Monday, August 9, 2010

Twenty Questions and a visit to Coco's Cantina

One of the guilty pleasures of being a blogmaster, I've discovered, is getting to peek at the google searches which have led people to your website. Did you know that a lot of people type questions into google? Like, proper questions. Instead of searching “Auckland Restaurant Chinese” they will search “I am looking for a chinese restaurant in Auckland where shall I go?”.

I guess it works just as well, but it does strike me as peculiar. Here are some other actual questions people visiting my site recently have asked of google, listed in order of popularity:
1. “What is the new Mexican restaurant in Grey Lynn?”
2. “Where should I go on a date in Auckland on Monday?”
3. “How old is Jesse Mulligan?”
3. “Is the waitress at Sidart/Takapuna Beach Cafe/Bikanerwala single?”

I doubt they found what they were looking for here, but I wish them all the very best. And in case the same questions get asked again in the future I should probably include some answers nearby. So here goes:
1. Ahsi-Itzcalli. I've written a little blog about it but in case you can't be bothered reading the long version: it's pretty good but really expensive for what it is. Takeaway mains start at about $28 as I recall.
2. That's a tough one: most of the decent places are closed. I think The Grove is open seven days if you really care about her, as is GPK if you don't.
3. I'm 35, what's it to you?
4. Unfortunately, the internet has yet to come up with a reliable database of sexual availability among city wait staff, and more's the pity. Looks like the only way you can definitively find out is by asking them on a date. Might I suggest Monday night when they're not working?

If you do have a question, feel free to email me directly, like Stephanie from America did on the weekend. Stephanie is about to visit Auckland for One Night Only, and wants a dinner recommendation for an excellent restaurant where mains are $15-20.

I told her she'd need to up her budget a little to get out of the dreaded generic-Thai zone, but that if she did she'd be rewarded with Coco's Cantina, a busy, hip, sexy bar/restaurant on K Road. Hitting the 2010 Metro Top 50 with a bullet in its first year of operation, Coco's is everything we're missing in Auckland: moderately priced, super-tasty grub served with love and attitude in a bustling inner-city location.

The theme is Italian, with special appearances from around the Mediterranean, and as far as I could see on my first visit there last week, its universally excellent. One bite of the calamari starter and I realised Prego has had its crown stolen – you'll still enjoy the perfect rings of lightly battered squid with rocket and aioli on Ponsonby Road, but Coco's simple, roughly chopped version with smoked chili tomato vinaigrette will have you lying awake at night, wondering when you can go back.

Everything you eat is filled with confidence – a side of roasted cauliflower with almonds and raisins demonstrated a point I made some months ago in my Kokako review about the best way to cook that beautiful vegetable. My orecchiette (pictured above very poorly) was done just like they do in Puglia: with some greens, some cheese and some olive oil – no insecure adding of ingredients for the local market (again I'm thinking of Prego's Spaghetti Aglio Olio here, which comes with feta when really only the ingredients in the title are needed).

You can't book at Coco's, so you should arrive early or be prepared to be cool while you wait. I arrived early, much earlier than my girlfriend, and then spent the next half an hour quite uncoolly at the bar, becoming more and more panicky as the tables around me steadily filled.

The staff had every right to turf me out onto the street for being too uptight, but instead they were very nice to me. Maybe it's because I'd told them that it was my birthday, and I was turning 35. You see? If you wait long enough, you won't need google – you'll learn everything you need to know from some loud mouth nervously necking Tio Pepe at the bar.