Sister duo Sanja and Ana Morris aren’t newcomers to London’s restaurant scene. Sanja has spent the last eight years building what once was an old sushi restaurant in Goodge Street into the hugely successful Salt Yard restaurant group comprising of Salt Yard, Dehesa and Opera Tavern. Sister Ana is a Leith’s trained chef who has worked in La Trompette and Rochelle Canteen amongst others. On a chilly December evening in 2011 whilst the sister discussed restaurant ideas roast chicken sprung to mind… and from there LeCoq was born.
The day of our review was a sunny one in London, and as we amble from Highbury station to the newly opened LeCoq we’re in high spirits. The interior of LeCoq is compact but cheery with demure wooden tables and bare floor ensuring all focus is on the open kitchen centrepiece, and as the chefs mull about on their stage, glimpses of golden chicken can be seen – twisting and turning in their rotisserie ovens.
After being seated, we order a round of drinks whilst awaiting the food menus. A thyme gin and tonic is ordered, as well as an Aperol spritz, the go-to spirit/mixer when the clouds disappear. When our waitress returns with the drinks – refreshing, sharp and moreish – she indicates to the whiteboard above us containing the daily food menu. A few options are given for starters and desserts but for the main course the clue is in the name – chicken is the order of the day. The set menu is ridiculously good value at £16 for two courses or £22 for three. Feeling greedy, we cheekily ask to order all of it. “Not a problem” we’re told, and we settle back in our seats. The beauty of no-choice menu means the endless task of dithering over menus is removed, and you can enjoy the ambience, atmosphere and company immediately!
The title of the restaurant indicates an inclination towards French cuisine; however the dishes we enjoyed had influences from our shores too. Our starters included a beautifully refreshing pea and goat’s curd bruschetta, with the peas adding mint freshness to the rich cheese. Another light and flavoursome dish was cured salmon with lemon and parsley crème fraiche and shaved cucumber. You could really taste the quality of the salmon. A heartier starter came in the form of a brioche bun filled with soft pulled pork and boulders of crunchy crackling, with slices of bright beetroot used to cut through the meat.
If a restaurant specialises in one thing only, it means that this thing must be brilliant. Thankfully LeCoq did not disappoint. As we took our first bite into our Sutton Hoo chickens, you can taste the quality. These chickens have clearly stretched their wings (sorry) and roamed the land freely in their Suffolk farm. The skin was golden and crispy, with the softest succulent flesh hiding underneath. The famous LeCoq rotisserie potatoes we ordered to sit alongside our bird were fantastic – super soft and pillowy on the inside but crisp on the outside. Coupled with some beautifully al dente green beans, the roasting juices of the bird and some creamy tarragon mayonnaise and we were both in raptures over our plates of fine food.
For dessert we opted for the sweet options instead of the tempting cheeseboard. What arrived was dark versus light. A large serving of decadently dark chocolate tarte with a rich nutty base and set chocolate filling was served with some whipped double cream which lightened the flavour. Our second option was on the other side of the spectrum. A pillowy and chewy white meringue tart coupled with sweet and juicy strawberries, strawberry sorbet and cream. The strawberry sorbet kept the dessert from being overly sweet.
Not having quite overstretched our stomachs, and still having plenty more to gossip about (the buzzy atmosphere at LeCoq seemed to extend all of our conversations) we settle on some digestifs, the first – a retro Frangelico with a smooth and creamy hazelnut flavour, and the second a stunning Monbazillac dessert wine from Bergerac.
LeCoq doesn’t try to be an all-singing, all-dancing white table cloth, suited waiter kinda restaurant. With its set menu, simple dishes and sparse decor, it’s happy to be the local eatery you go to with your girlfriends for a leisurely lunch, brunch or dinner. It’s your neighbourhood restaurant where you can enjoy great food and service in a relaxed setting with fantastic company. And if the score card is marked on that feeling of contentment when you’ve had a great meal, then we mark LeCoq highly.