Photographs: David Straight
We’ve never asked who Coco is, and nor does it matter. When Coco’s Cantina opened four years ago, it somehow defined a moment in Auckland: these days, it’s everyone’s favourite bistro – and you get the impression owners Damaris and Renee Coulter prefer it that way. The music is loud, you will wait on Saturday night for a table and the waitresses still wear bright red lipstick. It is warm and comforting, the kind of place you should settle in for a befuddled evening over too much red wine. It is as good late on Tuesday as it is on Saturday night.
Inside, a clutter of bric-a-brac and memorabilia and hand-written signs; outside red-and-white chequered table cloths. Next door is the newer Coco’s Barretta, part bar, part waiting area, part spillover on busy nights from the main restaurant. Their mum does the accounts; sometimes families of the staff might come in for dinner.
It’s a cantina, see: rustic, homely and not very expensive. The polenta fries ($8.50) are a work of minor genius and so is the tiramisu. The steak ($31.50) is brilliant – it’s Scotch fillet, cooked medium rare and sliced, trattoria-style, with salsa verde and some of the best hand-cut chips you’ll ever taste. It is defiantly simple. So is the spaghetti with meatballs ($29), and the seasonal pasta of the day ($25). In the cooler months, there might be a slow-roasted pork belly with Italian slaw ($32.50). All the seafood is from sustainable sources. Auckland is lucky to have it. SFG
HOURS Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm.
ADDRESS 374 to 376 Karangahape Road, Newton, ph 300-7582. cocoscantina.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS No bookings – tables turn over pretty quick though.