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It’s out with the old and in with the new for Chris Wicks of Bell’s Diner fame, having converted pan-Asian restaurant Budokan into the newly opened Three Coqs Brasserie above Clifton Down Shopping Centre. Along with the other two “Coqs” – David Daly (Bell’s Diner) and Jonathon Mackeson (Bordeaux Quay, Jamie’s Italian), Chris’ aim was to showcase local, seasonal produce alongside a purely natural and biodynamic wine list, while maintaining the relaxed dining environment that Budokan was known for.

Our verdict was that he’s succeeded pretty well. The restaurant itself is warm and welcoming, with a small bar at one end and the open kitchen at the other. I feel at this point that I have to mention the carpet – one of the few things I’d been told by previous diners before I went was that “the carpet is gorgeous”. It was indeed, a deep mulberry that added a touch of class that was a little incongruous with the view from the floor to ceiling windows (the Whiteladies Road traffic and half naked men in flats on the other side of the road!)

The menu created by the Coqs is very much the English take on tapas-style dining. At the top of the menus, they  proclaim:

“As chefs we love to try everything, our menu is designed to enable people to eat as we do, by trying several dishes small or large as & when you’d like.”

After much deliberation, we decided that this was the way forward: by sharing six small plates (priced between £3.50 and £6) between the three of us, we could have a taste of much of the menu. We were told that the plates would arrive as and when they were cooked, again adding to the informality.

First to arrive were the puy lentils with sweet peppers and roasted beetroot: so good that one of my companions for the evening complimented the chef on this particular dish at the end of the meal, despite not being a fan of lentils. This was swiftly followed by the warm salad of slow roast pork shoulder, fennel, hot & sweet smoked paprika, garlic and sherry…the dish that was definitely the highlight for me. It was accompanied by slightly bitter deep fried slivers of courgette that counteracted the sweetness perfectly: if this is still on the menu when I go back, I’ll be having a large portion as a main!

We also ordered the ham hock and leek terrine, served with deliciously vinegary pickled mushrooms, and a plate of cured meats, consisting of smoked duck, serrano ham and red wine cured venison with capers, cornichons and radishes. The black bream with sauteed potatoes and spinach was a little uninspiring, but the baked duck egg with blue cheese and walnut more than made up for the disappointment.

One of my fellow diners and I opted for the selection of British cheeses to end the meal with. Served with biscuits and a sweetly spiced chutney, we were treated to a Dorset cheddar, a Staffordshire goat’s cheese, and two Welsh cheeses: the soft Caws Preseli and the strong blue Perl Las. Our other dining companion went down the dessert route: poached rhubarb crumble with rhubarb ice cream. His feedback of “really nice” was about all that we could hope for, as he was obviously concentrating on cleaning his plate rather than helping with the review 🙂

One comment made to me, by someone who attended the brasserie’s opening night, was that the service they received wasn’t up to their expectations. My assumption is that this was purely opening night jitters: our waitress was perfectly attentive and did a fantastic job of explaining the dishes as she placed each one on the table.

I’d been told before visiting that the 100% natural, biodynamic wine list was one of the key highlights of the new brasserie. Until I read the Three Coqs website, I had absolutely no idea what biodynamic wines were, but apparently:

As with organic farming, synthetic fertilizers are shunned in favour of natural fertilizers, like organic manure mixed with chamomile flowers, and by using manual methods of keeping insects away. The preparations are applied at appropriate times, in keeping with the rhythms of the seasons. It’s artisan wine making – winemakers who own small vineyards who rely on hard toil and sustainable land to produce better tasting wines. They are more intense yet include unusual flavours, totally unlike mass marketed wines which are chock full of sulphur and other nasty chemicals.

So there you have it. With a biodynamic wine list hand picked by Chris, and day to day running of the restaurant from Jon and Dave, the Three Coqs Brasserie is a welcome addition to the existing foodie haunts of Whiteladies Road. With nothing on the food menu (which, the website claims, will change regularly) costing more than £12, it’s an inexpensive way to enjoy an informal and inexpensive yet enjoyable meal in Clifton. We’ll definitely be going back for more.

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