I noticed this new venture from the team behind the Blind Swine with interest, though I haven't yet made it to the Blind Swine, a combination of laziness, a preference for lunches over dinner, it apparently being a hard reservation to get and a fear that it might well be the emperors new clothes meant our paths have yet to cross, however when I saw Chef Michael O'Hare tweeting that they were opening a new place and it would be 'As French as f*ck' my interest was piqued with me being far more interested at the end of the day in a bit of classic French cooking than something foraged, served on a tiny plate, or worse still 'to share'.
A very rare non -races night out in York presented itself, my first thought was to try the Blind Swine but this appeared to be shut, only open Wednesday - Saturday but Cochon was open so we booked, like the Swine, there is little in the way of a web presence for either venture so quite what was being served remained a mystery, but we'd give it a go.
With the blind swine being shut we not surprised to see Chef Michael O'Hare behind the stove in the open kitchen and the FOH manageress from the Swine, though we did later find out the swine was actually open so it is worth a call on the quiet nights it seems.
Having seen various references to the décor I was a little wary, I'm too old and grumpy for 'fun' anymore and thoughts of quirky décor, underwear hanging from the ceiling and straw in the toilets is more likely to induce a cynical eye-roll and think of a nice proper restaurant with actual chairs and tablecloths. I have to say though that even jaded old me enjoyed what they'd done to the admittedly tiny dining room, they have taken mismatched chair chic and turned it up to 11, it is very kitsch but it works, I had my eye straight away on a giant chair , looking like a refugee from a very over the top Chinese restaurant where I sat, in vaguely Dr Evil style quite happily for the night, overlooking even that I was a good few inches low than ideal dining height, that's the sort of catastrophe that could ruin a night. The décor had clearly worked its magic on me.
Starting with drinks there is a short list covering the important bases, fizz, red, white, Kronebourg and Gin and on a four choice list of wines I was pleased to see Trimbach Riesling, so pleased in fact it seemed rude not to have it , along with a beer and later a pleasingly rustic Faugeres.
the handwritten menu was similarly concise with a 4:4:2 formation or 4:4:3 if you count cheese, we did. French onion soup, oysters, frogs legs , charcuterie, so far so good. I'd usually only have a frogs leg as part of a garnish on a dish, one of the few things that I find delicious but have a mental block with like baby eels and brains and most sous vide meat, but we ordered them anyway and a plate of charcuterie. My mate a similarly Franco-phile Chef was very impressed and I bravely tried a few so as to not lose my hard won go anywhere, eat anything (properly prepared in a nice kitchen) creds. they were deftly cooked to moist perfection and the sauce was killer, almost spicy hot tomato garlic sauce just as you would want in your dream French provincial bistro. The charcuterie was as good as buying some meat and laying it on a plate gets, with a nice chicken liver pate and gerkins and good with the smoked Maldon salt provided with the bread. It really is the little things that make a difference.
With our usual strategy of ordering a fish course to split and share as an intermediate course looking a little difficult as the option in question was boulliabase, we did it anyway and although i'd said we'd happily wade into a single bowl, they kindly brought us a bowl each with a decent razor clam, aioli and a really well made shellfish reduction that had the edge taken off it by a heavy hand on the salt and for my mate's taste an over-preponderance of salmon, but to be fair rascasse aren't too common in York or on the East coast.
Our 'other' main was Steak Frites with Café de Paris butter and watercress, cuisson was spot on for the decent sized ribeyes, a med/rare and bleu, good depth of flavour to the butter and crispy chips, what's not like?
We had some cheese too, from the cheese trolley wheeled through the restaurant, Comte, reblochon and something else that escapes me, always good to see a trolley of anything in a restaurant in my book.
Finishing off with Lemon tarts as is the law if available, we reflected on a very pleasant evening, with bonus marks for a nice sound track of Thin Lizzy on the record player, upon chatting with Michael later I was pleased to hear that although 'Ex Noma' is the most banded about part of his CV there's a strong classical background too with John Burton-Race, and if my memory serves me Seaham Hall. Service throughout was spot on, with obvious care and attention and would not be out of place in a serious fayne dayning gaff, but as the likes of Russell Norman have shown you can have young edgy staff & great service - if they've been properly trained, and it only enhances the experience.
Overall a great night out, and would be high on my list for a convivial night out more focussed on the craic than a photo of every course, though of course I did. And with my pre-conceptions about the Blind Swine thoroughly shattered into the bargain, a trip there is on the cards too.