Sunday, 17 November 2013

Le Coq (Islington chicken rotisserie) - roasted chicken breasts never tasted so good


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Address: 292-294 St Paul's Rd
London N1 2LH
Phone: 020 7359 5055
Nearest Tube station:
Highbury & Islington

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £20pp
Service charge: N/A (takeaway)
Taste: ****
Service: N/A
Ambience: N/A
TT swears by Blumenthal's roasted chicken recipe. So what does she think of Le Coq?

It is interesting how a good restaurant seed and inspire others to set up in an area. A few years ago, I would never have associated the area around Highbury and Islington with good food. Then Trullo came along followed by the Fish and Chip Shop up the road and now Le Coq has joined the game.

Le Coq styles itself as a neighbourhood rotisserie restaurant. As is evident from its name it does mainly chicken but its Sunday menu includes other meats and sometimes even seafood done rotisserie style. Their Sunday menu changes weekly so you might find short ribs, sea bream and even octopus in addition to chicken on the Sunday menu. Who knows that octopus can be done rotisserie style? I am mighty piqued by the idea as from what I know about octopus it is at its best when fries quickly or braised slowly. However on the Sunday that I chose to pop by, it was not octopus day so that will be a tale for another day.

Le Coq occupies two floors. The main dining area and open kitchen are set on the first floor with their private dining room (or den as they term it) in the basement. The restaurant rocks an updated country chic look. I like how the restaurant is flooded with the golden autumn light as it filters through the stained glass panels at the top of the windows. Unsurprisingly, they have rooster references strewn around the restaurant including erm a very literal reference in the toilet.

The restaurant was packed when I arrived. I was prepared for that as Le Coq has a no reservations policy so I went for Plan B - takeaway. I placed my order at the take away counter which was right next to the kitchen and spent the 15 minutes or so waiting time watching the action. Three chefs were busy in front of the rotisserie slicing or plating up the food and asking for service. It was amazing to watch them work in such a co-ordinated manner in such a small space which seems no bigger than an office pantry. Is there a larger kitchen tucked away somewhere where the food gets prepared? I had high hopes for my chicken when I saw how effortlessly and cleanly the knife went through the meat as the chef carved a chicken up.

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I wasn't disappointed. The chicken (half for £12)was indeed succulent and juicy. Even the breast meat which could be so easily overcooked was moist and tender. The key to such perfection was in the salt which permeated every pore of the chicken. The chicken had been brined before cooking and it was the salt which flavoured the bland white meat and gifted it the moisture which would otherwise elude it. A home cook could roast a chicken and achieve such tenderness with brining and slow cooking but even then one might not get the even cooking or the paper thin crispy skin that Le Coq has achieved with its rotating spit and the resulting even heat distribution. I finished off my meal with Le Coq's walnut rum and honey tart (£3) which was excellent. It was a perfect marriage between the sweet honey and the bitter walnut with the rum adding depth and richness.

I can imagine the food to taste even better fresh off the plate. Now if only Le Coq would do reservations it would be the perfect restaurant.


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