Dining at French restaurants can often be regarded as overly formal and a bit stuffy. Obviously there’s a time and a place for this sort of dining, but for many (myself included) it’s kept for rare and special occasions. French brothers Brice and Jonathan Moldovan wanted to take the stiffness out of French dining and so brought us Cocotte, a fun, casual and chic French restaurant in Central.
Tucked away down some steps between Hollywood Road and Gough Street, Cocotte is every bit as cute and cosy as its name suggests. The name in fact, as pointed out on the brothers’ business cards, has several meanings, including a casserole dish, a term of endearment equivalent to ‘darling,’ and a 19th century ‘lady of the night!’ Its aim is to denote casual, unfussy French dining, whilst also suggesting something a little more interesting and intriguing…
The space, designed by the talented Candace Campos (who also designed MANA, Tate, Restoration and BÊP, amongst others), is charming and instantly appealing, with its open front, high vaulted ceilings, comfy velvet chairs and mismatching eclectic wallpaper. Despite being just steps away from it all, you get the sense that you’re far, far away from all the hustle and bustle of Central, enjoying instead the ambience of a casual Parisian eatery.
Although they come from a long line of European hospitality and own a burger restaurant in New York, this is the Moldovans’ first entry into the Hong Kong dining scene. They clearly know what they’re doing here though and their menu reflects this. With a focus on seasonal ingredients and a “less is more” philosophy, Cocotte takes classic French dishes and gives them a cheeky, modern twist
We began with the foie gras, served with a ‘duo of fig’ (fresh and jam), aged balsamic vinegar and fleur de sel. As smooth and buttery as it should be, this foie gras was heavenly. It was surprisingly not overly rich and paired beautifully with both variations of the sweet fig.
The diver scallops, served on a bed of caramelised sunchoke, pea coulis, morel mushrooms and truffle cream, were absolutely divine. Seared on the outside, the centre of the scallops was insanely soft and bouncy, whilst the whole sugar snap peas added a lovely contrasting texture. Oh and that truffle cream…wow!
The first of our main courses was the day boat Dover sole “meunière” from the sharing section of the menu. This beautiful pan-fried fish was presented to us whole, topped with a light lemon, caper and parsley sauce, before being taken away and deboned for us. A comment was made that this was the best fish dish in Hong Kong and I too found it impossible to contradict that. At once crispy, soft, moist and incredibly flavoursome, this was hands down the highlight of the meal.
Alongside our amazing fish, we were served bowls of potato puree and ‘haricots verts’ with tomato and olive concasse. Both were delicious, but that mashed potato, made with mascarpone and caramelised garlic, was out of this world.
Our second main course, Brice’s favourite, was the Mathers genuine Scotch lamb “cannon”. I personally found the meat a little too salty, something that the artichoke did not help overcome, but the lamb was wonderfully tender and the accompanying mint quinoa and light goat’s cheese sauce brought a welcome freshness to the dish. A side dish of mixed young leaves with quinoa and a light French vinaigrette also helped balance the flavours.
Moving onto desserts, the first season berries was again lovely and fresh. At first I couldn’t decide how I felt about the very floral lavender meringue, but it worked well with the other components of this dessert.
Less light but nevertheless delicious was the flourless Valhrona chocolate cake served with raspberries and their coulis, grated white chocolate and vanilla ice cream. The chocolate was rich and fudge-like, to the extent that I would never have been able to finish this dish alone. Even so, I still did my best to eat every last crumb of my half.
Service at Cocotte is excellent. Brice and Jonathan are on hand to offer their personal recommendations and it is clear that they are wholeheartedly invested in making Cocotte a true success – and I have no doubt that it will be. If you’re hungry and plan on ordering three courses and wine, then you can expect to pay at least $800 a head. For seriously good food in a relaxed, casual chic setting, I’d say it’s worth every cent. Perfect for a date night or even a gathering of friends, I can already envision many a return trip to Cocotte.
9 Shin Hing Street
Tel: +852 2568 8857