Newly opened French deli and restaurant Cochin brings the essence of La Belle Époque to Central Hong Kong.
It’s a rainy, moody evening when we visit Cochin, the city’s newest French enclave and the latest project by acclaimed chef Renaud Marin (formerly of Upper Modern Bistro and St. George). We couldn’t be more pleased. With bright, welcoming interiors in naked pine and blue tile, a humming, welcoming vibe from the packed dining room, and a menu that’s heavy on comfort, the storm is the perfect backdrop for Cochin’s elegant yet unpretentious French cuisine.
There’s something for everyone at Cochin, which serves three squares a day. At one end of the main dining room are ranks of fridges, part of Cochin’s delicatessen offering, which includes top-grade charcuterie, cheeses by the Marchand Brothers, breads and pastries by Gregoire Michaud, and a raft of imported pâtés, tarama, caviars, and homemade condiments. At the other end of the restaurant a pint-sized cocktail bar serves a menu heavy with vermouth and pastis-laced concoctions echoing the golden age of Parisian grandeur. But we skip both, and instead take a perch between floor-to-ceiling windows and the open kitchen, at the heart of the action.
We kick off with easy grazing plates; the beef tartare with smoked sardines, pickled egg yolk and avocado, served with crisp bread, is a sizeable starter that should come with a public health warning – “could be addictive”. It’s silky and yet has the firm bite of quality hand chopped beef, the sardines adding a lingering saltiness that’s bound by the yolk. Similarly, the octopus carpaccio with smoked eggplant caviar, capers and tobiko wasabi would be well suited to four people snacking over a drink. While the wasabi isn’t immediately apparent, the octopus is refined and a healthy pinch of paprika helps bring out the smokiness of the eggplant to perfection.
My better half is a complete sucker for foie gras crème brulee, and Cochin’s puts a smile on her dial a mile wide, with its heavenly mousselike consistency and rich, lingering flavour. The mini rabbit sliders are hearty but not overly gamey, with bacon, pickled carrot and mustard fusing to create a slightly sweet-and-sour finish.
If you’re not looking for a sit-down dinner, Cochin’s menu is share plate-heavy, with brilliant cold cuts, cheese boards, caviar and pâté selections, as well as a beautifully-curated wine selection, sating most appetites.
For diners looking for something more substantial, mains are equally well suited to sharing and include ‘Ozi’ grass-fed Angus rib eye, whole fish of the day, and a Zaragoza suckling pig shoulder with citrus. We opt for the Brittany red mullet (not a dish you see every day in Hong Kong) with confit lemon gremolata and roasted new potatoes, which is simplistic yet delicious; perfectly cooked and beautifully balanced, it’s the ideal autumn dish. The whole Fadi organic yellow chicken, roasted and served in the pan, is a true crowd pleaser; perfectly seasoned, juicy and fragrant, it’s a dish that’s bound to bring back the punters time and time again, rain or shine.
Cochin, 26 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong; Tel: +852 2561 3336; www.cochin.hk