A first taste at The Cocochine – the restaurant rewriting Mayfair dining rules
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A new restaurant is opening in Mayfair that promises to rewrite the rules on restaurants in Mayfair. Behind it are two of London’s most distinguished tastemakers. Tim Jefferies runs the photography gallery Hamiltons, whose artists include Richard Avedon, Daidō Moriyama and Don McCullin. His business partner, Sri Lankan born Larry Jayasekara, is former head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus, which he left in 2018 after being named National Chef of the Year.
Their restaurant The Cocochine, which takes its name from a diminutive that Jefferies used for his daughter, is spread across four floors at 27 Bruton Place. The dining room on the ground floor contains only eight tables, with 28 covers each for lunch and dinner and one sitting per table per meal. For practical and economic reasons, this might lead one to expect a set menu with a minimum spend. But the menu is à la carte and you can order as little or as much you want.
On the first floor, there are seven additional seats at the chef’s counter. These are first-come first-served. But do come first, because the 920sq ft kitchen is worth seeing. Its specs include a temperature-controlled bread cabinet, meat and fish dry-ageing units and metal washable ceilings, which I wouldn’t have thought to admire if Jayasekara hadn’t pointed them out. Jefferies apparently agreed to all his partner’s hi-spec requests, no matter the expense. “When you get involved with Larry, things have to be done at a level – a level I really appreciate,” Jefferies told me. The wider operation also includes two neighbouring premises, which house a staff canteen/development kitchen and office/rec room with showers – unheard of for standalone restaurants.
The pièce de résistance is the private dining room on the top floor. Conceived by Jefferies in collaboration with Jonathan Reed of Studio Reed, the space brings to mind a bachelor pad, if the bachelor had impeccable taste and spared no expense: world-class art, eclectic bespoke furniture, a dining table that seats 14, a double-height coffered ceiling with gold latticework, skylights and a Saracen fireplace. “Private dining rooms are often an afterthought,” says Jefferies. “Nearly always underground, a room with a door, that’s what makes them private. I’m hoping this will excite people.”
The space is modelled on the private entertaining space at Hamiltons. “For me, presentation and ambience are extremely important,” says Jefferies. “Photography is a difficult art form for people to understand when a print costs $800,000 and everyone is a photographer. I created a space where these rare, expensive beautiful works can sing.” When I visit, no artworks have yet been hung either in the private dining room or bar and restaurant spaces, but I’m told that diners should expect photography by, among others, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Hiro.
But what of the food? Jayasekara is a highly considered chef who commands his brigade with quiet authority. In his cooking, Jayasekara cleaves to the modern European playbook. Many of his dishes, including a deep-fried cauliflower dish I had at a preview, are finished with dots of oil or gel administered with a pipette, as well as tweezered arrangements of flowers.
But none of his flavours is precious. That cauliflower is marinaded for a week in soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown miso, teriyaki sauce and Sri Lankan treacle (which derives from coconut flowers and adds a prune-like depth). You’d find it difficult to parse all those ingredients on the plate, but the combination draws you in like an enigma you want to solve.
His lobster is smoky from having been barbecued in a banana leaf and finished with yuzu gel, crème fraîche, micro-basil and a cardamom-lobster jus, which is glossy, incarnadine and made me feel vampiric as I lapped it up. Green cardamom, which Jayasekera sources from Sri Lanka, is a surprise guest in a lot of dishes.
“I really don’t want to serve things that everyone else serves,” says Jayasekara, whose push for originality never tests your patience. The truffle bao, which is the bread course, is a talking point for its resemblance to a pigtail – or perhaps a brain. The Jerusalem artichokes with roasted chicken fat are superb. The quince-vinegar tart is pure joy. And I’ve never seen canapés loaded with as much caviar as these. Nor in the case of the black-truffle doughnut, a nibble so generously top-loaded I almost had to unhinge my jaw to fit it in. Who needs dainty when it tastes this good?