I have never been one to mark my birthday with a huge celebration. The pressure of throwing a successful birthday bash is all too much, while I find the idea of a crowd of people singing to me while I sit awkwardly behind flickering candles anxiety-inducing. I am aware that this makes me sound like quite a bore. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, but on by birthday I much prefer to steal away for a quite evening with fantastic food. Over the years, my partner in crime and oldest friend has made it her mission to make my birthday wishes come true. Last year, she whisked me up to the towering heights of Oblix at The Shard, an evening that would be hard to beat; but she pulled it off in spectacular style.
Unfortunately, this year she didn’t let me get away with an entirely embarrassment-free evening. Battling to get two giant, shimmering silver balloons – a 2 and a 5 – into the elevator at a high-end City of London restaurant wasn’t quite how I had picture my evening kicking off. We stepped out onto the beautiful rooftop garden at Coq d’Argent, D&D London’s French brasserie at No.1 Poultry, near Bank. Having arrived with plenty of time before dinner, we started the evening with cocktails. Nestled under cream umbrellas amongst lush greenery, the terrace feels like a secret hideaway from the City towers that peak above the wooden fencing.
The selection of French contemporary cocktails (£13.00) is a step back in time to 1920s Paris. The exquisite potions combine quality spirits and liqueurs with delicate herbs and punchy fruits. You can’t go wrong, whether you choose the spicy La Belle Epoque featuring bitter orange Cointreau and a hum of Star Anise, or the decadent Gourmandise which combines Ciroc vodka, Chambord, strawberry and cream. The Palatial is stunning; a silky infusion of Sauvelle vodka, apricot puree, and Earl grey tea, topped with a stiff egg white foam. For more of a kick, try the Doux Mot d’Amour, which is far from gentle as its name would suggest. A robust shot of rum agricole joins Rhubarb liqueur, thyme, lemon and cranberry for a piquant fruity tipple.
For dinner we moved into the grand dining room, a sizeable space dotted with round tables laid with crisp white linen tablecloths, well-spaced for privacy. The plush grey carpet, retro teal leather chairs and glossed dark wood walls rather reminded me of my grandma’s house, oozing old-world glamour (although perhaps my grandma’s house is not quite so fancy). Greeted by the satisfying pop of a Champagne cork and inviting sight of warm bread rolls, it was clear we would be well looked after here.
Coq d’Argent has partnered with London Evening Standard to create a summer special three-course menu paired with a glass of Chandon Brut Champagne for just £30.00 per person; a very reasonable price for this part of town. Birthday permitting, we didn’t stop at just the one glass; its soft fizz and rounded green fruit flavours made it dangerously easy to drink and we polished off the bottle.
As a self-confessed foodie and Francophile, it’s shameful that I had never before tried snails. A year older, a year braver? There was no time like the present. Coq d’Argent’s Burgundian “Petits Gris” escargots was a fantastic starter; a kick of flavour to whet the appetite. However, I can’t say I would choose to have snails again. There was nothing wrong with them; in fact they were delicious, but so would anything be drowned in this much mellow salty-sweet garlic butter, which I soaked up with hunks of crusty baguette. A dish of the butter alone would have gone down just as well.
I chose the fish main; a seared fillet of sea bass, with artichoke and a saffron barigoule. Wafer crisp fish skin against succulent meat and soft roasted courgette, onion carrot and artichoke, hidden beneath a sunset froth, came together for a textural masterpiece. The delicate honey spice of the saffron gave wonderful depth to the dish – a spectacular eat.
My second surprise of the night came at dessert, which was served with a full rendition of Happy Birthday, in French, of course. Luckily, by this point I had sipped on enough Champagne to no longer feel the embarrassment and almost enjoyed the joviality!
Standards remain high at dessert. La fraise is an elegant a take on the classic English Eton Mess, with mini mint meringues, strawberry sorbet and pate de fruits prettily arranged atop a Chantilly cream. The dish was another brilliant play on textures, with crisp and chewy meringue, soft fruit, spongy pate de fruits, cool sorbet and velvety cream. The flavours of sweet vanilla, bright and fruity berry and refreshing mint were brilliantly balanced.
The fondant au chocolat is everything you would hope for. Warm from the oven, the soft cake bleeds thick bitter-sweet dark chocolate. Paired with the sweet and nutty pistachio ice cream, it’s a mouthwatering bite that will leave you wanting more.
We ended the evening with a complementary birthday drink, which we enjoyed back out on the terrace, now lit by the warm glow as night began to fall.
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