Restaurant Review – Three Coqs Brasserie
Tapas seems to have been experiencing a boom in popularity recently. The whole ethos of sharing nibbly food with a respectable amount of booze in a general air of bonhomie seems to have struck a chord. The question is how to give the idea of fingerfood a new twist.
One place trying to do this is the Three Coqs. With a birds’ eye view from its vantage point above Clifton Down station in Bristol it is aiming to give the Spanish tapas an Anglo- French flavour.
It has been opened by Christopher Wicks, chef patron of Bell’s Diner in Montpelier, who has joined forces with chefs David Daly (Jamie’s Italian and Bordeaux Quay) and Jonathon Mackeson (Bell’s Diner) to open in what was formerly the Budokan oriental restaurant.
The lowdown is this: a Francophile menu of dishes, with no distinction of starter and main course. Instead we get the option of most (but not all) dishes in either small or large size. These are brought to the table in an order of your choosing or as they are prepared.
In Chris’ words: “Everyone loved the informality of Budokan, but its hey-day had passed. I wanted to keep the same philosophy of family-friendly and relaxed dining, but was keen to showcase the abundance of seasonal produce from our region.”
Does it work? Well, yes, with some reservations. The menu packs some excellent and rustic-influenced dishes – notably rabbit legs with Jersey Royal new potatoes, and a succulent ham hock and leek terrine that broke apart under the lightest pressure and came with beautifully astringent pickled mushrooms that were, for me, probably the best thing on the menu, contrasting brilliantly with the meaty terrine. We also had some mussels that came with a great deeply flavoured and dominating white wine sauce. And I also had a plate of fried whitebait that were nice and crisp and served with an excellent mayonnaise.
One reservation I had before going was the same as I have with regular tapas, in that being a bloater who loves food, I’d still feel hungry at the end. That was not the case. One large course and four small ones between us left us feeling fully sated. With a bottle of wine our bill still came in below £50, which is a bargain anyway you look at it.
The wine we had was excellent – the restaurant is trying to make as big deal of its “biodynamic wine”. I know nothing of biodynamics, all I know was that we had an excellent bottle for £18.
So, to the reservations. The main gripe I had was paying £4 (the main would have been £8) for a couple of dishes that were in essence small plates full of salad leaves. One of them was a salad involving a shoulder of pork, but the meat was hidden and nothing special to me.
Then there was the logistics of tapas on a table for two. Ordering five plates, we said to bring them as they were ready. This meant our standard two-person table was soon crowded with five dishes, two plates, a bottle of wine, wine and water glasses, a carafe of water and two bowls of water to wash our hands after the mussels. We could have done with more staggered arrival of the dishes or a larger table. That said, the larger group tables were plenty big enough to accomodate everything.
But to finish on a positive the service was quick and pleasant and friendly, though it should be noted that the restaurant was under half-full when we ate.
Overall then, a good start by the three coqs running the place. We may well be back – but we might ask for a larger table and less salad.