Sometimes You Need to Give Things a Second Chance

How many times have you been to a restaurant, thought it was a bit crap and never gone back? I’d say dozens for myself. Maybe even hundreds. When you live in a place like London, Melbourne or Singapore, there are so many dining options for you, why would you bother going back to something that you had experienced as second rate?

But I wonder how many factors played out in your original experience? Did you dislike it because you were in a bad mood? Fighting with your partner? Tired after a long week? Or did you just choose the wrong thing from the menu and have food envy at everyone else’s choice? Was the food average? Was the service dire? Or a combination of these things?

When a friend recently mentioned how highly they rated the roast chicken at Cocotte in Little India I was forced to do a double take. I’d been to Cocotte about six months ago, with  friends visiting from Australia. It had been talked up by people here so I entered with high expectations and a hungry tummy. To tell you the truth, I can’t actually remember what I ate, I remember that it was in a pot, and that it looked good but seemed to have been re-heated and that the portion size wasn’t very big (and I’m not a huge eater so that means it was probably small). We had some wine with dinner that was pretty average for the $80 or so that the bottle cost, and I came away feeling a bit meh about the whole experience.

Thinking back to the dinner there was nothing horrendous about Cocotte, I just thought it was overpriced for what it was. And truth be told, the hipster surrounds and flaky service made me think that this was just another one of those places in Singapore. But Stu made me think differently. I haven’t known Stu for very long but in the few conversations I’ve had with him I could tell he was serious about his food. He was the one that helped me source organic chickens in Singapore (very hard to find) and put me onto Oh Deli on the East Coast for yummy home made sausages made from free range Australian meats. And given that I’ve virtually stopped eating chicken in Singapore because there’s no way to determine a) where your chicken has come from and b) what welfare standards have applied to it, I decided that an organic roast chicken, cooked by somebody else, was worth a try.

Cocotte have recently changed their opening hours, you’ll now find them open Wednesday to Monday, ie closed Tuesday, so Sunday seemed like the perfect choice for a comforting roast chicken dinner. We arrived at 7pm to a fairly empty space, I think there was only one other table taken during our 2+ hour visit. This could have been due to the recently changed opening hours but hopefully things pick up a bit or it can’t be worthwhile for them to stay open on a Sunday. You can order your chicken in advance if you don’t want to wait out the 45 minutes cooking time. We chose to order soon after we arrived, using the time to catch up on life.

The chicken is served with seasonal vegetables and pan gravy but we decided to order sides of fries, an heirloom tomato and anchovy salad and a special salad of asparagus, fennel, olives and Laguiole cheese. There were three of us and this was more than enough food (that didn’t stop us from ordering desserts to share though!) There’s no doubt that when the chicken arrives there’s an ‘ooh ahh’ moment of appreciation at the well sized board presented, complete with chopped chicken, gravy, a neat pot of broccolini (slightly overdone for my liking) and a good serving of potato bake. For those who prefer roast potatoes with their roasted meat, I can assure you that the potato bake’s crispy topping over tender but not too runny potato, will be enough to cure your potato addiction. Plus we had extra fries on the side, but the potato bake was definitely my preference.

So, to the chicken and the gravy. I’m not normally a gravy girl, over the years I’ve become more partial but I could happily live without it. I’m glad I didn’t miss out in this case though! Stu luckily ordered an extra serve of gravy and just as well. The gravy is slightly sweet, with a deep flavour that tells of its origins in cooking the chicken. I don’t even think my Grandma could make gravy this good. And the chicken itself is somehow perfectly cooked. We never got to the bottom of how they pre-cook the meat, there must be some advance preparation to have the chicken ready in 45 minutes, but whatever it is doesn’t alter from the tender and moist meat that is served. We all got our hands dirty by the end of the meal to get the best bits from the bones.

The salads were a good partnership with the chicken, the relatively small serve of broccollini on the side wouldn’t have been enough veg for three people. And the lightness of the fennel and asparagus, as well as the heirloom tomatoes (even if it was a struggle to taste any anchovy flavour), all went very well with the happy chicken.

And we probably should have stopped there but a chocolate mousse and Maldon sea salted vanilla icecream beckoned us. The chocolate mousse was made with valrhona chocolate and the rich chocolate flavour perfectly complemented the airy lightness of the mousse. The icecream had a hint of saltiness but it didn’t really work for me, then again I don’t really like icecream that much so I’m probably not the best judge.

All in all, I’m  pleased we gave Cocotte a second chance and I’ll definitely be back for a roast chicken soon. It’s also worth pointing out that Cocotte is located in the Wanderlust Hotel, a boutique hotel in a great location. The Flower Room (above) is one of 29 unique rooms, not a bad option if you’re looking for accommodation outside the usual 5* options.

We paid $55 per head for dinner including a few glasses of sparkling water and plenty of food, no booze.

Cocotte at Wanderlust
2 Dickson Road, Singapore, 209494
phone +65 6298 1188

Note: All prices quoted are in Singapore dollars (SGD). To convert to your local currency click here

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