Eating Out: CoCo is a stylish restaurant but it could do with some livening up
7-11 Linen Hall Street
028 9031 1150
I'M GOING to start with a few positives, because I'm a glass-half-full of wine type of girl. The décor of CoCo, in Belfast's Linen Hall Street, is exceptional. It is, in my opinion, one the most stylishly decked-out restaurants in the city, with bright colours interesting objects and amazing art.
It's a beautiful room, so why I was placed at a table with a dead plant behind my mate's head, I've no idea.
I can't keep plants – I've tried; I kill them – so I'm not judging whoever was responsible for this particular plant's demise, but I was left wondering what on Earth it was doing there.
My friend arrived before me due to my inherited inability to be early. She had a cosmopolitan while waiting – it looked delicious.
I thought we were the only people in the restaurant but then heard distant laughter.
There were two lots of Sunday lunch diners at the rear of the room but, given its odd shape, I couldn't see them, only hear them. The staff also couldn't see or hear me so we had to wait patiently until they remembered about us.
I moaned to my mate about the table. She said they originally tried to seat her at a high table with two high stools, the kind restaurants sometimes ask you to wait at until your table is ready – except the place was at about 20 per cent occupancy so almost every table was ready.
When the waitress finally remembered we were there she took our order, a fishcake with poached egg and mussels, and a prawn risotto to start. My risotto looked dreadful, though it's hard to make risotto look attractive. However, it tasted delicious – nicely seasoned, lots of seafood, the rice still with a nice bite to it.
The fishcake, again packed with seafood, a nice crunchy crumb, lovely bright yellow runny yolk on the poached egg – it was a generous portion that would have easily sufficed as a lunch.
Things were looking up. Maybe I could get over the bad table, put it behind us and start again – or at least that's what I thought.
For mains, I ordered duck breast which came with a little confit duck leg filo pie. I asked for my duck to be medium and it was well done. And despite overcooking it, the skin was fatty and flabby and hadn't been properly rendered down.
The little pie was tasty but wintry and heavy for the time of year; presentation was a plonked-on-a-plate type effort.
My friend ordered veal, which came with sage gnocci and broccoli. It was chewy when it should me milky soft. I've noted that this dish is no longer on the menu, the gnocci now served with duck.
We ordered a bottle of Pino which was a reasonable £21.50.
The service was friendly but slow – well, they couldn't see us so were unaware of whether we needed anything or not. Had I died, like the poor plant, I wonder how long it would have taken them to notice.
By the time they came to pour more wine, we'd already emptied the bottle. They probably could have got another bottle out of us and put another £21.50 in the till had they been more efficient.
The dessert choices on the Sunday menu are limited. Recent additions are a rice pudding brulée and a tiramisu sundae. The waitress asked if we wanted dessert, but I was pretty much over the entire thing at this stage.
It's been a fair few weeks since my visit to CoCo; a look at the new menu online reveals they've updated it with some lighter, more seasonal dishes, though a lot of it still seems very heavy for such a hot summer. The pre-theatre menu looks interesting and good value.
Did we get them on a bad day? Possibly. I'd been to CoCo several times and always left well fed and happy with the service. Problem is, if you can't step it up on a quiet Sunday afternoon then it doesn't hold out much hope for a busy evening service and I cannot see the sense in splitting up customers around an almost empty room.
We left and went to a nearby bar where a huge man with a gold front tooth asked me to dance even though there was no music playing. As with dessert, I declined.
Sunday menu two courses £16.95 x2
Garlic chips £3