Reference a cocotte on the streets of Paris, and you might get one or two funny looks: it’s both a small casserole dish and a lady of the night. The double entendre certainly suits this place—it serves as both an unpretentious (though still quite high-end) dining destination and an attractive lounge bar (give or take the rather uncomfortable metallic stools).
Befitting its location on the ground floor of Wanderlust, one of the city’s hippest new boutique hotels, this French restaurant/bar combines rustic chic with stripped-down industrial décor.
Thankfully, the food is free of such fusion, and though the ambiance is playful, the kitchen takes their job extremely seriously. And it shows. Of the starters, both the pork rillettes and the chicken liver mousse were impressive—the latter offset with a moreish combo of mesclun salad and tart cornichon pickles—but it was the fried pig’s trotters salad that emerged the clear winner; delicate boneless medallions that crumbled to the touch over fresh arugula, juicy dried cranberries and a light pistachio dressing.
The room was packed when we were there, so we had ample opportunity to pick the best looking mains that passed our table: That meant calling after the moule frites, fresh French mussels in an unusual but notable cider sauce, with a side of crisply cut fries; chasing down the lamb stew, perhaps the only disappointment we faced, which reminded us of a Sunday lunch in an underperforming pub back in Europe; and pointing excitedly at the steak tartare, wonderfully rich tenderloin that almost topped the pig’s trotters on the list of reasons to come back.
We barely had room for the air flown cheese selection, but in the interests of research we persevered.
The venue also boasts an extensive and thoughtfully selected wine list, and our Yarra Valley white Portet was the perfect light foil to the richness of some of the food.
Service is certainly friendly, though occasionally haphazard: We were told several times that a particular dish had run out, and after several requests for black pepper we gave up.
And what’s with not having any mayonnaise, guys? Call yourself French? Stop teasing us.
Eat this at Cocotte: Roast pork collar. It’s one of I-S Magazine’s 50 things to eat before you die (2013).