RESTAURANT REVIEW: Cocoa Tree at Panampilly Nagar Serves up Some Amazing Continental Fare

Cocoa Tree, while it was a small café tucked away in the ground floor of The Avenue Regent, was one of my favourite places to hang out while at college. I’ve been there with friends chilling and enjoying their chocolate desserts and drinks, with family eager to show them this favourite place of mine, and also alone to spend some ‘me-time’. One of my fascinations about the place was the wall with the sticky notes where you could write whatever you want. By the time college ended, I lost count of the number of sticky notes we had stuck on that wall – drawings, our names with the ‘friends forever’ tag, and whatever else came to our mind.

Over the years, Cocoa Tree expanded and started a new branch in Panampilly Nagar, next to Avenue Centre. Though I had heard about this, I never got an opportunity to go there until a sudden change of plan led us here. We were in the Edapally area when the plan came up and considering we were traveling quite a bit for a late night dinner, while we had a lot of options in Edapally itself, we kept telling each other that the food better be good! We reached here around closing time and yet it was full, which itself vouched for the place!

The place was beautifully done up with chalkboard and potted plant décor, which gave a very nice feel to it. The ambiance was perfect to chill and relax, and I am sure it would have been the same, irrespective of whether it was a group or not. The service staff was friendly and the service prompt. We were a big group and we ended up ordering quite a lot of stuff from the menu – Charred Mushroom Soup, Roasted Eggplant Sandwich, All-American Burger, Barbecue Pork, Five Veg Lasagne, Basil Pesto, Hot Chocolate, Red Velvet Cheesecake, and Nutella Crepe.

Our favourites varied from person to person. While I loved the Charred Mushroom Soup and the Basil Pesto Penne Pasta, my brother loved the Barbecue Pork and a couple of friends loved the Five Veg Lasagne (which I found to be a bit overpowering in taste). However, all of us were unanimous in our love for the desserts!

The Charred Mushroom Soup, served along with bread, was all that a soup should be. It was indeed soup for the soul and hit all the right notes. There was a smokiness from the charred mushroom, along with a slight hint of garlic lingering in the background. The consistency was perfect and creamy, not too watery and not too thick, and I loved biting into the mushroom pieces each time I took a spoonful of the soup. The addition of herbs in the soup was a taste enhancer and all in all, it was comfort at its best! The Penne Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes and Aubergine with Toasted Almonds and Parmesan in Pesto sauce was perfect. I’ve tried pasta in Pesto sauce from several places and though I’ve liked a few, this has to be my all-time favourite. It was not too cheesy, highlighting the Pesto flavour perfectly and the toasted almonds on the top was a wonderful addition. The Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes and Aubergine blended well with the dish and this was definitely my favourite! The Barbecue Pork was a hit among us! Served along with buttered corn and potato mash, the slow-roasted pork dressed generously in barbecue sauce was visually appealing and it did live up to the expectation it created. The meat was soft and tender. The mashed potatoes were creamy and salted right, and this along with the corn was the perfect accompaniment to the pork.

The Burger and Sandwich were accompanied with fries, Coleslaw and ketchup and both were tasty. The Roasted Eggplant was the perfect filling for the sandwich and I relished every bite of it. The burger too was stuffed well with the juicy beef patty, lettuce, tomato and cheese and along with the fries and Coleslaw. All of us enjoyed whatever bite we could get, amid all the fighting for one more piece. If there was a dish that I didn’t like as much as I loved the rest, it had to be the Five Veg Lasagne with Roasted Zucchini, Corn, Aubergine, Spinach and Mushroom, layered with Béchamel sauce and topped with Cheddar, Cashew and Parmesan crumbs. There were many others in the group who loved it. I found the flavours to be a bit too overpowering than how I would have liked it and topped with a little too much cheese for my preference. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t term it as not taste-worthy, although I would have loved to play with the layers and toppings a bit to suit my taste buds!

We finished our dinner with two drool-worthy desserts – The Red Velvet Cheese Cake and the Nutella Crepe. The Red Velvet Cheese Cake was heavenly with the crusty bottom, red velvet crumbs and strawberry compote. It was rich and creamy yet melting in the mouth. We would have definitely ordered for one more had it not been closing time. We fell in love with the Nutella Crepe – the oh-so-soft crepes with Nutella (the chef perfectly nailed it) served along with banana slices and ice cream. Every single bite of the hot crepe with a slice of banana and a spoon of the cold ice cream was ecstasy.

The food is great here and the pricing is moderate. We loved everything about the place right from the décor, ambiance, to the food and service. It was worth all the drive and we had a great evening so much that we were eager to come back and in fact, a few of us went back for breakfast the next morning itself. As for me, I am eagerly waiting to do a breakfast visit to this place and I am mighty sure that I am not going to be disappointed!

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