Le Coq: Rotisserie Chicken on St Paul’s Road

Rotisserie chicken at Le Coq

Rotisserie chicken at Le Coq

St Paul’s Road is an odd part of town. It’s feels far away from chichi Upper Street and the tended-precision of Canonbury Square. Once a Blairite hot-bed, paint now peels off the dirty-magnolia townhouses. The east end of St Paul’s merges into Dalston, and the west end is marked by a roundabout pouring cars into the busy thoroughfare.

Next to Highbury Islington tube is a fairly hostile pub, The Famous Cock Tavern. Arsenal supporters pile through the doors on match days, and signs in the windows warn  passers-by against using the toilets: ‘patrons only’. Boris Johnson was once allegedly set up for an interview at The Famous Cock, before his team swooped in to prevent yet another gaffe. Down St Paul’s road, takeaway pizza joints, mini cab offices, dry cleaners and dusty health food shops line the street. The tarmacked Alwyne pub car park is filled in a haze of Marlboro Red smoke on warm summer evenings, and piled high with bundled-up Christmas trees in winter.

st pauls road le coq

Something happened on St Paul’s Road in the summer of 2010 though. The team behind Trullo slathered dark teal paint on their new restaurant facade, strung up a canopy and flung open their doors to great critical acclaim. Tables were booked up months in advance. The Evening Standard described its location as a “slightly challenging micro-climate” The Metro called it a “far-from-chic corner of Islington” and Time Out commended the team for making “a success of a difficult site”.

People were optimistic about St Paul’s future. One restaurant had overcome adversity there. Surely more would follow. But then nothing. Almost exactly three years after Trullo’s launch though, and another restaurateur has finally summoned the courage to open up in this Islington outpost. And so last night saw the first night of neighbourhood chicken rotisserie joint, Le Coq.

I first heard about Le Coq a few months ago, when I was cooking alongside its founder, Ana Morris. She is the kind of accomplished chef who effortlessly whisks up eight meringues, while you torturously pick through a single box of radishes. All the time, chatting away, about how she started cooking at her elder sister’s first restaurant, Salt Yard. She then went on to work at renowned Italian, Boca di Lupo, and did a couple of years as the sous chef at Rochelle Canteen. Ana explained how she then took a punt, and moved to New York to work as the chef for young events company Silkstone Events - which grew pretty darned quickly. Her last job there was to oversee the catering for the Veuve Cliquot Polo in Liberty State Park.

Crudités with lovage dip

Crudités with lovage mayonnaise

Squid starter

Squid with sea purslane

On return to London, Ana decided to form a partnership with her sister Sanja (behind Opera Tavern and Salt Yard). And together they set up Le Coq. The menu is concise and confident. Two choices of starter, and two choices of pudding, which change on a weekly basis. And then the single main course option of rotisserie chicken.

I went there with Tom – so we each ordered a starter and tried both the squid and the vegetable crudités with lovage dip. For me, the crudités were the winner, with the simple lovage dip enhancing the vegetables’ beautifully crisp green flavours. A really clever and light starter. Flavoursome, but fuss-free.

Rotisserie chicken and bitter leaf salad

Rotisserie chicken and bitter leaf salad

Lovely as the starters were, it’s the main course which will me be main draw at Le Coq, with the single option of rotisserie chicken being the restaurant’s signature dish. Now, I should mention that Tom was somewhat sceptical of the whole chicken concept. “It’s the one meat I never order when I eat out, because it’s the one meat I know I can cook at home” he said. Cook it, he can, but this chicken was no Sunday roast. Each portion consisted of half a (Sutton Hoo) chicken – the meat at the centre of the thick breast just as juicy and succulent as the plump thigh meat.

Summer pudding ice cream

Summer pudding ice cream

The chicken was served with a generous handful of bitter salad leaves:  grilled and fresh radicchio, dandelion, tarragon and flat leaf parsley, with a chicken jus and muscatel vinegar dressing, and torn-up hunks of croutons. By itself, the salad would be nearing to the ‘too bitter’ end of the scale, but with the sticky-rich, salty-skinned chicken portion, it was a bold and absolutely perfect accompaniment. We rounded-off the meal with a delicious portion of summer pudding ice cream which precisely captured the bready-fruity flavours of the classic British pudding. A lovely, light end to the meal.

