No.1 Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ www.coqdargent.co.uk
What do you get when you create a dessert by mixing Maille mustard with a macaroon? Nick finds out, but only after eating his starters and mains first like a good boy.
I love it at Coq d’Argent‘the thrill of the lift doors opening and finding myself way above the sordid streets below and suddenly in a sky-filled garden doesn’t get old even if I do. I still find myself stupidly facing the wrong way when the lift doors open because I am a slow learner.
The gardens tonight are warmed by space heaters over the tables and it’s toasty underneath, despite this being the coldest evening so far this year. It’s all very winter-wonderlandy, but I am urged, in fact physically pushed, to go inside by my shivering date.
It’s a big place but well filled out with a surprising mix of people – City types of course bellowing gently, and that’s just the women, but also couples who have come with children and their own parents, as well as couples having tete a tetes.
It’s noisy with conversation, always the best kind of restaurant noise, and staff are winding purposefully through the tables carrying drinks and food with that French air of’I’m getting things done so get out of my way.’ We are liking it immediately.
We also like the set menu price of just £32 for three courses, . That’s good value anywhere, but especially in this excellent location and setting. No wonder it’s busy.
Four choices of starters and mains, more choice than is usual on a set menu. Another good thing as far as I am concerned. And a good choice too, no sense of it being a compromise or dumbed down for the price.
Admittedly P’s Poitou goats cheese with red peppers in a filo parcel is not rocket science but it’s very easy to muck up, as a thousand dinner party hosts will tell you. The filo burns faster than a Brit in Magaluf and it can be a flaky mess, but not this.
The pastry is pretty and the cheese quality and is just the right amount of oozy, a technical term by the way. When the eater opposite chases her last flakes of pastry around the plate with a determination bordering on OCD you know the dish went down well.
I had cauliflower veloute, having not had soup in ages. Here the plate was presented with the cauli all granulated in a pile and topped with croutons, some shaved truffle and a perfectly poached egg. The veloute is poured around this in the kind of display that sends millennials mad with boredom and angst, but which I rather like because anticipation enlarges appetite.
The dish is actually called CrÃƒÂ¨me du Barry, (after the mistress of Louis XV and not the Cilit Bang spokesman), because she pretty much lived on it. Nipping a slot into the egg so the yolk gently infuses the veloute, I think she was right. It’s a dish that is decadently rich and yet, truffles aside, made with common (or garden) ingredients.
P wants risotto, a dish that often annoyingly delays everyone else like that one person who orders draught Guinness in the pub, but here comes out after a perfectly reasonable gap.
It’s stuffed with cepes and other wild mushrooms, it has celeriac, parsley and garlic butter and all that good stuff and is topped off with a jaunty parmesan crisp. It’s classic cuisine and again P eats it down to the last shiny grain of rice.
I have cod, now quite an expensive fish. It’s been cold smoked over cherry wood before being pan-fried and oven finished and looks great with its golden top strewn with shimeji mushrooms.
It bobs in stock that has mussels and leeks adrift in it and from underneath peek shreds of samphire. I call for a spoon, because that stock is not getting away.
Delicious, just what I like to eat in fact. I really can’t fault it, the cherry wood smoke is a master stroke on the fish and I am going to definitely try that one at home.
We are ultimately here though for the macaroon dessert, the mission objective. Can one seriously mix mustard and sugar? And should one?
Out they come, Goldfinger has been at work, Jill Masterson is coated. They are the creation of head chef Damien Rigollet in collaboration with Maille mustard.
They are sticky and sweet and then that mustard floats into taste view. It’s the flavour of Maille’s honey mustard, one of Maille’s many usnusual blends.
It’s curious at first, the mustard becomes more pronounced after the macaroon has gone down the red lanes. It’s rather addictive actually, so I am glad we have eight between us.
They soon disappear, as we have to have another bite and another to get that oxymoronic taste effect again. It’s a kind of crack macaroon, the more you have the more you want although crack’s probably less damaging to your teeth.
You should try it, or in internet terms You Must Try Them Right Now. They are only available until the end of November 2016, the fine cooking of Chef Rigollet is available all year round thankfully.