French finesse

When Coco Retro launched in 2017 its aim was to serve up the finest gallic-inspired dishes this side of the Channel to the discerning diners of Tunbridge Wells. Richard Williams went along to see if the bistro still has that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’…


“Coco Retro has been showcasing some of the finest in French food since it opened in 2017”


French restaurants are not as dominant on our high streets as they used to be. There are far less Parisian style bistros and haute cuisine restaurants to choose from these days here in Tunbridge Wells given the competition from flavours from elsewhere around the world.

Yet there are many who continue to rate French food as the world’s best, and with a restaurant such as Coco Retro in Tunbridge Wells still around to show off some of the best cuisine from Paris and Northern France has to offer, it is hard not to agree with them.

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The Vale Road restaurant has been showcasing some of the finest in French food since it opened in 2017, and I’m pleased to say that five years since it opened Coco Retro has lost none of its lustre.

From the moment you step inside, the Parisian-style dining room, complete with classic French sonic chansons being gently piped through speakers, along with unmistakable Gallic aromas emanating from the kitchen, you really know this is a place where French food is taken seriously.

You only have to take a quick look at the wine to confirm this. With more than 450 bottles to choose from, and not just France but the new world too, this is a restaurant that rates drink as seriously as the food it serves up.

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Under starters orders

A quick glance at the ‘Entrees’ menu reaffirms that Coco Retro is a traditional French bistro.

Some of the distinctive classic dishes on the menu include Cuisses De Grenouilles (sautéed frog legs, £8.25), Escargot A La Bourguignonne (snails in garlic sauce £8.10) or the classic French Charcuterie board (£9.95).

For a taste of rustic France, the Terrine De Porc (homemade pork terrine £8.25) is deliciously textured and comes with melba toast an array of pickles.

The calamari (£8.85), in particular is perfectly deep fried and makes a delicate and light starter.

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The Main Event

Traditional French farmhouse dishes do not stop at the entrees menu. Coco Retro’s ‘Plats Principaux’ (main menu) is full of traditional homely French dishes, but there are also influences from across Europe.

The Rouleaux De Porc (rolled pork, £19.90), is slowly cooked in a ‘secret’ herbes de Provence recipe and is a clear standout dish from the traditional French aspect of the menu.

But the Ratatouille (£15.20) and chicken Schnitzel (£17.90) offer enough diversity for those wanting more Mediterranean flavours.

Other favourites include Steak Flamande (£19.50) and a classic duck confit (£19.20) in orange and Grand Marnier sauce.

Fish remains plentiful on the main menu too, with the Friture (£20.50) an incredibly fresh plate of fruits de mer, all delicately golden brown and deep fried, complete with Mediterranean salad and tartare sauce.

The specials menu is also always worth a look at Coco Retro too.

During our visit there was 48-day aged Cote De Boeuf (£75.00 to share), consisting of 1kg of finest quality beef marinated in single malt whiskey and aged in Coco Retro’s state of the art refrigerator – absolute heaven for meat lovers.

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After dinner

Desserts, as you can imagine, are every bit as well presented as main meals at Coco Retro.

These range from traditional favourites such as Panna cotta à la noix de coco (coconut panna cotta with peach coulis ) to ananas et cerise gateau (rustic pineapple and cherry cake with black forest sauce ) or you can go for a selection of mini desserts. All our priced individually.

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One of the most distinct aspects of Coco Retro is just how large the actual footprint of the restaurant is.

While the bistro dining takes place on the ground floor, the first floor makes for more intimate dining, especially next to the open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work, but perhaps the best kept secret is Coco Retro’s ‘La Cave’, where diners are surrounded by wines from all over the world, in the intimate setting of the restaurant’s wine cellar.

After a first class meal I am happy to report that Coco Retro remains one of Tunbridge Wells’ best dining experiences.

Whether you are after a light lunch, romantic evening or a large party, there are few places where you get the same combination of excellent French food, friendly service and great value which has kept its regulars coming back to Coco Retro for the last five years.

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