Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond samples the wares at City stalwart Le Coq D’Argent and finds them pretty good, if pricey
It was the parting of the white shirts, getting to our outdoor table. Like most of the City, this is a bit of a male bastion and the shirts belonged to men. Most of them were considerably younger than me, but then nowadays most people are.
It was a Monday, but the crowds and the atmosphere made it feel like a Friday. No sign of stress at the run on the Spanish banks; no visible angst over the Greek vote. Maybe we’ve all got used to living with uncertainty and this is a bit of fin de siècle WTF. Or maybe the sun was shining and after a washout spring, that alone is cause for celebration. And really, this is a place for outside. Perched on top of the non-ocean-going liner that is No 1 Poultry, this is a fantastically well located rooftop garden restaurant and something of an oasis in the middle of the City.
It was packed to the gills on a Monday lunchtime and I had invited the venerable A, self-described eminence grise of a well-known pre-packed firm of agents. Given that A is a legendary luncher, I thought I would have a willing partner in crime, so I was somewhat thrown by his pre-lunch shock announcement of no booze and no carbs.
So, reader, on your behalf, I did my best.
The menu is fairly traditional modern French, with a nod to British ingredients. It is entirely what you’d expect from a City eatery in the Conran stable. Competent, classical in execution and with food that won’t scare the horses.
It’s a big menu. Fortunately, as it took 20 minutes for the bread to arrive, we had time to study it without distraction. And faced with the excellent bread choice, A experienced immediate carb fail.
To compensate, he ordered heirloom tomatoes with red onions and balsamic. Tasty, but there was nothing to it, really. Some cut-up tomatoes. Fine if you’re on a diet. Which he is and which I should be, but really there was no skill to the dish and it felt a little lacking in finesse.
I ordered what was billed as a goat’s cheese terrine with vegetable and pistachio, but really it was a lump of cheese with some peppers chopped into it and pistachios stuck to the outside. Nice, but – call me old-fashioned – when you tell me I am getting a terrine, I expect layers. Not a goat’s cheese log.
I then had a classic, plain Dover sole. I know, I know, no fish on a Monday – fish markets not open and all that, but it tasted fresh and was properly executed. Spinach was extra. And that cost £42.50, before service.
A, getting into his not inconsiderable stride, had the salt marsh straw-baked lamb. Chosen because it brought to mind Cargoes, by John Masefield , I was then treated to partial recitation : “Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack…” It’s the alliteration that did it, I expect.
Good, tasty, but not outstanding, was the verdict. Given that he was allegedly off carbs, he refused to actually order the chips, but made me look at them on another table, which has the same outcome. They were very good. I don’t think they’re used to being asked for vinegar though. Only Sarsons will do.
By now, A wasn’t even pretending about the carbs, so went for the apple tart. Very pretty it was too.
The only duff note was the cardamom ice cream, which he thought overpowered the delicate flavour of the tart. And me? My heart said chocolate fondant with salted caramel, but my head said not, especially in 80 degree heat and at lunchtime.
So I had the lemon tart. It came with chopped blackcurrant and cream and was as good a lemon tart as I have tasted recently. Soft, wobbly and almost melting, with fine delicate pastry, it hit the spot.
If you’ve foresworn dessert, you’ll be gratified by the homemade truffles that come with coffee. We useless dieters love that. Dessert without the guilt of actually ordering one. And it would be rude not to.
On a sunny day, I don’t think that you can find a better venue in the City for a leisurely lunch in a lush location. The food is well executed, the service professional and the atmosphere convivial. It can be all things to all people – a bar, a brasserie, a fine dining restaurant and a place to while away the afternoon skiving from the office. I liked it.
Best for: lunch with clients on a sunny day when you don’t have to rush back to the office
Worst for: lunch with your mates/workmates/a bargain lunch (even with the set menu)