292-294 St. Paul’s Road
Tel: 020 7359 5055
A family Sunday lunch out is always a treat and our visit to Le Coq was no exception. George Ryle’s cooking is simple, robust and full of flavour. A stone’s throw from Highbury and Islington tube station this small restaurant that seats about 30 packs a big punch.
The menu is short, really short. It is basically chicken except on a Sunday when they introduce another meat and a fish dish. The pricing is simple as well and it’s slightly cheaper to go at lunchtimes. Two courses will cost you a mere £17 and three, £22.
Three starters to choose from and between us we had two. The boys decided on bresaola with rocket and preserved lemon. Fanning out it had a dark colour and stout taste. The rocket gives a welcome freshness and the lemon completed the plate admirably. M and I went for lamb and pistachio meatballs, which lay delightfully on a bed of mash with pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top. This was a clear winner with a touch of spice and the sweet fruit singing together perfectly.
But before all this happened we ordered some excellent homemade lemonade, apple juice and local cider and nibbled on pickled vegetables (even the kids liked these) and some spiced nuts that went in seconds into A’s mouth and didn’t come out again. A was very quiet and smiley throughout this section of lunch.
Our waitress was an absolutely charming lady called Floriana. She has that rare thing, eight pairs of secret eyes that can manage any number of tables. I watched her work the room – she should give lessons. As well as being polite and courteous she advised on wine superbly and managed to carry about 100 plates at once despite her diminutive frame. Floriana is a clear and valuable asset to Le Coq.
The mains on offer which are all cooked on an open rotisserie were Sutton Hoo chicken with Persian rice with a butter and potato crust, pork belly with polenta and gremolata and a mackerel with fire roasted green beans. A had a children’s portion of chicken that he loved. M had the pork belly, which was not only enormous but tasted brilliant. Rich and juicy with a manageable crackling it was a belter.
X and I chose the chicken which was moist and large and well, just lovely. Like chicken used to taste when I was a child. The rice was also super good with a touch of gentle spice there. A couple of sides completed the picture and of these I would highly recommend the roast potatoes made with the fat from the rotisserie, they were fantastic and crisp. A small bowl of natural yoghurt with harissa continued the North African vibe.
It is hard to describe how we all enjoyed our various dishes. We ate in almost total silence (extremely rare) and just sat smiling when we had finished. Very good straightforward cooking that really has a place in my heart.
After some time we had a look at desserts. Again they have kept things simple, an orange and almond tart (light as a feather and incredibly yummy) a halva ice cream and Robiola cheese with a couple of Medjool dates. All were good but we were running out of room.
This little restaurant in N1 serves the local community well, unless you book you will be turned away on a Sunday such is its popularity. Towards the end of our visit I saw a man enter, have a little chat with the staff then disappear for twenty minutes. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw him again. He had come back to collect the roast chicken he had ordered! I wish I lived near enough to order a chicken to take home from Le Coq. It would save quite a bit of work on a Sunday (or any other day for that matter).
We needed a long walk afterwards and fortunately Islington’s Upper Street was open with all those shops you never have time to visit when doing normal shopping (great for Christmas presents). I would be a regular if I lived closer, M and I lamented the fact that, years ago we lived just down the road in Dalston and this road was on our way home. If only we hadn’t moved!