The Coq d’Argent is perhaps the best located restaurant in the heart of the City, across from the Mansion House, the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England. It is atop No.1 Poultry – the peninsula building at the eastern end of Cheapside and has a great restaurant space, but really comes into its own through the warmer months with a terrific alfresco dining area and roof garden.
Given its location one would hope for a superlative dining experience – and we certainly were not disappointed when we had lunch there on a very mild October Friday. Seldom have I been to a restaurant where absolutely everything was just right, but this was indeed the case when we ate at Cod d’Argent. Décor, ambience, service and food were all absolutely excellent. I think it was one of most enjoyable lunchtime dining experiences I have had anywhere.
Given it was mid-October when we ate there, despite the weather being so mild, we were seated indoors as the alfresco dining area was not open for food service, although some people did sit outside for a drink or coffee (and to smoke a cigarette or cigar). The restaurant itself is a great space, tables are positioned reasonably well apart, white linen tablecloths and table napkins, carpeted floor so one can hear oneself and one’s eating companion talk, very comfortable seating. Floor to ceiling windows on three sides , which can all be pulled back to open out the space to the terraces in good weather mean the whole area is light and airy.
Service, at least on the occasion we were there, was exceptionally well drilled and first rate and the food was delightfully served and all courses – were very good indeed. Head chef Mickael Weiss comes up with beautifully cooked food and is definitely something of an artist in its presentation. We could not find any fault with anything.
Indeed I usually check on the web to see other diners’ comments and those on the Coq d’Argent on Tripadvisor .com – around 300 of them were almost all in the excellent category. This will never apply to 100% though and there were a very small number of niggles relating almost entirely to service issues, but virtually all these were during the summer months where, on a fine day, the number of diners can almost double and staff can be rushed off their feet. What was also impressive about the reviews is that restaurant manager, Sean Gavin, obviously reads these and responded to virtually all of them, either thanking the reviewers for the kind comments, or in the occasional cases where there was some dissatisfaction, promising to look into them and correct the problems which had materialised. This strikes me as the way to run a good restaurant.
The restaurant is certainly not low cost, but bearing in mind that it employs over 90 people to serve the clientele – 120 in the summer months when the eating area extends outside – one can perhaps begin to understand why prices may seem a little steep to some, although they are not out of step with many other often inferior eating establishments in the area. And given its location the basic overhead cost for rent, rates and maintenance for the restaurant must also be very high. Indeed when one takes all this into account the fact that the restaurant also offers, in addition to the a la catrte a very favourably priced set menu option is remarkable.
The other thing noticeable about a number of the reviews is that many diners seemed to resent the business people having lunch there – it is indeed a great venue for entertaining business clients. However without the business clientele the restaurant could probably not exist and serve such good food so well – and in my experience business people tend to be far more civilised diners than some members of the general public!
But down to the food. The menu has a continental ring to it, indeed it is described as contemporary French, but is broader than that might suggest. I went with the a la carte menu and my companion was happy with choosing dishes off the set menu (which were all on the a la carte in any case). I started with a beautifully served crab cocktail salad which was excellent while my companion had cauliflower velouté with hot smoked salmon, which she thought was brilliant. For mains I had roast partridge and she had duck – again both very good indeed. And then dessert: We had a blackberry and apple meli-melo which was presented so beautifully that it almost seemed a shame to eat it – but when I did it was delicious – and a blueberry and elderberry parfait, also artistically presented and absolutely first rate. Usually if I eat at restaurants I forego dessert on diet grounds – but here you should order them just to admire their presentation!
A typical three course meal off the a la carte menu would probably cost in the region of £40-60 a head without wine or service. Hpwever, the excellent value set menu mentioned above and from which my companion made her selection, comes in at £26 for 2 courses and £29 for three and gives a choice of four starters, four mains, three desserts and cheese (£5 supplement). There are also a grill menu – served in the bar area and a bar snacks menu.
The Coq d’Argent wine list is enormous. One could probably spend the best part of an hour perusing it and negotiating a mortgage on some of the top end offerings – there is a 1955 Chateau Latour at £2500 a bottle and a good number of others at over £1,000!. However we settled for some of the wines on offer by the glass, of which there was a big selection starting at £4.50 – and helped in our choice by the sommelier. Many of these are also available in 375 ml and 500 ml carafes.
As the Coq d’Argent is also open for breakfast there is a fairly comprehensive breakfast menu available from 7.30 to 10.00. At weekends Coq d’Argent, as well as being open on Saturday evenings, serves a Saturday brunch (a la carte) and Sunday lunch (at the same prices as the weekday set menu), but given its French menu roots don’t expect a traditional English style roast!
For a venue to impress, for a special occasion, or just for a lunch or dinner (and presumably breakfast) with impeccable service, a great atmosphere and top notch food it would be hard to beat Coq d’Argent in this part of London. You can book online (www.coqdargent.com) or call 020 7395 5000. Reservations are definitely advisable.
Coq d’Argent is at No. 1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ.
Restaurant opening hours: Monday – Friday: Breakfast: 7.30am – 10am, Lunch: 11.30am – 3pm, Dinner:5.30pm – 10pm. Saturday: Brunch: 12pm – 4.00pm, Dinner: 4.00pm – 10pm. Sunday: Lunch: 12noon – 3pm.
Grill opening hours – Monday to Friday 11.30 – 3pm
Bar and Terrace hours: Monday – Friday: 11.30am – 11pm Saturday: 12noon – 11pm Sunday: 12noon – 5pm