Food & DrinkGrub Spy

Cocu shows your gob a really good time without the calorie guilt

Cocu is packed at lunchtime, always a good sign
Cocu is packed at lunchtime, always a good sign

The proprietors of Cocu Kitchen must be as happy as a monkey with a peanut machine. I mean, there can’t be that many joints in Dublin with ravenous logjams trailing out the door every lunch hour.

It pretty much defies accepted catering logic, really.

And while most of the throng are neighbourhood office serfs watching the clock, there are a few stalwarts who regularly trek a few miles.

An especially time-conscious pilgrim verifies this: “Yeah, I work in Sandymount and I also do the odd brekkie as well” he smiles. That’s the kind of recommendation diehard restaurant fans like me love to hear.

Less fast food, more speedy food, the name Cocu is a play on ‘counter culture’, referring to the fact that this place serves up fast, over-the-counter food. But there’s no deep-fat fryers in sight as Cocu uses only local, seasonal and healthy ingredients.

A concise, simple-to-understand wall menu promises flawless salad-type renditions of beef, chicken, pork, salmon, and veggies. I won’t bore you with any         pseudo-scientific superfood hogwash and concentrate instead on what really matters, i.e. the taste.

Grabbing one of the few tables available, I’m soon working my way through chunks of Middle Eastern-style chicken with all the Cocu trimmings. There’s a pleasing range of salad combinations to choose from, and while brown rice, salad leaves, roast peppers, feta, avocado and pine nuts might not sound tempting or very exciting, as soon as I start I can’t stop eating.

I think it’s the gorgeous fluffy quality of the feta that brings it all so amazingly well together, to the point that the little container of lemony sumac dressing is not needed. It’s a great dressing, but it wouldn’t be missed.

The sprinkling of toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds adds extra texture and nutty flavour,

But it’s the chicken that’s the star. From bespoke to factory farmed, I’ve never met a roast chuck-chuck I didn’t like. And the version that issues forth from Cocu’s kitchen is pure poultry Armani. Think chicken nuggets...then throw them out, because for me this is nirvana territory with meat I can obsess about.

It’s not often I just get pieces of tasty leg meat when dining out (and I’m not sure if Cocu only use thigh and leg, but great if they do) but every mouthful is infused with a deep chickeny flavor you just don’t get with breast meat. It’s cooked so well and so tender, it could be eaten without a full complement of gnashers.

A chilled bottle of Kombucha completes a surprising experience.

Siting back, I ponder the military-like precision that is necessary to serve crowds of this size. Each order is numbered - I was 197, and before I finish eating, I hear 247 being called. Now that’s what I call doing the biz. My flabber is truly gasted.

I’m almost tempted to say that Cocu serves the best lunch in Dublin. But that would be silly and oblivious to the wonderful burgeoning food scene in the capital. What I can say is that Cocu is a foodie Xanadu that shows your gob a really good time without the calorie guilt.

Cocu restores the faith with a finger very much on the trendy pulse. And it lives up to its ‘a healthy obsession’ slogan.