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Over the last year I have been lucky enough to cook with some great chefs in some great kitchens, experiencing something new every time and the adventures don’t seem to be letting up. I casually mentioned my love of venison to Chef Mickael Weiss a few weeks ago. Mickael is Head Chef of Coq D’Argent. I asked if Mickael would have venison on the menu on the 12th September so I could pop in and have venison for my birthday. The reply was, yes if I come and prep it. I thought about that for a moment, a very short moment and then had the wait of having to speak to work (and my Wife) to arrange a day off so I could actually say yes.

So it was arranged and I found myself heading to London on my Birthday. I add, it was cold, wet, and early and it was my Birthday. It crossed my mind for a nanosecond that this was mental, getting up earlier than I would for work, in the rain on my birthday then I remembered why I was doing it. 80kg of venison was waiting for me, from here on in called “The Beast”.

The Beast

I arrive at One Poultry, find the entrance which I know I have walked past several times. I go to the top floor and for the first time that morning I suddenly feel nervous. I mean, I’m not a butcher, I’m not a chef. What if I completely stuff this up? I have no idea what I’m doing but luckily Mickael knew that. He introduces himself, we have some very good coffee, everyone apart from Mickael keeps calling me Sir. We have a walk round the restaurant, bar and patio. This is a great place, top floor with some amazing views of London and two balconies over the streets below where I had special access as the garden area is closed at the moment.

I change, I look like a chef a bit more now with jacket and apron and I’m introduced to The Beast. We somehow move it onto the bench, unwrap it and Mickael explains the various parts of the animal and how to find where to cut. We start by getting it into manageable portions. Mickael takes off one leg to demonstrate and then hands the knife to me to have a go. I do an okay job, not cutting as close to the bone as Mickael but not bad for a first ever attempt.

This is the basic process, cut it into the joints before trimming and prepping further. Mickael saws through the ribs on one side, that will be venison spare ribs. We cut the rest of the animal in half down the center and take off the rump and remaining legs. We now have cuts for steaks, loin chops, the fillets, and further cuts for braising, mincing and stewing. It is now that I find that Mickael has no defined plans for The Beast, it’s thought out while it is being cut up. Chefs come over and look, giving ideas and some of the cuts are taken away for lunch service.

I let the professional do this part.

That’s it, done. It took about 2 hours to get through everything and the kitchen is buzzing as they get closer to service. I’m shown a bit more of the building, down in the basement where more prep happens, storing what is left of The Beast in the fridge, handing some of it over to be marinated and vacuum packed for slow cooking. We head back up and I’m placed at the pass with Mickael as I watch the magic happen. It’s moments like this that you really start to appreciate the food that arrives on your plate.

The finished venison dish, first special of the week.

I think I tasted most of the dishes that went out during lunch, grouse, beef fillet, pork, octopus (72 hour cooked octopus), chicken, lamb and of course The Beast. By the way, if you dine at Coq D’Argent with the current menu, try the pork jowl in homey with watermelon or the foie gras & rabbit terrine or go with a friend and order both and share. Mains, the lamb, no the beef, hang on the venison, actually the pork, octopus and chorizo. I have an idea, have the eight course tasting menu £48 a head, has to be done. Don’t forget to have the tomato and basil salad on the side, I lost count of how many different tomatoes they had.

Seared peppered tuna.

So how good is this place? Put it this way. I don’t like apricots, lavender or violet. Mickael had me eating and enjoying all three. I even got to try some whisky and Sipsmith’s Sloe Gin (and you all should know from a previous post how much I love Sipsmith). The sun even came out just as we were finishing up to make the views even better. So I leave, full of knowledge, a full stomach and a beaming smile. I love days like this, so glad I’m not a chef because I know I couldn’t do it. I do feel very fortunate though to be allowed in now and then to see how it works, learn something new and hopefully then impress my family and friends with some great meals.

The Voilet dessert.

So ask me if I intend to dine at Coq D’Argent. I don’t  even need to answer that. Thank you Mickael, it was a great day and thank you to the whole team at Coq D’Argent for such a warm welcome. I hope to see you all again soon.

You can follow Mickael on twitter @weissmickael or the restaurant @CoqdArgent1

Restaurant website www.coqdargent.co.uk

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