For new business owners, nurturing a fledgling venture can feel like nursing a newborn baby.
At House of Koko, in Chapel Allerton, the proprietors – relatively-new parents to a little boy – may feel this more keenly than most. They’ve given the coffee shop/cafe the name they’d have used to christen their child, had they had a girl.
As well as having a deeply personal touch, the name also has the advantage of evoking thoughts of a comforting hot drink.
Which is entirely appropriate – the coffee here is excellent.
Having said that, there are plenty of places to enjoy a good coffee in Chapel Allerton.
Residents and visitors might even go as far as to say that the last thing ‘the village’ needs is yet another.
The relatively brief existence of Grinders, House of Koko’s predecessor, is a cautionary tale.
What sets Koko apart from the rest, say the bosses, is the Asian influence on its food and drink. This is particularly evident in its extensive tea menu – jasmine, oolong, imperial keemun and sencha yamato are among the Far Eastern options on offer.
At the very least, the cafe can claim to be extremely unusual, if not unique, in treating the leaf with the same importance as the bean.
The cafe’s interior, all clean lines, geometric patterns, brightly coloured furniture and wooden counter tops, is more Scandanavian cool than Japanese chic. And, unless we missed something, the simple food menu– panini, salads and platters – was more European than Asian.
My dining partner had the Serrano ham, rocket, mozzarella and fig panini (£5.50). With an olive tapenade (misspelt as ‘tapenard’ on the menu), it was a fine balance of sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy flavours and textures.
My meat and cheese platter, served on a cheese board, looked really enticing. At £7.95 it was one of the most expensive options on the menu, but delivered well-presented, quality ingredients.
The surprise at Koko is the desserts and cakes. I had the lemon tart, which came with a mound of crushed raspberry and rose water ice and a fresh basil and apple jam. My dining partner had a kiwi-topped custard tart.
She remarked that the dishes were the kind of work you’d expect from a good restaurant’s pastry chef, not a suburban cafe. They’re certainly unlike anything else you’ll find in this part of town.
It’s that kind of unique selling point that makes you believe that Koko could be one baby that’s bouncing for some time to come.
Our bill, with a couple of soft drinks, was about £22.
Address: 62 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton