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By Heather• 1 Jun 2016
Where did that time go? Coco and the Roxy opened on 1 April 2011, bringing a new dining and movie experience to Miramar, returning the cinema to its former glory, and creating a whole raft of fun events for us to enjoy.
I recently chatted to Valentina Dias (one of the owners), Nic Spicer (head chef) and Ray Letoa (mixologist extraordinaire) about their first five years, and here’s what struck me most:
Coco was named to reflect the 1920/30’s era of art décor, the flapper girl, and Coco Chanel. To bring a little fun and olde-worlde charm to our modern lives. Achieved, I’d say.
Valentina is also a strong proponent of community-industry connections and encouraging youngsters in their endeavours, so formed the Miramar Events Trust with other like-minded souls. The Trust supports school short film-making competitions (with a glam red-carpet awards night at the Roxy for the kids involved), shows local artists, and hosts the Miramarvellous festival celebrating local film, arts and café culture, all wrapped around the DocEdge festival. Man, busy lady.
She also sees the Roxy as more than just a movie theatre. For Valentina its a place to catch up with friends, attend a fun event, enjoy quality flavour-based cooking or an interesting cocktail, contemplate art, or hold your next celebration or function. Case in point, the recent hosting of a special christening high tea.
It turns out Nic loves classic movies, so he’s totally in the right place. He uses locally sourced ingredients wherever possible, and likes to play with dishes we easily recognise but deliver them with a twist (check out the risotto below). His inspirations percolate over years of reading, research and watching movies, with a ‘rainy day’ file that'll keep him cooking for years to come. Yay!
One of his most unusual experiences was devising snacks to match scenes in the movie Reservoir Dogs, with the snacks delivered into the cinema during the relevant scene. In true Nic fashion, he decided on crispy sliced pigs ear for the scene where a police officer’s ear is cut off (tongue still firmly attached and in cheek), and persisted through sourcing the ears, obtaining MAF approval to serve them, and mass production to a precise time schedule. That’s dedication.
For their fifth birthday, Coco have released a dinner menu with some of their favourite dishes – mandarin glazed duck for two with Coco’s secret spice blend and autumn vegetables; roast goat shoulder with tomato, kale and giant cous-cous; and pommegranate chocolate fondant with buttermilk ice cream – and plan to celebrate all year (my kind of style!), so you may see other favourite dishes appear over the next six months.
Since the drool situation was getting a little out of control, we moved onto lunch and had an enjoyable time. It was all tasty with a stand-out component in each dish – the bacon jam in the burger, the coffee and craft beer caramel in the risotto, and the flower petals tying the Catch Pinot components together (more under Ray below) - and generous. In fact so generous the chip fiend couldn’t get his mouth around the burger and that’s saying something! I'd certainly come here just to eat.
Ray also has a ‘rainy day’ file, not least because he confesses to being an insomniac who loves science, with many night hours available for experimenting (visions of bubbling cauldrons!). He's currently going through a foraging and temperature stage, so don’t be surprised to see kelp or wild dandelion in your cocktail, or something served hot that you’d normally see cold. And has also just created a whisky ice cream, which he believes is a NZ first. Just as well he doesn't need sleep!
Inspiration comes from anything and everything for Ray – the sideways rain past the window, the fabric of someone’s outfit, the colours of nature - but also from babysitting his neices and nephews, with kids having such great imaginations and no sense of limitation. It must work as he created the winning Capital Cocktail for Visa Wellington on a Plate (VWOAP) last year - a tall gin fizzy pop inspired by childhood, with popcorn chicken on the side, and also offered as a mocktail.
And created Coco's Catch Pinot dish this month, rather than the kitchen doing so. While the components were all flavourful individually (other than the ice cream where temperature has its wicked way), they were elevated to a sum greater than their parts by the addition of the flower petals to each mouthful. And matched really well with the Paddy Borthwick pinot noir. Nice job Ray.
Ray has a peoples choice award from the 2014 Diageo Reserve World Class Cocktail Nationals, the VWOAP win, and a NZ number two mixologist ranking under his belt (Jordan who works the bar with Ray was also in the top ten last year). And with a ‘why not’ attitude, you'll always find something interesting to drink at his bar (maybe a cheeky little 666 autumn butter vodka from Tasmania which apparently gives a warm sensation and leaves layer of oil on the palate) and fun engaging staff to enjoy it with.
Coco and Roxy's VWOAP ventures this year sound fun too, and a little birdie tells me they’re commencing Sunday jazz brunches soon, so there really is something for everyone here.
Come join the celebrations, it's worth the jaunt.