Here at HOC HQ, we’re open to anything that has ‘bar’ and ‘Coco’ in the same sentence. Usually saved for countless invites hitting our mailbox for the latest venue launches, we were intrigued to see what our namesake had to offer. With a beach bar theme and the promise of tropical cocktails and Brazilian inspired bar snacks – we were sold. After a crazy weekend of events, we sent our resident Cocktail lover Jenna to spice up her Tuesday night before heading out on the town, there was many new spots to visit that night, but first, Coco’s….
“Ok, I admit it, I absolutely love bars. From working in one when I was 18 and crying over not knowing how to make a Pornstar Martini to propping myself up on Epernay’s bar after far too many glasses of Champagne – visiting bars is what I do, and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. Over the years, I’ve become abit more discerning when it comes to where to get a good drink. Domino Club is a new favourite that I always recommend and I always swear by Bilbao’s G&Ts – so it’s always good to try somewhere new. Walking into Coco’s, it’s quite clearly a reworking of the original Cabana restaurant. Although the interior is faultless and they’ve got the theme dead on – you still feel like you’re in a chain. Now some people may like the security of being within a known brand, but I’m a little more into the independent bars, so this was going to be a slightly hard sell.
Unfortunately for us, the welcome was not as warm as the Brazilian sunshine. Walking up to the bar, I knew I was slightly early for my reservation (it was throwing it down outside) and the venue was totally empty of guests. Asking for my contact at the bar, a very flippant Bartender pointed over to a table of managers telling me to go get her myself. Woah…..pretty sure that is not at all appropriate, no matter how early I am. To keep the peace, I agreed and went over to the table of dumbstruck faces who had no clue why I was interrupting their meeting. Luckily for me, Jam was incredibly accommodating and switched the whole welcome around. She took us to a high table with a large pendant lantern above and welcomed us to try a selection of their cocktails and tasty bar snacks, with her chirpy nature and recommendation of Halloumi Fries, Coco’s was back in the game.
Looking at the cocktail menu, it is exactly what you’d expect. Sweet tropical cocktails that mostly involve coconut, passionfruit and lime. One thing that did make me laugh was their ‘Lagerita’ which some may know as typical of Cancun. It is literally a giant frozen Margarita with a bottle of lager stuck in the top – amazing if you’re at a beach club in Brazil, but maybe not ideal if you’re stopping off for a drink after Christmas shopping. Ordering a ‘Sprinkles Margarita’ and a ‘Jungle Fever’ it was clear that these cocktails were going to be incredibly sugary. Both cocktails were cute with hundreds-and-thousands sprinkles and a jelly snake on top. As said, definitely not my usual cup of tea but I can see the market for it in a shopping centre like Trinity.
Feeling the sugar rush – it was definitely time for some food. I love casual dining with nibbles and nice drinks, with tapas being my usual choice, but Brazilian bar snacks would definitely do the job. Glancing over the menu, they’ve got everything from Mexican influence to good old burgers. Opting for Chilli Squid, Halloumi Fries & Guacamole – I was totally impressed. The Chilli Squid had a light batter with a delicious dipping sauce and the Halloumi Fries had me dreaming about them when I got home.
Needing a few more cocktails to take us through, I was intrigued by the ‘Cheeky Chilli Martini’ which sold itself to be a concoction of Gin, Apple, Chilli & Coconut. Now I love Gin and anything with a little kick always seems to hit the spot, so I was really excited to try this. When the cocktail arrived, it was so so cute. In a classic Martini Glass with half Chilli’s working as Devil Horns, it spoke to me on a personal level. Any cocktails that are totally instagrammable have got my vote, but unfortunately, that was the only thing going for it. Taking my first sip, it was like drinking a bottle of Coconut Syrup. I couldn’t get the Chilli, I definitely couldn’t get the Gin and I couldn’t even finish the drink. It was sad, as I REALLY wanted these cocktails to be good but either the bartenders aren’t trained or their specs are wayyy off. It’s odd, as obviously a ton of thought has gone into the branding, the interiors and the food – but the Cocktails are seriously 80’s, but not in a good way. Thankfully, the bartender managed to mix up a classic Margarita for me, and it was good – but that taste of Coconut clung on!
All in all, Coco’s really is a fun place to have a few drinks, but I can see why it hasn’t taken off yet. Not only do they only stay open until 9:30pm which is earlier than when most people come out, the layout is a slight afterthought with it clearly being a rework of half the restaurant. This paired with a lacklustre welcome, ‘Nando’s Style’ ordering at the bar and overly sweet cocktails, they’ve got a long way to go before this becomes a destination bar for most Cocktail lovers. The atmosphere is great and I stand by the fact that their interior is seriously well thought out, so maybe the bartenders are letting them down. I urge anyone who loves Brazilian food and music to pop into Coco’s when you’re next around for some of the best damn Halloumi fries in Leeds, but maybe stick to the beers. I’ll definitely be back to visit in the Summertime for some beach vibes, but I don’t think this will be #TeamCoco’s newest haunt anytime soon. Shame, as a bar with our namesake should be the perfect place to brainstorm over a few cocktails, but it isn’t going to be Coco’s.”