This is more of an opinion piece than a review. Coco’s is an institution in Bahrain. Everyone knows it…locals, expats, tourists, high school students, grandparents. And you’ll probably find very polarizing opinions if you ask people what they think of Coco’s.
Coco’s definitely has its flaws. They are glaringly obvious. You go to Coco’s and you most likely come out with a very mixed opinion. Did you enjoy the food? Absolutely. Did you like the price? No question about it. Was it fun waiting 45 minutes for a table? I’ll leave that for you to answer.
Coco’s is a cosy little restaurant located in the restaurant hot spot district of Adliya. The restaurant is an old house that has been converted into a café. This gives it a sort of comfy, homey atmosphere that’s clearly reflected in their menu. They offer outdoor dining in the pleasant winter months, and on occasion the top floor of the restaurant is also open. There are lots of cute little touches, like jars filled with dried pasta and spices, magazines placed alongside the tables, etc. It has its own vibe going on, something that is distinctly Coco’s and nowhere else. It’s the type of restaurant that you’ll take out-of-towners to and it’ll be their most requested restaurant whenever they visit (at least in my experience).
The menu is not lacking for variety; you’ll find the best selection of salads on the island, as well as a breakfast menu, sandwiches, soups, main dishes, chef’s specials, dessert, an endless list of juices, etc. There’s also a blackboard that displays the daily specials (these don’t actually change every day) No matter how varied the selection is you’ll find that most people tend to have a favorite Coco’s dish, which they will advocate passionately and order every time they go. I have a friend who comes from Saudi specifically to eat Coco’s on occasion and who has never ordered anything other than their strawberry salad. It drives me crazy because I keep begging her to try something new, but I introduced it to her once, she took a bite, and she was sold for life.
Personally, I love Coco’s salads (especially the Palma and the Strawberry salad), their soups (Potato Leek and Spinach Tomato) and their pasta dishes. I usually have my formula that I order but I also like to try their new things on occasion, usually to very pleasant results. When I went with my family, I tried their new lamb kofta dish, their beef kebabs, and the spaghetti with meatballs. I also had my prerequisite salad and peach ice tea (best ice tea I’ve ever had!). Their lamb kofta I loved. The actual meat was so pleasantly spiced and flavorful, and the rice it was served on was scattered with pomegranate seeds and coriander. It was the perfect combination. The beef kebabs were good, a typical Coco’s adjective, but I think lamb would have been better suited to be put on kebabs, and overall the whole dish was overshadowed by the lamb kofta. I love their new spaghetti and meatballs dish! The sauce is a pink sauce, tomato with a touch of cream, and the meatballs are these tiny juice little nuggets generously dispersed throughout the dish. It was the perfect balance of noodles, sauce, and meatballs.
In my humble food blogger opinion, Coco’s definitely has an advantage with their food. They have great dishes and they put together flavors in an interesting and refreshing way. It’s hard to feel gross after eating Coco’s because their dishes all feel light and healthy. I’d find it very difficult to believe that someone can try more than a few dishes on the menu and not like any of them.
There are drawbacks though…the consistency of the dishes is hit/miss. You’ll go once and have a pasta dish and be absolutely wowed, go back for the same dish and might not find it up to par. Sometimes my salad will have candied walnuts in it; sometimes there’ll be no walnuts at all, sometimes one or two raw pieces thrown in as an afterthought..
Another drawback and I’m sure every person who has gone through the experience would call this their biggest drawback- the waiting time. Coco’s doesn’t allow reservations, and it’s you and your luck. You’ll see people approaching the famed gate of Coco’s and it becomes a kind of silent, unacknowledged race to get to whatever staff member is taking down names for the waiting list as quickly as possible. Once you get your name on the list, it’s anywhere between a 30 min to a 1 hour plus wait. And yet, people wait. The courtyard is crowded with people staring hungrily at the tables of people seated, anticipating their turn to be one of those elite. Even after being seated, service isn’t great, so you’re in for another wait to order, to receive your food (probably dish by dish in a seemingly very random order), and your check will take even longer to arrive –all the while you’re being glared at by the people who are waiting for you to vacate and get them one step closer to their meal. Expect eye-rolling if you dare to complain about anything you’ve received, expect to yell “Excuse me!” in a louder and louder voice as waiter’s pretend not to hear you, and you’ll be prepared to navigate Coco’s service system. You kind of understand it when you see how busy the waiters are, but no guarantees you won’t get frustrated even when expecting this type of treatment.
So why does Coco’s continue to be probably the most popular restaurant in Bahrain (As waiting time would reflect)? Because even when the consistency isn’t up to standard, their standard of food is so high that the food is still better than most restaurants in Bahrain (I’d even argue that it compares to great café food across the region), and it’ll still be a meal that you’ll enjoy without paying too much for it. Their food is very reasonably priced, and you’ll leave feeling very full and satisfied and only 6-8 BD poorer after indulging in a salad, main meal and a drink.
In summary, there are two types of people in Bahrain. There are those who love Coco’s, and take the whole waiting, waiting, and more waiting as part of the experience. There are also those who can’t stand it and would rather go somewhere they can sit immediately. I totally get it…as much as I enjoy Coco’s; I’d never wait longer than 30 minutes to eat there. While I was talking to the server in charge of taking names for the waiting list, I heard him tell several people the wait was over one hour, to which every single one still insisted on waiting. The waiter himself would shake his head disparagingly, and I asked him why on earth people would wait that long. His own answer? “I’ve worked here for 7 years and I still don’t know why”. It seems that the crowd that fills up Coco’s come weekday or weekend, come rain or shine, know the answer to that question. Is Coco’s worth the wait to you