*Note: Both The Club and Aqua closed in 2015. A few weeks ago I went home to St. John’s Newfoundland for a much needed visit with family and friends. After my brief and exhausting 3 day stopover at Christmas I felt cheated out of down …
Let me start by saying one thing: I LOVE FRENCH FOOD! Having been deprived of this delicious type of cuisine for the better part of my life, my love affair began slowly when a friendly co-worker introduced me to the wonderful world of foie gras. I have to say, I have yet to feel the guilt that should probably accompany the taste of the creamy delicacy, but I don’t understand the scorn and will continue to love it. This may seem harsh for some people, but my appreciation for this food has only increased since the lovely Isolde shared her Tourchon Foie Gras after a long shift at the restaurant where we both worked.
The odd thing about this is that previous to that life changing duck liver pate, I had actually travelled to France: in 2009, I spent a few weeks there with a friend while backpacking through Europe. Though I thoroughly enjoyed my Steak Frites and countless crepes, including the Tit-O-Taton special, I look back on the experience and feel robbed. Why you ask? Because I simply did not know what to order, and I was scared to try unfamiliar things.
Since the awesome European adventure I have eaten at countless restaurants and have become the foodie I am today, unafraid of strange looking dishes and grounded intestines. Now I appreciate French food in all its buttery goodness and anticipate that a trip to France with Adam in the future will be a very different culinary experience than the first time!
This disclosure aside, Adam and I decided to go to Bistro Le Coq on Argyle Street for his 26th birthday and were both very excited to have some French food. I called to make a reservation and was slightly distressed to learn that they do not take reservations for parties under six. However, the woman who answered the phone assured me that there would be no problem getting a table for two at 9pm on a Friday…really? However, we were pleasantly surprised when we walked into the romantically lit bistro at 9:15 and find that there was a table for us…in the window!
The ambience of Bistro le Coq is amazing. The dimly lit bistro is beautifully decorated with Francophile iconography that is not tacky, and the big red booths in the back are reminiscent of a 1920s French restaurant. I couldn’t help feeling like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, fawning over the tin ceiling and French maps adorning the walls.
Our server greeted us warmly with the menus, accompanied by a large cocktail, and a large wine list. Adam and I both started with cocktails. Though I usually start with a glass of bubbles, I was intrigued at the champagne cocktail of the day that was suggested on the menu and I was not disappointed. There was pomegranate something, and sparkling, and it was good. Adam had a scotch and lemon cocktail, which he loved.
Upon ordering our meal, I was pretty much set on getting the Foie Gras, as I love it and almost always get it if it’s on the menu. However, because we had already gained such good rapport with the server, I asked her opinion on whether to get the Foie Gras or the Pork Belly: she suggested the Pork Belly after raving about how she had eaten it the night before after her shift. I appreciate honesty from servers, it is something that I always did when I was serving because I love food and I want people to love their food too. I was not disappointed. The Pork Belly was perfect. Served with finely diced potatoes and onion, the accompaniment was so light that it supported the pork belly in a great way, and the port and balsamic reduction added the perfect amount of tanginess to the succulent pork fat. Adam ordered the Bone Marrow, something neither he nor I have tried before. I love Adam’s adventuresome attitude towards food and was equally excited to try his appetizer. Bone marrow is delicious! Accompanied by a fig and blueberry jam, the veal bones came criss-crossed on the plate and you actually had to dig it out with a small spoon to pile it on the toasted baguette. Similar in consistency to the fatty parts of pork belly, bone marrow is rich in flavour, and there is no need to fear it!
I was definitely not disappointed with the mains either. Being the beef lovers we are, Adam chose the Pavé de Boeuf au Poivre which was smothered in a delectable brandy and cream sauce that was amazing! Adam and I used it to dip our fries in. I had the classic Steak Frites that was cooked perfectly with delicious string cut fries. The wine was also above and beyond our expectations. I ordered the Les Jamelles Viognier despite the fact that I had beef because I am a faithful drinker of white wines. Adam had La Vielle Ferme Ventoux, a red that went perfectly with both his appetizer and his main. The wine is worth mentioning because of the value alone: we each had a carafe of wine that was very reasonably priced and was just over two glasses each, more than enough for even the most avid wine drinkers.
Adam and I skipped dessert because I had made a cheesecake for his birthday, but the menu for dessert and the dessert wines is enough to make me come back for a second trip to the bistro.
French food is something that I feel a lot of the general population over looks: People can be concerned with more exotic foods like Thai or Sushi, however, French food is rich, flavourful, and delicious. Bistro le Coq was a great experience overall: the servers in their slightly clichéd but ambient white and black stripe tees, the 1920s style lighting and seating, and the dedicated nod to classic French food is something that every Francophile and foodie must Explore Eat, and Repeat. Bon Appétit mes amis!
Things worth mentioning…
Cost: 150$ including tax and tip… a phenomenal price considering Adam and I both had cocktails and a carafe of wine each!
Things I liked: The service, the drinks, and the variety on the lunch and dinner menus: they are the same, so people who want heavier meals at lunch, or lighter fare at dinner have that option. Bravo!
Things I didn’t: There were a few too many coqs decorating the front windows and the dinnerware…but how can I criticize a small business owner for wanting to brand themselves these days in a brand name world? Also, the macaroni au gratin was little too ‘gratinized’ for my liking. I know that traditionally gratin is supposed to be crusty, but the crumbs just took over the dish.
Best place to sit: By the window, or in the big red booths in the back.