The Silver Rooster would be a good name for a gastropub. But, to make a mark in the City of London in the '90s, you needed a foreign moniker (preferably French) and a clever pun. So the restaurant at the top of No 1 Poultry was named Coq d'Argent. Too witty for words
Of course, some time has passed since Sir Terence Conran’s rooftop escape was hailed as one of the most prestigious City restaurants. When Conran sold Coq d'Argent to the D&D group in 2005, it seemed to mark the end of an era, one that recently had become shrouded in controversy of the sort that would fold many a lesser restaurant.
But Coq d'Argent seemed to be doing anything but struggling when the Northerner and I visited on a chilly Friday night in February. It was packed to the rafters with a punters, most of whom were suited and booted City workers. Lest you worry it was for work parties only, the romantic diner count in the room was high. So high, in fact, that someone actually proposed to his girlfriend (now fiancée) while we were there. If that doesn’t make Coq d'Argent romantic, I don’t know what does.
The food is a mix of French classics, with a twist, so we chose to start with the home-smoked, hand-lined mackerel, with cucumber yogurt and dill salad, and the seared scallop on white beetroot risotto with smoked herring roe and crispy sea lettuce. The single scallop was cooked sweet and moist, with flavours that complemented the sharpness of the roe. The texture of the dish from the risotto to the scallop was perfect. The mackerel, a perennial favourite of the Northerner, was lightly smoked (arguably it was too subtle) but it was an agreeable dish.
We then tried the roasted lamb rump with carrot and cumin purée, coriander yoghurt and pomme fondante, and roasted duck breast and confit legs with orange sauce. The duck was a little disappointing – cooked well enough, but lacking in seasoning, and without the strength of flavour to compensate. The lamb was tender, full of spring taste, and delicious. The accompanying potatoes sides were a little underwhelming in both size and taste.
For dessert we tackled the tiramisu mess, which sounded better than it tasted, being neither one nor the other. The pear poached in mulled wine with white chocolate and clove ice cream was a triumph. Great flavours, and the pear particularly was soft and sweet.
The delightful and knowledgeable sommelier recommended two glasses of Riesling and Chenin Blanc to accompany our starters, followed by a delightful Chilean Carmenere 2010 Reserve for our mains. Great picks by a great sommelier. And I must point out that the service was impeccable. Attentive, yet unobtrusive. Perfect, in other words.
Coq d'Argent has successfully negotiated a change of owners, changes in trends, and recent scandals, and not only survives, but thrives. Silver Rooster is a good name for a gastropub, but the Coq d'Argent is a lot more than that.