|Le Coq Rico|
Given the fact you can eat your way around the globe in London, it's surprising how difficult it is to find a good plate of chicken and chips. Not that we don't have an abundance of unfortunate 'Chicken Shops', but these I will gloss over. What I'm looking for is top quality chicken, expertly roasted, served with its precious juice and a little garlic with a cone of perfectly cooked chips alongside. Maybe with a simple, fresh properly dressed green salad. I'm looking for a place that honours the bird and knows how to use every morsel to best effect.
Le Cafe Anglais in Bayswater and Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden both do a pretty good job of roasting a chicken, and then there is Mark Hix's Tramshed in Shoreditch. I can't comment on the Tramshed. When Hix removes the Damien Hirst cow with a chicken on its back I'll give it a go. There are one or two new openings in London but they look to the American way rather than the French - and if you want marinades, BBQ, onion rings and Philly cheese that's fine. I don't. What I'm looking for is focus, somewhere that makes poultry the star, not something to carry a myriad of flavours.
In Paris they know how to do this, though it's not as easy to find a good one as you might think. Good butchers sometimes have a small rotisserie outside. Anyone who's been to Paris has experienced that aroma of roasting chicken drawing you down the street. You can take home a roasted Poulet Fermier and, if you are lucky, some potatoes which have been cooked under the spit in the Lèchefrite. There are plenty of restaurants serving Poulet Frites but, until now, a really good one celebrating the chicken has eluded me.
Montmartre is not where I would normally head in Paris. I prefer to catch glimpsed views of Le Sacré Coeur by glancing up the steep streets of the 9th Arrondissement, but on a late summer's day it proved the ideal place to be. A beautiful day, quiet streets and a perfect lunch spot on rue Lepic. Le Coq Rico came recommended by a Parisian who knows, and he was right.
The restaurant is small and intimate without that tight-squeeze feeling you so often find in Paris. The bar - always my first choice - provides a sleek, black granite topped view of the kitchen action. A full- on view of the rotisserie is a wonderful thing. Add to that a chance to observe Chef Thierry Lébé and his young team running a thoroughly professional kitchen and it's perfection. There's focus, attention to detail and pride here.
Starters and mains revolve around chicken, guinea fowl, duck, goose and pigeon, all with detailed provenance, sourced from the regions of France that raise the very best of each kind of fowl. Hearts are seared, gizzards confited, wings lacquered and terrines and rillettes produced for starters. You can even have a luscious take on the boiled egg. The rotisserie takes care of most of the mains but there's a dish of Poule au Pot too.
This being our first visit we played it safe with the quarter Challans chicken and frights with an impeccable vinaigrette-dressed salad. The chicken was tender, moist, crispy-skinned and full of flavour - everything a rotisserie chicken should be. Served with chicken gravy and roast garlic, it was perfect, as was the large cone of twice, or thrice, fried chips. The one dessert we tried was good but when I order Clafoutis Peche I expect more of a batter pudding than a sponge - far be it for me to tell the French how to cook Clafoutis, it was delicious anyway. The Verbena ice cream which came with it was fantastic. A glass of Brouilly each and mineral water brought the bill to 72 Euros for two, though you can eat much more expensively.
Le Coq Rico only opened in January this year and is from the same stable as the highly regarded Drouant and Mon Vieil Ami. All three are overseen by Alsatian chef Antoine Westerman.
Back in London, I hear Nick Jones of Soho House is set to open "Chicken Shop' in Kentish Town. Maybe that will push my buttons but if, once again, I'm disappointed I'll just have to keep taking the Eurostar to Le Coq Rico where they know how to do this sort of thing.
Le Coq Rico
98 rue Lepic
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 59 82 89
Open 7 days a week