The health food buzz clearly isn’t waning in February, I discovered on a recent trip to a favourite haunt of mine, Cocu on Chatham Street. While many may have come here first on their January health kick, they appear to be flocking back in their droves. On a Sunday afternoon I am lucky to grab a table in the packed eatery to get in out of a dreary Dublin downpour.
When Alchemy left Grafton Street, I was at a loss for a proper sit-down, healthy city centre eatery on days when the shops were crying out to me – good for my wallet, I admit, but not my soul. Stopping for a delicious bite that won’t burst your new purchases is the dream, so when firm favourite Cocu (which can be found on Baggot Street Lower and Hatch Street also) opened their doors on Chatham Street my prayers were answered. Priding themselves on honest, healthy food made from scratch, Cocu is casual and laid back in service style but serious when it comes to nutritious food.
Don’t be fooled by the nautical navy fascade, Cocu’s interior is bright and inviting with white wood panelled walls and sunshine yellow hues carrying though to the cups and saucers. Ply wood tables and school chairs make for a minimalist, insta-friendly look and an upbeat playlist of soulful classics welcomes diners looking to get their health on. Cocu brunch is offered on both Saturday and Sunday and goes on until 4.30pm – fantastic news, as if I’m already being good I should at least get to have a sleep-in beforehand.
Generally pancakes are a naughty little indulgence, but many places have managed to create lighter more nutritious versions. Cocu have taken this to the next level with savoury Green Pea Pancakes and I see them flying out of the kitchen, proving no-one is missing the basic floury pancake here. Eating your greens was scarcely ever so enjoyable, I can confirm, having enjoyed the herby pea patties with whipped feta on a previous visit. But as variety is the spice of life, I was keen to test out some new additions to the ever-changing Cocu Brunch Menu.
One dish called my name immediately – Poké Bowl(€10.95). One of the pioneering Pokés in Dublin, the presence of the trendy Hawaiian Asian hybrid bowl is a testament to the fact that Cocu only uses exceedingly fresh produce. Having arrived earlier that morning from Wright’s of Marino, the crowning glory is generous chunks of sashimi, which my knife glides through like butter left sitting in the sun. Each piece is cut from the meltingly tender belly of the salmon, ensuring it is quiveringly soft – utterly crave-worthy studded with black sesame.
Perfectly ripe avocado, fiery housemade kimchi whipped up by owner Emilia and shaved pickled radish cut through chunks of richly marbled sashimi – this is nourishing food for the soul; a furious hula dance of flavour. Sriracha yogurt dip, edamame and a nori crisp completed the dish, bulked out with plenty of nicely cooked brown rice – a more generous portion than first meets the eye. I am well aware that we will see these bowls everywhere in the coming months, but as it was with Acai bowls, Cocu is ahead of the pack and their Poké Bowl alone is worth a trip to town to try.
I had been so so good, so healthy balance dictated that my sweet tooth shouldn’t go ignored…Anyone who knows me knows bread and its derivatives are not on my menu. My new rule, I think, is to only eat bread when it is in the form of Cocu’s Nutella Toast(€7.95) – rye sourdough, sourced locally from renowned Dublin bakery Tartine, toasted and smothered in a layer of nirvana.
A blend of rich cacao powder, hazelnut butter, peanut butter and agave makes Cocu’s version of the now less than popular palm oil laden Nutella a complete feel good food while still tasting so very bold. Thin toast was a godsend here as it allows the perfect spread to bread ratio, and thankfully for my inner chocolate fiend Cocu slathers this nutella on as thickly as it does good vibes.
Amazonian super food cacao is a natural mood elevator, packed with antioxidants, magnesium, calcium and iron. Glistening on top of the subtle nuttiness of rye sourdough and topped with banana and pomegranate seeds, this simple little pleasure of a dish had me smiling from ear to ear. They sell this nutella in take home tubs, I’m told, but I certainly couldn’t trust myself to be left alone with it.
Looking around the buzzing restaurant, it was clear my feeling that there is something for everyone at Cocu was bang on the money. Girlie brunch? What you save on Prosecco you can reinvest in Cocu nutella, guaranteed to leave you just as giddy. In clean eating, meal prep and gym mode? Let Cocu do the graft, get a Super Green Smoothie into you and follow it up with a Poké Bowl – this is not your regular brown rice, salmon and greens experience.
R.E.S.P.E.C.T came on just as I was sipping the end of a vibrant Almond Milk Matcha Latte (€3.50), which I’m told is made utilising one of the few Irish Matcha producers, Cork based Matcha Ireland. I thought to myself that Aretha hit the nail on the head – respect for Irish produce sourced locally and for the ethos of creating food that is just as delicious as it is nourishing is the name of the game in Cocu.
I love that the Cocu Brunch menu is the opposite of run of the mill – dishes like No Rice Risotto, Poké Bowls and Green Pancakes make sure of this – not a claggy hollandaise topped Eggs Benny in sight. I’ll be back for a sampling of some of the nutritious treats on offer by the counter – Raw Twix, Caramel Praline and Cookie Dough Bites are on my hit list for next time I pop in.
Cocu bridges the gap between rabbit food and food you want to ravage. The fact that it is entirely affordable, with most dishes hovering in or around the ten euro mark, makes it all the sweeter. I contemplated dubbing it brunch with benefits or ‘no filter-needed food’, but a more accurate title is my number one go-to brunch spot – see you there next weekend!
16 Chatham Street
T: 01 677 8872
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake Off and am passionate about discovering and creating delicious things – I can sometimes be caught in the act on TV3’s Six O’Clock Show. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.