IT WAS a freezing cold night and even Southampton’s normally buzzing Bedford Place was virtually deserted.

But we had just booked our honeymoon to Cuba for later this year and my partner and I were in the mood to celebrate.

And this place has it all – exotic flavours from the Cape to Rio, superb wines from around the world and great live music.

With house band Rio, who perform at the venue most Friday nights, in full swing with everything from soul to jazz, Latin to pop covers, we were seated in a perfect spot to people watch and drink in the surroundings – all leopard print cushions, plants and murals of saxophonists.

We were tucking into a bowl of olives and perusing the menu within seconds.

I started with a tasty charred Halloumi cheese, just touched on the grill and served with a full-offlavour mint and pineapple salsa, while my companion couldn’t resist the prawn, hake and chorizo fishcakes, a glorious combination.

We both then opted for 8oz fillet mignon steaks, which were cooked to perfection and served with a hearty helping of hand-cut chips, mushroom, tomato, leaves and a superb sauce – brandy and peppercorn for him, Roquefort and smoked bacon for me.

Dessert – a shared cheesecake – was also a triumph.

We washed a delicious meal down with an excellent Argentinian Malbec for just £17.95.

The food too is reasonably priced, with mains like pork belly for just £13.25 and steaks from £14.25. And this hidden gem, a lofty former cabinet maker’s factory just off Bedford Place, even offers half-price steaks to diners on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Coco Rio has now been serving up succulent delights from around the world to the food lovers of Southampton for some seven years – and it remains a firm favourite of mine, which always puts me in the holiday mood.

  • Coco Rio Restaurant & Bar, 18a Upper Banister Street, Southampton, SO15 2EF
  • 023 8022 7700