As we arrive the female French maitre d' appears to be having a breakdown. She’s emitting a deep throaty cough while being patted by the slightly uncomfortable kitchen-hand, who is also running dishes out to the packed dining room. Le Coq is seriously understaffed on the floor, which means tables, including my own, are seated without menus, water, wine or attention for quite some time. We eventually ask the harried kitchen-hand for menus, and are soon happily weighing up proteins and debating duck fat potatoes versus truffled mac’n’cheese. Diners are always happier being left with a menu in their hands.
The phone is ringing constantly, and a helmet-clad Uber driver hovers near our table, adding to the chaos. A regular diner comes in to order takeaway: "You had me on hold, so I walked down." She's told to return in twenty minutes. One can't help but wonder if this understaffing is by choice or mishap, given the owner's, David Poirier's, published thoughts on inflated salaries.
I’m distracted from my musings by the arrival of wine. Cleverly, the wines here are all the same price – Glass ($13), Half ($30), Full ($55) - which feels quite liberating. We settle upon an Aussie 2016 Roeleur Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley that’s good without being great, and a 2015 Chateau de Corcelles Gamay from Beaujolais, France that smells incredible but has a lot of stem. It settles with food, and we enjoy switching between these two half carafes at will.
In this newish incarnation of the La Grande Bouffe space, it has been remade as broadly French provincial, with fake plants, clusters of caged hipster bulbs, backlit wooden booze shelves and dark wood fans. The visual centerpiece is of course the well-lit, gold embossed rotisserie oven that first holds a crisp skinned piece of pork, then a pair of pre-smoked ducks with dangling necks, spinning lewdly and seductively over a horizontal row of rotating chickens.
We decide to hedge our bets on dueling poultry. Our Holmbrae Corn Fed Chook ($26/half) and Smoked Crispy Duck A L’Orange ($36/half) arrive from the orderly open kitchen relatively quickly after our order was taken. Our proteins are presented on a platter and stand, lifting the aromatic birds closer to our eagerly flared nostrils.
They’re both beautifully cooked - the chicken juicy and flavoursome, the duck smoky and intense with a thin layer of subcutaneous fat keeping it moist in your mouth. The duck is rich, but if you’re smart enough to follow staff advice, the Hot Chic ($4) sauce is a perfect green chilli-based accompaniment that does an excellent job at cutting the fat.
We eschew entrees for a one-course family style meal, rounding it out with tangy Ma Poule ($12/small) coleslaw with grilled corn and a lime yoghurt dressing, and Thyme Garlic and Duck Fat Kipfler Potatoes ($10).
The latter aren’t quite as exciting as I wanted them to be, but they’re excellent vehicles for delivering more Chicken Gravy ($4). The gravy, incidentally, is so good, I find myself wiping out the gravy boat later in the meal.
Despite the understaffing, this is the upmarket chook shop I’ve always wished existed. They’ll definitely win my business again the next time I want comfort food.
Le Coq Healthy Rotisserie
758 Darling Street, Rozelle
Ph: (02) 9818 4333