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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.

IMPORTANT DETAILS No bookings – tables turn over  pretty quick though.




  1. Una wrote:

    We love Coco’s. If I had to have a last meal it just might be their polenta chips. No, wait, maybe their chicken liver parfait…

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  2. Mel Baanders wrote:

    My husband and I get a baby sitter once a month and go to Coco’s – guaranteed great food and atmosphere, we can take our time and savour both. LOVE it!

    Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  3. Chris wrote:

    Really want to love this place. But after 3 visit, 2 bad, 2 horrible service (including sneezing on my food in full view) and only average food, I really can’t understand why it’s so loved?

    Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
  4. SFG wrote:

    Thanks Chris, sorry to hear it. We’ve never had that experience and nor has anyone we know.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink
  5. SC wrote:

    I had the most magical experience at Coco’s Cantina. The atmosphere is lively and amazing whether you are looking for a place to simply enjoy a drink or a first date setting. I was fortunate to be served by the loveliest waitress (sorry forgot her name), who personalised my dining experience even though it was a busy night. I give a hearty accolade for the restaurant and the fact this has set a high standard of NZ dining

    Sunday, August 3, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  6. SFG wrote:

    Nice to hear SC – thanks for letting us know.

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

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