Cochin is one of India’s most beguiling cities – at least the old town, a remarkable collection of churches, houses, forts, mosques, synagogues and more, many dating from the seventeenth century under Dutch colonial rule. Life goes on at a slow pace under huge trees in sultry heat, while another draw to this part of the Kerala are the renowned ‘Chinese fishing nets’ where ingenious traps are still used to scoop up fish from the waters of the Arabian Sea. With that intro you’d expect Cochin to be all about the spice and heat of Southern Indian cuisine. It couldn’t be further from the case as Cochin is, in fact, proudly French. I didn’t get to ask the derivation of the name. I hit it up for lunch where there are a number of options involving permutations of a salad bar, cheese, desserts and a main. being a defiantly greedy bastard, working purely in the name of research, I went for the Full Monty which still came in at a more than reasonable $250.
But first to bread, namely baguettes from Hong Kong’s yeast maestro Gregoire Michaud, with salted butter. They come in dinky little buckets which have to be re-filled. And re-filled again. And then again. Such good bread, so simple, but a sign that Cochin care and are truly, deeply French.
In some spots, the words ‘salad bar’ makes the heart weep with feeble, soggy renditions of bits the kitchen hadn’t used up the day before. Not so here, where they’re a masterclass of variety and execution. Roasted eggplant with baby spinach? Check. Delicious, garlic-heavy tzatziki, perfect on a scorching day? Check. Beetroot, leek and walnut? Another winner. There are also various salumi, plump prawns and various pickled bits of joy.
In truth, you could do the salad option alone for a seriously tasty and good value lunch. But I soldiered on and was glad I did. Again, salmon can be the beige of the fish world, harmless enough but never going to inspire. Not at Cochin where it’s perfectly cooked and served with a brilliant, punchy lemon gremolata, over crushed zucchini. Bang-on the money, delicious and healthy.
Which is ironic, because the cheese and desserts then removed any vaguely healthy claims. A good selection of well-kept fromages with the usual accompanying suspects.
To wrap, a choice of desserts again on the buffet. They included a dinky but impeccable lemon meringue pie, so good:
Given the often scandalous prices in Hong Kong restaurants, an absolute feast of great quality dishes for $250 is a total steal. I’ll be back to see what they can do at dinner.