Restaurants: Fashionable fusion and a happy buzz

I TAKE the business of restaurant seating very seriously. So, it seems, do other people - I've just read a paper from Fukuoka University in Japan on the science of it all. I'm a fan of "side-by-side", but because I'm left-handed and she's right- handed, Neris prefers "face-to-face". She says "side-by-side" means too many elbows, so she was delighted that a "face-to-face" table was available when we booked at Cocoon in London's West End.

Cocoon used to be home to L'Odeon - a restaurant that made a selling point of the ceiling's odd lowness. But, with voile curtains that curve round soft spaces, Cocoon has made the place a lot more inviting. The mix of silks, woods and flowers is inspired by the life cycle of the butterfly. I don't know where the Plexiglass or spot-lighting fits in with that - but the end result is a natural wonder.

I didn't expect much of the food - I never do when a place looks as hip as this. The menu showcased the trend for "small eats", with lots of dishes to share, but its "pan-Asian" flavour worried me a bit. Different Asian cuisines playing off each other on the same menu always make me think of those all-you-can-eat buffets in New Jersey shopping malls. But the waiter soon got us into the spirit of it all.

He swooped in, and gave us a tour of the menu. He was charming, but he was also Spanish. And I would just say that, in English, there's a big difference between "mushroom" and "fungus" - whatever the mycological dictionary may say. Nobody is going to order a fungus dumpling, however nice the waiter is. He ended up recommending sashimi, a flight of sushi, followed by an appetiser and a main course or two. We nodded eagerly.

The selection of sashimi showcased a range of texture and taste, from silky yellowtail tuna to buttery scallop. But the sushi was disappointing; not terribly neat, and served with the thin, pink slices of ginger that come with supermarket sushi. Too much on the list was familiar. I would have liked some surprises. Like a prairie maki sushi, made with fillet steak. Or a rice-pudding-and- banana sushi.

But next came nigiri made from toro (pounds 8.50), the expensive, butter-soft underbelly of the tuna. A blowtorch sear on one side turned the fish into something quite delicious. The heat had melted the fat under the skin, which is where the flavour is, leaving two textures and two tastes in one mouthful. It's a trendy New York idea, but good for all that. And, along with the soft-shell crab special roll (pounds 8), it was the highlight of this section of the menu.

The steamed vegetarian dim sum (pounds 9.50 for four) was as pretty as a picture. The wrappers of the crystal dumplings, beetroot and tofu dumplings, enoki mushroom dumplings and Chinese chive dumplings were all a different pastel shade. And each was stuffed fat with filling. The texture was a little over-steamed, but the taste was first-rate.

The red-wine-vinegar pork (pounds 12.50) had been wok-grilled to melt off the belly fat and caramelise the meat. And the Szechuan chilli chicken (pounds 11.50) arrived sizzling hot, but was still insistently soft. After such big flavours, the poor spinach beancurd (pounds 9.50) didn't stand much of a chance. But it had been braised beautifully in a sweet pumpkin sauce and left with the texture of a sweet, poached cod. It acted as a palate cleanser before pudding.

The dessert list was a real treat - but very un-Asian. The mandarin rum panna cotta (pounds 7.50), for instance. And the sticky date samosa (pounds 7.50) with spicy chocolate mousse. The mousse was dusted with pepper, and infused with chilli. I tasted the sweetness of chocolate in my mouth and the smoky heat of chilli down my throat. I just felt its warmth - enough to justify another glass of dessert wine.

After seeing the chic decor at Cocoon I fully expected the food to be infected with the same sense of high-fashion. But it wasn't. And I thought the service would be stand-offish. But it wasn't. A few dishes with more imagination would be nice. But it's nice to have a good all-rounder with such a happy buzz. Neris puts it all down to the face- to-face seating. E

Cocoon,

65 Regent Street, London W1,

020-7494 7600

Food HHHII

Ambience HHHHI

Service HHHII

Three courses, without wine, pounds 50

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    English Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...

    SAP Data Migration Lead

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform