Desko or Fresco; the New Fast Food Lunch. John Healy tries the cool new hotties, CoCu and Eathos.
It wasn’t that long ago when the only place to eat on Upper Baggot street was a choice between Burger King or Abrakebabra and that was nearly it.
In the past few years alone the landscape at the intersection with the canal has exploded. On the side of the street opposite the hospital and between the bridge and the lights on Waterloo Road, there are no fewer than six premises offering all day food. The latest two to hit the headlines are within three doors of each other and have opened within the same month.
We all are aware that the lunch time market has changed dramatically in the city, al Desko or al Fresca has replaced a sit down meal. Fast food has become a thing of beauty. Its still cheap - or I really should say inexpensive - very available, and of late, healthy and very, very good. There have been a number of cafes and “To Go” restaurants popping up all over the city. The latest on Baggot St. are Eathos and CoCu.
Ethos is from the mother ship of With Taste Catering, offering breakfast and lunch from 7 am until 4pm, Monday to Friday. It looks like it has been styled on London’s Yotam Ottolenghi, a Jerusalem born chef who has taken London and the cookbook market by storm. He has developed a huge following and is loved for his big flavoured, taste sensations, Middle-eastern influenced recipes.
Anyway, besides all that, it is open a couple of weeks, so I went for lunch with a friend John (A successful chef) last week. It looks slightly too fabulous for the street. Walking in is very swish, and all white. Everything is white, Everything !!!!!…… the whiteness is coloured only by the enormous display of pastries and cakes in the window and a white food bar with oversized plates, piled high with different salads on different levels, like multicoloured mushrooms reaching up to the sun. Its looks amazing, and in contrast to the white walls and floor, the food really stands out. Fabulous so far.
The restaurant atmosphere is clean, hushed and expensive. Which suggests to me that a lot of money has been spent on the interior and furniture for it to feel this way. It’s the kind of place you can walk into in your newest shoes and feel comfortable.
Service is friendly, efficient and dare I say very attractive, there’s good looking staff. We were seated immediately in a very polite and hospitable manner and there’s a nice buzz in the room although its tiny. I guess most of the business will be “to go”.
There is a lot of explaining to be done by staff on the food concept and menu, but thank God its not overcomplicated and they have kept it simple. Choose two salads for 9 euros or three salads for 13 euros. More substantial you can have a protein with two salads for 14.50 or protein with three salads for 16.50. If you want you can go look at them first and the choice is great; Savoy cabbage, red cabbage, peppers and pickled carrots with spicy cashew nuts, or Camargue red rice and quinoa with orange and pistachios among others.
I had the chargrilled Kenmare salmon with red pepper hazelnut and lemon salsa. John had the Chicken with sumac yoghurt. Sumac, a spice from a flowering plant grown in the subtropical climate is used a lot in African and middle eastern cooking, and has become this years’ raspberry vinaigrette.
As we chatted and ate I thought, “Oh dear, this looks better than it tastes”. I have always recommended that the chefs preparing the food should sit and eat it in the restaurant they work in to really taste what the customer’s experience. Food always tastes different when it has been prepared by someone else, somewhere else. It’s important for quality, portion size and temperature, and in this case for taste.
I would have liked another taste sensation here, coriander, ginger, fresh herbs, chilli or some spice. It’s almost like the chef is not on the same wavelength as the décor. The salads need a little work. It all tastes a little over refrigerated and because of that slightly bland.
On a more positive note the desserts are sublime. These were the highlight for me, a perfect size to be a post lunch sweet, yet not big enough to cause a mid afternoon desk doze, and a 3FE coffee is always great.
Next door CoCu does it in a box in minutes. It’s the ultimate Healthy Fast Food. The simplicity is built for speed of service to maximise the numbers during the limited time of the lunch time market. A lunch restaurant has on average 1.5 hours at lunch time to make its money. Feed as many as you can between 12.30 and 2pm.
I had an opportunity to see the kitchen before opening and it’s all brand new. A lot of investment has gone in here as well, and it’s backed by the Roach family, who are more construction that digestion, but they got this so right.
CoCu is a play on Counter Culture; Counter service order, pay, receipt and number system, and food comes out in a box. No confusion, no chaos, no fuss and it moves.
I loved the user friendly menu, Step 1, step 2, step3. Idiot proof brilliance. Often too much choice causes delays and people begin to change dishes. That’s a nightmare for staff in rush hour rhythm. Allergens and food allergies are very clearly indicated, so just get on with ordering.
The interior is kinda BoHo, stripped back New York style chic. Lots of natural light, wood and brushed metal, it’s all very East Village NY.
The staff are great fun, efficient, quick, friendly, and no messing, just in and out, wham, bam, thank you Mam. The queue going down the street daily is like a who’s who in the area. From sports personalities to health and image conscious TV and media celebrities. On occasion there has been a touch of the obligatory air kissing and high fiving as greetings are quickly passed, but there is no VIP line here, everyone waits their turn.
Lunch in the box is all freshly prepared and costs from €7.50 to €7.95 per main. Middle eastern Chicken with avocado feta and pine nuts, or slow roasted pork couggetti, raddish and pomegranate seeds with a tangy dressing. All salads have a choice of leaves , baby spinach, sweet potaoto or brown rice. Finally the super sprinkle of either Seedy; soya toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, Herby; mint ,parsley and pumpkin seeds or Nutty; Toasted cashews and almonds.
This is a complete taste sensation and for under a tenner and it’s bloody fantastic. Chicken is cooked perfectly - soft, moist, full of flavour – and is spicy with a raw fresh salad, and an excellent dressing complemented with avocado and salty feta.
It’s the classic combinations that always work with the addition of extra flavour and nuts that ticks all the boxes. Somebody knows what they are doing in there. CoCu is bang on the lunch time money; in fact I would have paid more for a slightly larger portion and kept some for coffee later.
The concept is refreshing, new and on trend. It’s daily fresh and healthy. The long line every day at lunch time tells its own story. It looks good, tastes great. I LOVE IT. Check it out
Food 3/5 Food 4/5
Atmosphere 4/5 Atmosphere 4/5
Service 5/5 Service 4/5