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24° & RAINY ON SATURDAY 15 DECEMBER IN AUCKLAND
FOOD & DRINK

Coco’s Cantina

I didn't meet Coco herself, but it's safe to assume she's got it goin' on, because her cantina sure does.
By Vanessa Ellingham
August 14, 2011
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Coco’s Cantina

I didn't meet Coco herself, but it's safe to assume she's got it goin' on, because her cantina sure does.
By Vanessa Ellingham
August 14, 2011
  shares

I didn't meet Coco herself, but it's safe to assume she's got it goin' on, because her cantina sure does.

Coco's Cantina, hidden in the centre of K'Rd just before the bridge, is the perfect beginning to a night out with friends, or a sexy meet-up in one of the darker corners of this otherwise bustling bar and eatery.

Carefully step over the hipsters and homeless and you find yourself in a bustling cantina, probably somewhere near Havana, but perhaps also anywhere along the Med - it's your call. The lights are low, Dean Martin's warbling, and there's just enough room for you to squish up to the bar.

Visiting the cantina is an experience - the disclaimer on its website isn't joking when it advises visitors can expect to be jiggled around between standing, sitting at the bar, and the tables (and maybe even back to the bar if you're lucky!).  Although this probably rules out bringing your grandparents along, it's all part of the Coco's experience - my friends and I certainly drank it in, and played along when the barman yelled out that he'd spotted some ladies preparing to exit, and if we wanted their table we'd better run down there quick.

The menu is rustic Italian with aspects of the greater Mediterranean - I say grab the polenta chips to start; they can tide you over until there's a free table, and the aioli goes down a treat.  There's no finicky fine dining minimalism - portions are well-sized, but beautifully presented.

I highly recommend the pork belly; mine was the perfect balance of crunch and chew. Nestled on a bed of smooth chorizo mash, with a sage leaf and pancetta stuffing, it would be hard not to choose it again. A special on the evening I visited was a mexican dish with fish pan fried in tortilla, which was also tempting and I hope it's on the menu next time I visit.

Tiramisu was a good choice of dessert, and sharing it between three was a good move - as you can imagine, Coco likes her dessert rich (and her men richer, I'm sure).

The wine and beer list is vast, and the cantina also boasts mulled wine in the winter, with sangria in the summer, best sipped in the chilled courtyard out the back which opens up in the warmer months.  Will definitely be popping back in the summer.

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