Coco di Mama
Since taking up residence on Fleet Street during 2011, Coco di Mama has quickly made a name for itself as the place to go for fast, fresh and tasty pasta in the heart of the City so it seemed like the ideal place to feature in my first Light Bite Lunch restaurant review. The menu is simple but broad, offering a choice of pastas (including familiar faces such as penne and farfalle, and occasionally more unusual options like serpentini) which can be topped with one of a selection of sauces. There tend to be about eight sauces on offer on any given day: the classics, such as Pomodoro, Bolognese and Carbonara are always available, while the specials rotate so that there’s always something new to try out. Liberal lashings of chilli oil, olive oil and parmesan are offered to top the pastas at no extra charge. If you’re not such a pasta person, then there’s also a daily changing soup, and a decent selection of freshly made filled baguettes and salads, all with an Italian influence, available to grab from the fridge.
The concept allows for exceptionally speedy service as pastas and sauces are all kept simmering behind the counter – even when the queue extends out of the door (an increasingly common occurrence these days) it’s still possible to be in and out in under five minutes. Sitting in is a pleasant experience too. The décor is ever so slightly tongue in cheek, with giant posters that proclaim the quality of the ingredients using images including a necklace of vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, or a martini glass of single estate extra virgin olive oil, and a colour scheme that mimics the stereotypical Italian red and white checked table cloth. The seating area is comfortable and it’s also spacious enough that diners don’t feel hemmed in by the queue.
My dining partner and I visited on a Friday in the peak of the lunch hour rush, but were easily able to find a table. The pasta dishes are available in two sizes, midi (medium) and grande (large), with the latter being enough to satisfy even the most gargantuan of appetites. I opted for the “Naked Pasta” daily special – farfalle served sauce-less but with a generous helping of spicy chorizo, chargrilled red peppers and fresh rocket. This was a simple but delicious combination, the pasta perfectly al dente and the toppings rich and incredibly tasty, the rustic meatiness of the thick sliced chorizo balanced out by the sweetness of the chargrilled peppers and the peppery bite of the rocket. I also enjoyed a fantastically fresh Baby Caprese side salad of peppery rocket, sweet sliced tomatoes and creamy buffalo mozzarella with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. My dining partner chose a grande sized portion of penne with Pure Carbonara sauce – an intensely flavourful dish with the nuttiness of the mushrooms and saltiness of the pancetta cutting through the rich creaminess of the sauce.
Desserts, if you can fit them in, are impressive too – my dining partner and I shared a wonderfully moist and zesty home-baked lemon polenta cake, whose meltingly soft base and delightfully crunchy sugar topping had us fighting over the last crumb. Coco di Mama provides great value too, with a grande pasta coming in at just under £5 and a feast like ours with a drink each and shared dessert still costing less than £8 per head. Overall then, we reckon Coco di Mama definitely deserves the full five Forks-Up.
Coco di Mama 90 Fleet Street London EC4Y 1DH www.cocodimama.co.uk 020 7583 9277