The menu works out at £16 for two courses, and £20 for three courses. Bottles of wine start at £21, and there is prosecco ‘on tap’, with a 500ml carafe coming in at £17. I think that Le Coq is going to be a storming success. And I really hope so, because the clever and courageous restaurant truly deserves it.

Nb. Soft Launch: Tuesday 20 August -Saturday 24 August. Dinner only (6pm-11pm). Sunday lunch (12pm-9pm). 50% off food, no bookings.

Le Coq
292-294 St Paul’s Rd,
Canonbury,
London
N1 2LH

Launch Week Menu at Le Coq

Le Coq Menu Rotisserie Chicken Islington

Le Coq Islington Wine List Prices

 

Back at Bonnie & Wild

After five days in the office, I was counting down the hours to get into the kitchen at Bonnie and Wild. It was an epic night. Thanks to a wine matching menu, 30 of the 80 covers went out in one go…no mean feat with just three of us in the kitchen.

But by the comments from diners meandering through the kitchen, I think it’s fair to say that we pulled it off. One lady actually stopped by to smell (pretty much inhale) the homemade tomato chutney…though that was probably down to the quantity of booze she’d ploughed through rather than the brilliance of the chutney.

So, here’s what we were cooking up in the kitchen – it was mainly down to the chef Iain, though I’m taking total credit for the scallops…having probably only cooked about 15 in my life until Friday, I pan fried about 180 in a single evening – the best way perfect the art…!

amuse bouche - salmon cured in whisky and lemon

pheasant terrine and apple chutney (tasted a gazillion times better than it looks - I'd go as far as saying the best thing on the menu on Friday)

scallops with wild 'shrooms and butternut squash

venison with a beetroot jus, turnip mash and haggis

mullet and razor clam

poached pears with vanilla cream

cheeseboard

happy diners at bonnie and wild

The restaurant is open from 7pm every Friday and Saturday. The venue is laid out mainly in booths for 4 and 6.

To make a reservation book online here
alternatively you can send an e-mail to:bookings@bonniewild.co.uk

Please note the restaurant is CASH ONLY & BYOB (£29 for three courses).

The Bonnie & Wild / M. Manze
74 Chapel Market, Islington, London N1 9ER

Food Chaining

It seems like it’s been a while since my last Food Chain post, so just a quick re-introduction to the charity and what it’s all about.

On Sunday mornings, a group of cheery volunteers meet in different locations round London, and cook up a feast which then gets divided into several hundred take-away meals which are hand delivered to HIV-positive people round the city…. 

Read More »

Le Mercury

On a sunny day in Angel the bistros are teaming with beautifully dressed women with expensive pushchairs. Lovely little salads at Fig & Olive, lovely little cakes at Ottolenghi, lovely long lunches at The Almeida – it’s an intimidating place to hang out when you’re used to eating on a shoestring.

I was with a friend who told me great things about Le Mercury though, so we went to check it out. The French restaurant is over two floors inside a stunning red brick building. There’s a bit of an old school vibe about the place, but not in a bad way – it’s really light, with huge windows downstairs to let the sun  stream in.

The starters were all £3.95 – pretty good seeing as there were seven different choices ranging from crayfish and lobster ravioli to beef carpaccio.

Beef carpaccio with capers and red pepper relish and wild rocket salad

The main courses were just £7.95 with lots of choices from roast saddle of lamb to seared fillet of Scottish salmon and vegetarian cossoulet.

Slow roast honeyed pork belly with confit celeriac and apple

I’m not going to over-egg Le Mercury. It wasn’t jaw-droppingly good, but it is excellent value. The food was well cooked, and there wasn’t any scrimping on the ingredients – at just £12 for two courses, and bellinis at £3.95, it’s a really great place to go without breaking the bank.

Le Mercury
140a Upper Street
London N1 1QY

020 7354 4088
http://www.lemercury.co.uk/