provenance, but the tastes are definitely Italian. Beside us, a group has just received their mains, and we’re soon experiencing a severe case of food envy. A grilled half-chicken sits on panzanella, a rustic Italian bread salad, and the chilli and crab linguini opposite both looks and smells amazing.
We decide to share a plate of grilled calamari while we decide on our mains. The squid is tender and served with a spicy vinaigrette. Forget any thoughts of perfectly formed squid rings. This dish is proudly rustic with crunchy tentacles studding the plate. From a smallish wine and cocktail list, it’s one of Auckland’s best caipirinhas – crammed with chunks of lime – and a bottle of Galbraith’s newly released Munich lager. At the bar, the focus is shifting to tapas and drinking, and Coco’s versatile ‘drinking den meets restaurant’ persona starts to reveal itself. All the while the service is street-smart and worldy – kind of like if a more formal Italian eatery like Toto or Delicious had a younger, more energetic sibling.
Carol eventually settles on the crab linguni ($16). She orders it entrée-sized, but it’s still a good portion. Most of Coco’s dishes are available either entrée- or main-sized, and tapas including arancini (rice balls) and bruschetta provide other distractions for thirsty drinkers. I overlook the grilled chicken for a simple scotch fillet with hand cut chips, anchovy butter and rocket ($28). It’s definitely more French than Italian, but with a glass of Running With Bulls Aussie tempranillo ($10) I’m covering all my bases. The steak is tender, and the chunky chips are perfectly crisp on the outside. Probably not approved by the Heart Foundation, but life is about balance right?
We probably don’t need dessert, but with a smallish menu of sweet goodies on offer push on anyway. We share a Chocolate Tart ($10), a slight misnomer really as it’s more like a brownie. Either way, it’s a great end to the meal combining the bitter taste of dark chocolate with a chewy and buttery base.
Coco's Cantina has been reviewed by 11 users