Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
It was that time again, time to go out to a great restaurant as a “make up” dinner because I’d had to bugger off somewhere and leave Kat alone a for a week. Such creatures become unhappy when left to fend for themselves for too long. Exactly where to eat is always the problem, there are so many interesting restaurants in London. I juggled around a few names I remembered and tried to find somewhere that definitely had Squirrel on the menu at the moment, but no luck there. So, something different at least? We normally do very Italian style food so how about French? A couple of names came to mind and on the back of seeing a lot of good reviews it was Coq d’Argent we chose.
Coq d’Argent can be found on the roof of N° 1 Poultry, convenient for “City” folk (like Kat, who works only a 2 minute wander down the road.) Poultry/Coq is just the first witty pun. “Argent”, it seems, can be taken in two meanings: one being “money” (we’re in the banking district after all), and the other, from heraldry, “silver” (pretty much the same link to the City there I guess). So, the “Silver Rooster” on N° 1 Poultry in the financial district. Ho ho. Anyway, enough randomness, we’re in this for the food.
Coq is a very French restaurant, complete with all the stereotypical French dishes. This left me with a bit of a conundrum when it can to the entrée, only two?! So we picked three. Kat had the cuisses de grenouille, which is frog’s legs to you and me. While I ordered the terrine de foie gras au jambon fumé, which doesn’t need translation I think! Then to share we had another dish that really speaks for its self: douzaine d’escargots.
Frogs legs, foie gras, and snails— could we try any harder?
Timbale de cuisses de grenouille au vermouth, Avruga caviar et crème d’épinards.
(Frog legs and vermouth timbale with spinach cream and Avruga caviar.)
The timbale came with an escort of three little legs, nuggets of meat in a very light crispy batter complete with little bones sticking out. The legs were succulent and, I guess, a little like dark-meat on chicken. The timbale was delicately flavoured, so as to not overwhelm the leg meat it contained. The spinach cream (or: creamed spinach) and caviar topped off the whole dish well. Avruga caviar is actually a fancy name for a caviar made with herring roe, and my assessment of it was that it was rather good! (However have a look at that link to learn about the true nature of this “caviar”.)
Terrine de foie gras au jambon fumé, poire aigre-doux, purée de pruneaux.
(Foie gras and smoked ham terrine, pickled pears, prune compote and sherry vinegar caramel.)
Ah, foie gras, I don’t know how much the goose suffered but it was all worth it. A good rich terrine this and a reasonably sized slice (for this day and age.) The “pickled pears” barely rated a mention, coming in about 10 pieces about 3mm to a side. Personally, I’d have preferred a few neat slices. That said, they’re really just there to lead some sharpness to cut the thick richosity of the terrine and the prune compote came in a good dollop alongside a drizzle of the “vinegar caramel” (think darkened sugar syrup) that lent it’s own edge. I enjoyed every mouthful, even the ones Kat ate.
Douzaine d’escargots de Bourgogne au beurre d’ail et tomates.
(Twelve snails baked in garlic and tomato butter.)
Straight out of the French language textbook! (I studied French for three years in school, but somehow didn’t learn a thing.) There’s always the snail horror stories you hear: “chewy little lumps of garlic flavoured rubber.” I’m glad to say we didn’t have such an experience, the dark little bodies of our snails, tucked delicately into their shells, were succulent and melt-in-the mouth tender. I’m not sure what to compare them to actually. And you can’t go wrong with garlicy butter, especially when there’s bread nearby.
That wraps up the first course, and what a beginning! I’d had some difficulty choosing my main course and ordering three really wasn’t going to be an option. Wanting something with a bit of meat to it I went for the filet de sanglier, wild boar. Kat eyed the fish for a while before actually choosing agneau rôti à la provençale which was actually agneau de pré-salé, or salt-marsh lamb. This, despite the “salt” and related seaside environment, really isn’t quite fish. Right after the entrée I popped along to the bathroom and found the mains already on the table when I returned! A tad too speedy for my tastes I have to say, it must have been less than ten minutes between clearing firsts and laying out the seconds. Agneau rôti à la provençale, jus au romarin.
(Salt marsh lamb with mini ratatouille, soft mash, pesto, anchovy fritter, black olives and rosemary jus.)
Kat’s main was a sizable serving, with three decent pieces of lamb (including a cutlet). The presentation was an amusing construction whereby an encircling wall of mash, dotted with olives and pesto, had been built around the core constituents of the dish and filled with a shallow pool of jus. That was the pinnacle of presentation for the evening, though every dish came with a strong dose of the art. (Something I have only a marginal respect for.) I found the anchovy fritter an unusual and maybe too cheffy device, essentially packaging for a condiment. However, this was a good solid dish and the lamb pink and juicy. This “salt marsh” lamb is talked up a lot but from the little I tasted and from Kat’s words I don’t think we recognised anything really special about this lamb. Don’t get me wrong though, it was very good lamb, I’m just not sure if it was amazingly, wonderfully good. I will have to endeavour to get myself a leg or shoulder of it for a more complete assessment.
