Test Drives

Chicken rotisserie and much more as we Test Drive LeCoq in IslingtonWhat can you tell us about LeCoq?

LeCoq is the latest restaurant that is part of a revolution in Islington food, which has seen big hitters like Trullo, Fish & Chip Shop and Smokehouse revitalise the area. It's billed as a neighbourhood rotisserie restaurant, which is why they've kept things to walk-ins only - to ensure that regulars always have a good chance of grabbing a seat. We visited on the very first day of service, during their soft launch, but were already impressed by what was on offer.

What kind of food is it?

It's all based around their rotisserie, mainly focused on chicken, with an ever-changing three course menu - which incudes two options for starters or desserts. It's priced pretty keenly too - at £16 for two courses or £20 for three. We'd strongly recommend going for the three courses - but more of that in a bit.

Where is it?

It's just off Highbury Corner, about two minutes walk from Highbury and Islington station, and only a couple of doors down from Islington powerhouse Trullo.

How about bookings?

LeCoq is for walk-ins only, and we see this as a good thing. We love Trullo, but as Islington residents it requires a good deal of planning in order to get a table there. So we welcome the no-booking nature of LeCoq. There's a small area to wait in if a table is imminent and if not, they'll give you a ring when your table is ready. There was a hefty waiting time when we arrived - but we expect that to settle down in coming weeks (and you can always call in or tweet to check how busy things are too). 

And if we're waiting for a table - where can we go?

The best bet is the Alwyne Castle, just a minute further down St Paul's Road. It's a decent gastropub that we've ended up in many an evening. Alternatively there's the Hen and Chickens just across the road from LeCoq and the tiny Compton Arms nearby is always worth one visit if you've never been. And finally, there's the Tramshed on the corner if you're desperate, but we'd recommend the other two as your best first choices.

It's also worth knowing that Smokehouse is only five minutes down the road too if you fancy either a pre or post food craft beer or three.

Where should I sit?

Honestly, wherever you can get a seat as we reckon this will be busy for a while (although the window tables will be sought after).

The only place you can book is the downstairs private dining room. This seats about 10 people as well as containing a little half-height alcove decked out with mirrored tiles - perfect if you fancy crashing away from the rest of the diners in your group. They'll create a bespoke menu if you book this and are also planning to let you BYO too (they're still confirming details - but plan to have it open sometime in September). Hot Dinners are coveting this spot and are already thinking about when we can book it.

What should I eat?

As we've said - it's a regularly changing menu, so what we had on the first day of service almost certainly won't be exactly the same as future visits. For some examples of what could be on future menus, you can look at our earlier story on the opening. That said, we were very impressed by what was on offer and we took in each of the two starters and desserts on offer as well as the sides.

We liked the headlining rotisserie chicken - but were possibly more impressed by everything that surrounded it. Both starters were excellent, particularly the squid with sea purslane - a starter with beautifully cooked squid and with a fine hand on the dressing that continued on both the main side salad and the bitter leaf bread salad that came with the main course. This all contributed to elevating the meal considerably above what you might expect from a traditional rotisserie chicken restaurant. And a special mention must go to the rotisserie potatoes cooked in the juices of the chicken. These - served with aioli - were incredible and we're craving them again as we write this...

Desserts also continued to impress, with a wonderful gooseberry tart and summer pudding ice cream from ice cream powerhouses Sorbitium (created, we heard, by simply making summer puddings and crushing them down into ice cream mixture). Both well worth coming back for - particularly as both the tart and ice cream will regularly change with the seasons. 

In all, it was an excellent meal - made more impressive as it was the first day of service. 

It's worth pointing out that the weekend sees them mixing things up a little in the rotisserie. This past weekend they had octopus and pork belly in the rotisserie and they'll be continuing to explore new ways of exploiting it  in coming weekends.

Takeaway is coming in September too. We'll be popping back for this, so follow us on Twitter for our thoughts.

What about drinks?

There's a short wine menu, of which a firm favourite was the Ibizan rosé that we'd already heard about - an extremely light tinted affair and everything we like in a rosé. We also went for the house white on tap and would happily order this again.

Overall thoughts?

We've been writing about LeCoq for a while now, and we were anxious that a restaurant right on the end of @hotdinners2's street would turn out well - so we're very happy with the result. From what we're looking for from a neighbourhood restaurant, we think LeCoq is certainly doing everything right. We know we'll be able to pop back time and time again and for a different experience - all at very good value.

But we also think it's worth checking in on if you're not in the immediate area. It's so near Highbury and Islington tube that it's incredibly easy to get to from anywhere in London. The chicken may be good, but it's what's built around it that will keep everyone coming back for more. We predict ongoing success for LeCoq. 

LeCoq is at 292-294 St Paul’s Road, London, N1 2LH. Find out more about LeCoq

Prices were correct at time of writing. Hot Dinners visited during LeCoq's soft launch.

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