Cococabana in Shek O – Sun, Sea and Rosé Wine

Whether you find yourself in Shek O for a bit of lazy suntanning and swimming, or you’ve worked up a sweat on the Dragon’s Back and have earned a decent meal, then you’ll be pleased to know that Cococabana has re-opened right on the beach where Paradiso used to be (remember that place?!). Taking other Hong Kong beaches into consideration, Shek O Beach is a relatively more happening place and whilst they’re not fantastic, there’s a pretty decent selection of restaurants with a nice laid-back beach vibe.

I’ve been to Cococabana a few times since its new opening, and enjoy the quirky and random items stuck on whitewashed walls, the plastic utensil chandelier, crisp table linens and the solitary disco ball – a nice nod to the previous occupant perhaps?

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One can never have too many Ikea paper lanterns …

Whilst the old Cococabana was more beach chic, the new one is paillote*-esk, a sophisticated beach bar of sorts.  The menu reflects this with light meals, largely seafood and salad based with some chicken and steak thrown in for good measure. They also have a beach bar menu (hamburgers, crêpes and a pretty awesome merguez sausage sandwich), so if you’re in the mood for something more casual and easier on the wallet, make sure to ask for it.

When ordering, you can either choose from the Set Lunch menu for sharing (minimum 2 people @ HK$328), or order from the à la carte menu. The Set Lunch menu for two is actually pretty generous so if you’re looking for a lighter meal, you can always order for two and share between three. Any of the set lunch items can also be ordered on an à la carte basis.

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Salade Niçoise de la Plage HK$158

The Salade Niçoise is top choice at Cococabana, thick and perfectly grilled cuts of tuna with a nice selection of greens and a tangy dressing.

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Set lunch Menu: Mediterranean appetisers

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Baked goats cheese on puff pastry with Bayonne ham HK$148

The baked goats cheese goes nicely with the Bayonne ham, but the limp puff pastry leaves you wanting and I feel it’s a bit overpriced for what you’re getting.

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Set Lunch Menu: Piri Piri Prawns on mint couscous

The piri piri prawns is a generous and tasty dish. The piri piri sauce packs some nice and flavourful heat – wash the sand off your hands and literally dig in!

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Set Lunch Menu: Whole grilled sea bream, flamed with pastis

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LoveBites Lunches – Cocotte

After visiting Cocotte for dinner when it first opened a few months back, I went back to this lovely French brasserie-style restaurant to try out their new lunch menu, which they introduced just a couple of weeks ago. The menu is a straightforward compilation of tasty seasonal dishes, beautifully presented with choice ingredients, and well portioned to fill you just enough but not leave you bursting at the seams.

You can either opt for the Express Lunch (starter and main) for HK$ 168, or the three course Executive Lunch at HK$ 198, both include tea, coffee or a soft drink. There is certainly a plethora of choice when it comes to lunch menus in the Central and Soho areas, but this one really stands out in terms of the quality of food and the high level at which it is executed.

Gazpacho - tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, extra virgin olive oil

Gazpacho – tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, extra virgin olive oil

 Frisée Salad - poached egg, lardons, Pommery mustard dressing

Frisee Salad – poached egg, lardons, Pommery mustard dressing

These two dishes are a light and refreshing way to start the meal. I’m not one to usually order a cold soup but this gazpacho is super refreshing, with a distinct bell pepper taste and I enjoyed the addition of whole cherry tomatoes for varying textures. The frisée salad is a simple dish with a perfectly poached egg and a grilled slice of baguette for extra crunch.

Confit of Salmon - Salt baked beet, tiny potatoes, horseradish cream, dill

Confit of Salmon – Salt baked beet, tiny potatoes, horseradish cream, dill

Steak Tartare -  truffle egg yolk, salad

Steak Tartare – truffle egg yolk, salad

For something a bit more filling, the steak tartare has got to be my favorite starter of them all. Add as much as you want of the tangy and ever so slightly spicy tartare sauce, with a dollop of the egg white and caper mixture after mixing in the fresh egg yolk (or not!) into that wonderfully tasty beef. The salmon was under-seasoned for my liking, although those baby potatoes and horseradish cream on the side were a nice accompaniment.

On to the mains, whilst hand on my heart I loved every one of them, the star of the show has got to be the filet mignon.  I’m not usually a fan of very lean cuts and usually opt for rib eye for an extra bit of taste, but this filet mignon was incredible – tender, tasty and perfectly cooked. I hope they never take it off the menu! Beware of those fries and béarnaise sauce, they’re dangerously addictive.

Beef Filet Mignon Frites - matchstick fries, Bearnaise Sauce

Beef Filet Mignon Frites – matchstick fries, Béarnaise Sauce

The codfish was also a fabulous dish, transporting you to the Mediterranean with perfectly cooked, large translucent flakes of codfish, moreish polenta disks (I have to try making those at home!!), and a really nice ratatouille.

Codfish Mediterranean Style - spiced ginger polenta, ratatouille, red beet reduction

Codfish Mediterranean Style – spiced ginger polenta, ratatouille, red beet reduction

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London Pub Grub @ The Prince Alfred: Cool Pub, Bad Grub

Good things hardly ever come of choosing a restaurant at the last minute, in a country that you are not familiar with. I always feel the pressure when we go abroad – because I write a food blog it is automatically assumed that I know where we should go for a meal. On top of that, I didn’t get my tendency for critical analysis of food from no where – I got it from a love of good food, yes, but also from years of osmosis from my family. And so, if I choose a bad restaurant for us to eat at, it is automatically my fault that we ate a bad meal. The words of a great Brit, Freddie Mercury, ring true – when we are in London, I am Under Pressure.

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And so here I am for my annual May trip, and I was faced with such a challenge yesterday. Given 15 minutes to choose and reserve a table for lunch at a restaurant that served decent (but not too expensive) food, near Finchley Road, I found an interesting looking pub called The Prince Alfred:

Good but inexpensive = pub grub ✔

Located in Maida Vale ✔

Added bonus: an establishment with character and interesting features ✔

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I was attracted to The Prince Alfred because I do love some good pub grub, and also because of its interior features. It’s a rare example of a late Victorian Public House, or “Pub”. It’s separated into 5 compartments as “some preferred not to be seen drinking by their inferiors, or superiors for that matter”. There are tiny access doors in the mahogany partitions between the compartments, which we had to duck under à la Alice in Wonderland, and were seated in a bright and airy separate dining room, which was the restaurant section of the pub, called The Formosa Dining Room.

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They offer a very reasonable set lunch, two courses for ₤12 or 3 courses for ₤15.50. The sticky toffee pudding was particularly enticing, but we decided to order from the à la carte menu, which featured more of it’s ‘specialties’.

IMG_5518After seeing this sign on the wall, I just had to order that ‘crispy’ pork belly. However, when it was served, the plate was rather unattractive, lacking in colour and bland – I immediately ordered some sautéed spinach, which was the best part of the meal. To be fair, the black pudding was also quite tasty. The pork belly however, was dry, fatty, and not very nice to look at. ‘Twice-cooked’ was an intelligent spin on the fact that it had been pre-cooked, and then re-cooked.

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Twice-cooked Crispy Pork Belly, Braised Red Cabbage, Black Pudding, Apple Sauce £16

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