Cochin Fort in Hyson Green is a Halal joint serving up some pretty good Southern Indian food. It occupies the space on the corner of Gladstone Street and Radford Road that was formerly the Scotholme Hotel (another one of Nottingham’s Lost Pubs). In more recent times it was Chennai Spices another Indian Restaurant.
When we first walked in at 7pm we had the place to ourselves and I was wondering why it was empty. Then within half an hour the place was jumping inside, it was packed out with diners, and there was a real buzz about the place. It was lucky we had booked our table!
The menu was predominantly Southern Indian based with a few of your more recognisable favourites. Sections named ‘From Kerala’s Vegetable Backyard’ and ‘From our Fisherman’s net’ captured the essence of their fare.
They also were serving up a whole lot of Tandoori and as we sat contemplating what to order at least five steaming hot Full Tandoori Chickens sped out of the kitchen to multiple hungry mouths at other tables.
So what did we all eat?
Chicken 65 is one of my all time favourite snacks, I first found this dish while living and working over at Cyber City in Hyderabad back in 2010 where we had it quite often as a bar snack. Legend has it that it originated at the Buhari Hotel in Chennai in 1965 and was simply added to the menu as Chicken 65. In later years other chicken recipes were added to the menu such as Chicken 78, 82 and 90 (read more here).
This dish was described very simply on the menu at Cochin Fort as “Chicken breast fried and marinated with ginger, garlic and pepper chutney”. In Hyderabad we had it on the bone, but I kind of liked having it as little nuggets of chicken breast, it was much easier to scoff.
Without exaggeration, everyone on our table who tried it said that they would come back to Cochin Fort just to eat this one dish.
The other starter that we chose at Cochin Fort was Potato Bonda, this was described as “Potato cooked in turmeric water and mixed with chopped ginger, coriander leaves, cashew nuts and curry leaves“.
I was not sure what I thought about this starter, I loved the sound of all the stuff that was supposed to be inside, but flavour wise it was a bit subtle and maybe it underwhelmed me a bit.
It was well cooked, the coating was light and not at all greasy, the filling of the potato was soft and fluffy, and it ‘did’ pair well as they described with their “ginger flavoured coconut chutney“.
You know what I think it is? It was always going to struggle to compete with that Chicken 65!
Lamb Uluva Kootu
For our main course, since we had chicken for a starter, we chose one of the Lamb dishes . The one that looked the most interesting was the ‘Lamb Uluva Kootu’. This dish is described on the menu as being “Pieces of lamb cooked with sautéed fenugreek leaves, cardamom, garlic, ginger, and green chilli” and as being “Finished off with coriander and curry leaves to make this a medium hot dish”.
The sauce was excellent fresh and vibrant with a great punch of spices, it was creamy and almost silken, but it wasn’t as hot spice wise as I had expected. Perhaps the Southern Indian definition of a medium spiced curry is different? There was a slight downside in that the Lamb could (in my opinion) have been cooked a little longer as it was just a little bit chewy and I like mine a bit more tender and soft.
Flavour wise though I loved this combination and I will be searching through my cookbooks to find the recipe to replicate this at home.
To accompany our Lamb we chose the Bombay Potato which was decibed as “Stir Fried Potatoes cooked with peppers, tomato, cinnamon and finished with coriander leaves”.
It was quite tasty but a bit too full of tomato for my liking. If I am honest I was a bit surprised when it arrived as it seemed to be ‘a bit wet’ especially because it was chosen from the “Dry Vegetable” section of the menu. It was more like ‘potatoes in a tomato gravy’.
I would say that it was a good option for the vegetarians.
Someone else had ordered the Saag Aloo which was described as ‘Freshly chopped spinach and potato cooked with ginger, garlic, green chilli, all spiced with turmeric and coriander powder’.
We traded a bit of this for some of our Bombay Potato. It was quite a decent swap, I like that it was a pretty even mix of spinach and potato and that there was not too much of the green stuff on the plate. It was lightly flavoured, a little oily, a little salty, but a good addition to go with our creamy curry.
I would have preferred this to the Bombay potato that we had ordered. Luckily on a big table and a group like ours you get a bit of everyone else food anyway so just order and if it all goes wrong steal something better. Note that only works on your own table, strangers don’t always like it.
Garlic Naan and Pilau Rice
To go with our Lamb and Potato dishes we had a really nice well cooked Garlic naan and some really good rice. To be honest I didn’t need both but you always seem to end up ordering way too much when you are in a group in an Indian Restaurant!
What did everyone else order?
I was advised that you really should be ordering one of the Fish options when you are sampling some Southern Indian Cooking. I ignored that advice but I do have to say that the Fish Curry that my friend next to me ordered did look particularly good. The bright yellow sauce made it look pretty vibrant and they said that it was a nice light dish to eat.
I think that the dish they chose was the Fish Molly which is described as “King fish marinated in turmeric sauce, cooked in coconut milk with curry leaves, onion, ginger and fresh lemon juice and cubed tomato”. I like the sound of all of that but I would be worried about the potential spillage possibilities with all that yellow sauce!
One of my vegetarian friends ordered the Vegetable Biryani which was a large plateful but I was not convinced that it was any better than a big bowl of baked fried vegetable rice. They seemed to enjoy it though and I will say honestly that the few spoonful’s that I ate were really quite good.
Lots of Vegetarian Options
Five of our group ordered a whole selection of the different Vegetable dishes to share between them, something that we did regularly on a recent trip to India. I took a picture of one of their plates before they mixed it all together and I will admit that it all looked pretty decent.
Some of the highlights on the plate were the “Aubergine Thiyal” which was “chopped fresh Aubergine cooked in tomato onion and coconut with ‘home made’ south Indian spices” and the “Beans Thoran” described as ‘chopped green beans stir fried with onion, coconut, cumin seeds and garlic and tempered with black mustard seeds and finished with a hint of turmeric powder’.
I was pretty impressed with the food at Cochin Fort, I had walked in with no great expectations, but I think I have uncovered a little gem where I may well be back to eat again.
My highlight was that Chicken 65 and that is a dish that I will be coming back for.
Next time though I am seriously tempted to try the whole Chicken Tandoori plate,
I might have to bring a few friends to help though
They don’t serve alcohol but I can recommend the freshly squeezed fruit juices that they make from the juice machine behind the old hotel counter.
There is an off licence just up the road by the Tram Stop and they don’t mind if you take your own drinks in.
Price Wise it was excellent value, we had poppadom, two starters, two mains, naan and rice for just over £10 each!
Cochin Fort is located at 384 Radford Road and you can ride here on the tram from Hucknall and from the City. The nearest stop south bound is at Radford Road and the nearest stop Northbound is at Shipstone Street. You can park at Wilkinson Street the park and ride site and walk here in about 5 minutes or less