When it comes to dining, I rarely frequent Karangahape Road in Auckland. Mostly because the restaurants and bar there never seem to interest me and parking is always difficult. But a couple weeks ago, I was introduced to a hidden gem that is Coco’s Cantina. A casual eating and drinking establishment – open from Tuesday to Saturday (5PM to late) – that serves rustic Italian food with influences from the Mediterranean. A small but busy restaurant. Their menu is seasonal and offers a variety of different dishes including steak, fish, pork and pasta.
For starters, our table split two servings of mozzarella sticks and grilled prawns between the six of us. I didn’t quite enjoy the mozzarella sticks and it’s quite a shame as I was the one that ordered it. For $10, the dish was rather small and it lacked the stringy texture that I was expecting. The coating on the sticks were decent but the cheese just lacked the flavour. The grilled prawns on the other hand was fantastic. The prawns were not tough or chewy and the vinaigrette on the salad worked very well with the grilled prawns. The best part of the dish would have to be the refreshing salad made of wild baby rocket and white bean.
For mains, the majority of us ordered pasta. None of us ordered the steak so I can’t confirm whether they make one of the best steaks in town (as claimed on their website). But I can safely say, their pasta were of a great standard. I ordered from the daily specials and got the asparagus risotto which was phenomenal. Flawlessly cooked risotto, fresh asparagus and a cheesy sauce topped with grated parmesan. The sprigs of mint were different but it added an extra touch of flavour that you don’t often get in risotto. The sweet potato and leek ravioli with grated parmesan and chili was flavourful and the chili added a nice kick to the dish. The meatballs with spaghetti was on the dry side and I think they gave too many meatballs compared to the amount of pasta, this made the dish rather heavy. The fish of the day (if I remember correctly) was turbot and that was served with white bean puree and salad. A fresh and tasty salad and it complimented well with the tender and moist fish.
Not everyone had room for dessert so we only tried their tiramisu. A decently-sized portion that was not overly sweet. It has a strong coffee aftertaste and the creamy texture just melts in your mouth.
Coco’s Cantina is worth the visit if you want delicious homey Italian food. They don’t take bookings however, so be prepare to wait if you go during peak times. But I’m sure they will keep you busy by the bar with their extensive wine list. The staff is friendly and accommodating and although there are some areas that they can improve on, it’s one of the better Italian restaurants in Auckland.
Date: Saturday 5th November, 2011 | Location: 376 Karangahape Road, Newton | Food: Italian