Roast chicken & Caponata
After far too many lean years London has seen a spate of quality chicken restaurants opening in the last 2 years, from fried chicken in Brixton to chicken schnitzel in Soho. Mostly they've left me cold. The American chicken and 'slaw formula just doesn't do it for me - let alone the German twist. The chicken joint I was looking for, it seemed, just didn't exist in London. My dream place has a warm neighbourhood feel; the aroma of well-reared chicken turning slowly on a spit, potatoes beneath soaking up the chicken fat; something acidulous alongside to cut the richness; an uncomplicated, yet gutsy red wine to drink with it. It seemed this was too much to ask of London.
Finally we have LeCoq, the perfect, no-booking, 40- (or so) seater, only a few doors down from Islington's excellent Trullo. It's handily close to Highbury & Islington underground and in the rapidly developing food hub of N1. I don't know if this is the chicken restaurant London has been waiting for, but it's definitely the one I've been craving.
LeCoq is owned by sisters Sanja (a founder of Salt Yard Group) and Ana (Bocca di Lupo, Rochelle Canteen) Morris. Ben Benton left Stevie Parle's Dock Kitchen to head up the kitchen. The menu is admirably simple. A couple of starters, a main of rotisserie chicken served with something to complement and cut the fattiness, and two puddings. Although focused firmly on chicken, the menu changes weekly and, on Sunday,s a different roast meets the flame of the rotisserie.
Ricotta, fig leaf, Strega ice cream
Starters, on our visit, were an artichoke dish and some Pico charcuterie but we'd already spotted the puddings so something had to give. The chicken, cooked to juicy perfection, was firm-fleshed, the way well-reared outdoor chicken should be. That day it came with a portion of knock-out caponata, a jug of juice and spoonful of tarragon mayonnaise alongside. A side dish of potatoes and garlic cloves cooked in the chicken fat was more than worth its £3.75, a salad ordered proved unnecessary. The house red, Nero d'Avola, at a very reasonable £4.50 a glass, was just right. Puddings were a good Chocolate Tart scattered with honeycomb or a very good Ricotta, Fig Leaf and Strega ice cream (made for LeCoq by Sorbitum ices).
More about those chickens, as these things matter a lot to me. The birds come from Kennel Farm in Sutton Hoo. Slow-growing, fed an additive free diet and allowed to forage freely with plenty of room to stretch their legs (far more space than any EU law on "free-range" directs). The quality shows on the plate. Two courses for £16, a couple of side-dish and a glass of wine each brought the bill to a very satisfying £47.25 excluding service. That's what I call a bargain. Added to which, the care taken over every aspect ensured a swift return is certain.
292-294 St Paul's Road
London N1 2LH
Open Tues-Sun 12-2.30pm & 6-10pm
PS Takeaway coming soon.