Filet de sanglier sauce grand veneur, purée de marron et panais rôti.
(Wild boar fillet wrapped in pancetta with chestnut purée, roasted parsnip and grand veneur sauce.)
Three small medallions of fillet made this a much less substantial meal that Kat’s, but sufficient. Being served with one tiny, lonely baked onion (it’s not listed, so it’s a bonus I guess), and a couple of skinny sticks of parsnip certainly doesn’t bulk it out enough for those who measure enjoyment by volume! A good thing I fit less in and have a smaller appetite these days then! The chestnut purée was an excellent wetting agent for the plate, not something I’ve had before but something I’ve got to add to my repertoire. Now the sauce is a bit of an enigma, I tasted it and immediately recognised chocolate and Kat agrees. If I’d thought to review the menu and seen “grand veneur” I’d have asked about it, but Kat said she saw mention of chocolate on the menu and I left it at that. The problem is that the online menu (which I used as reference for the names in this entry) says it is a grand veneur sauce. This is, essentially, a rather complicated stock reduction (a poivrade) thickened with blood and finished with redcurrant jelly and cream. There was certainly no hint of anything cream-like in the sauce with my meal! I suspect the answer to this puzzle is that the menu of the night was slightly different to what they have online, which is a fairly common occurrence (restaurant menus tend to be “live” documents.)
OK, I’ve written far too much about this dish now and not even approached the point yet… how was it? Good, the possibly-chocolate sauce and chestnut purée were a highlight and I’ve got to keep them in mind when I tackle game meats in future. But not brilliant, the “wild boar” lacked the sort of strong flavour I hoped for and what flavour it had was hard to find behind the flavour absorbed from the pancetta. Aside from my persnicketiness in regard to flavours the dish added up to something enjoyable, the boar tender and the sauces unusual and flavourful (maybe a little sweet, there I go again.)
Along with our mains we had a small rocket and parmesan salad, dressed with a good balsamico and, refershingly, lemon juice. The acidity in the salad worked well complimenting the flavours in my main.
There was certainly room for dessert! Given the non-overzealous serving sizes, the small amount of bread (a good thing), and our choice to order only a very small salad as an extra. Kat went straight for the Catalan crème brûlée, which was an excellent and very rich rendition of this all time favourite. I debated whether or not to have one with poached rhubarb or something much richer and chocolaty. I don’t normally go for chocolate desserts so decided to give it a go for a change and had the “Warm bitter chocolate and marmalade sabayon tart with orange ice sorbet.” It beat Kat’s dessert on richness, twice over at least! The tart filling was akin to a warm version of my richest chocolate mousse and the crust thin and crumbly, this balanced very well with the frigid tang of the sorbet. If anything the tart could have been just a little smaller.
I didn’t have any wine with this meal, sticking to just water. I was glad to note that their still water was UK sourced and not imported from some ridiculous location. It was also supposedly “carbon neutral”, however they work that out. I almost always stick to tap water these days, water from Fiji? People are idiots. Anyway, the water was good and a little less uncomfortable.
Kat had a glass of Chianti, it was very good, you’d hope so at £11.50 for 125ml.
We dared espresso, and that was nothing special. I don’t really like espresso in France (based only on experience in Provence and Corsica) but it is very consistent and the coffee in Coq was authentic in that sense. Certainly better than the “English standard”, but then so is cow manure. (One day I might get off my old espresso high-horse, or maybe I’ll just move to Italy and shut up.)
The service was great, not in-your-face as is all too common in the fancier restaurants. Pretty much a case of being there only when you want it but also always when you want it. In a rare act I actually rounded up the bill a bit on top of the auto-service-charge of 12.5%.
In the end the bill was £132.75, including the 12.5% “discretionary service charge”. That includes all the dishes mentioned above with £11.50 for a glass of wine, £3.75 for 750ml of water, and £5.00 for two espressos. Now that I scan over the bill I have to end the evening on a bit of a bum note, they charged me for a very random thing I never had! £6.75 for a “Chivas Regal”, at that price it can’t have been a very good one anyway so I’m glad I didn’t have it. How the bloody hell that ended up on there I don’t know, oh well maybe I’ll learn the lesson to check bills more carefully in future. Bit of a bummer, but £6.75 isn’t worth too much upset and I have to accept part fault for not checking the bill as I should. (And I extra-tipped these incompetents! That’s totally unfair, from experience I know how easily these mistakes can creep in and don’t go in for the conspiracy theories.)
Overall, in our experience of “known” London restaurants, we’re rating this as our second-best meal to-date. (FYI, third is “The Providores”, which I never wrote about, and first is the “Neal Street Restaurant,” now sadly no more.) We’re likely to try Coq again in the summer, since there’s a huge and well presented outdoor space on top of the building (the space inside the circle and the wings on both sized of the orange roof in this zoomed-in version of the map link above.) It looks like a beautiful spot for a classy summer lunch or dinner.
Oh, we booked through the “D&D London” website again, worked out fine.