Coq d'Argent, for those who don't know, sits above Bank station on the top floor of an office development, rubbing shoulders with the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange and The Mansion House. The top floor location also affords them an enviable roof garden as well as two heated terraces allowing us to comfortably dine al fresco for the first time this year. Smokers will also appreciate this arrangement.
Drinkers meanwhile also have cause for celebration. D&D advertise offering fine wine at reduced prices with which they 'hope to encourage customers to enjoy something rather special with their meal'. We were interested to see how they would live up to this grand sounding mission. As it turned out, we were beyond impressed. Dom Perignon 2002 which retails at Majestic at £110 was on the wine list here at £118. And in the Bordeaux section of a really quite impressive wine list, Mouton 1995 for example is priced at £380 a bottle where as wine-searcher.com shows an average price of £463. This is similarly true of several other top names from their wine list that we price checked. Put another way, it's cheaper to visit Coq d'Argent to drink fine wine than it is to buy it on line and open and drink at home. We think this could be the best value wine list in London beating even Bob Bob Ricard's generous offering.
Time now to consider the food. We notice that on the menu there is a '10 year celebration menu', the 10 years in question being those that Mickael Weiss has been head chef at the restaurant and it's composed of 'the most popular dishes of the last decade'. This is quite interesting as it doesn't claim to be the best dishes of the past decade or the chef's preference, but instead, is in effect a collection of bankers' favourites. Six courses, £46 including some Coq D'Argent classics and choices on five of the six courses, this taster would permit us to try 11 of their dishes so allowing us good exposure to the venue's cooking.
A foie gras terrine came with a good texture and taste (too many gras terrines often taste of nothing leaving you feeling guilty but having had no pleasure as payback). A half dozen snails were also impressive, cooked in garlic and tomato, they came served on a 'snail holder' of toasted bread so that as the juices leaked from the shell, they would be absorbed by the bread to be further enjoyed. The garlic-tomato combination was intense but balanced and again, we felt the dish worked well.
A cassis sorbet with aerated vodka and a rhubarb crisp top provided a refreshing interlude from heavier flavours.
The signature dish here is the Coq au Vin which is unsurprising given the restaurant is on a site where chickens where previously traded (hence the address 1 Poultry, and the name of course). This is no quickly knocked together coq au vin, there are no shortcuts here and it shows. With stocks made from scratch and the chicken soaked in wine for over a day, the result is a perfect presentation of a classic. Quality chicken that is so easily teased off the bone, a rich lustrous sauce, it is simply delicious and flawless throughout. The only other coq au vin that has been this good is at Bar Boulud where it is also an anchor dish on the menu; together, they're the best two coq au vins we've tasted.
The other main, lamb, offered equally compelling flavours with the meat having a real 'lambiness' to it.
We also must comment on the service, it was very very good. The sommelier was first class and steered us towards a great bottle of wine that cost considerably less than we indicated our budget would stand, simply because he believed it to be a better (and better value) bottle; we loved it and will now buy some for home too. Our waitress was similarly excellent, thoughtful and considerate, and really did go the extra mile for us.
Finally, we got a chance to talk to Head Chef Mickael Weiss (Twitter @weissmickael) who was charming, engaging and passionate about food. He recognises Coq d'Argent's role as a leading City restaurant and the volume of covers that it is required to put out (which is simply huge), but he still feels driven to deliver meals that people who care about food will be excited to eat. And despite 10 years at the helm here (which is itself a remarkable achievement, the guy works seriously hard), he appeared neither jaded or cynical.
Places like Arbutus and Texture (to name but two) have a Michelin star but the food at Coq d'Argent is as good, if not better in our view. Chef Mickael Weiss has made continued improvements during his tenure here and the food is now at the one star level in our opinion though it is unlikely to be recognised as such by the guide. If Weiss wants that star, he will most likely have to start somewhere newer, smaller and more fashionable, but if he does, we have no doubt a star would shortly follow.
On the day then, Coq d'Argent was a real surprise. The service was first class, the wine list offered exceptional value on an absolute, let alone relative basis and the food was simply excellent. With summer ahead of us and a gorgeous roof garden, foodies should give Coq d'Argent a chance.
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