FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Chicken certainly seems to be popular on the restaurant scene at the moment. Cafe Coq, a chicken rotisserie, has recently opened in Shaftesbury Avenue, and, in a few weeks, Conran's latest venture, Coq d'Argent, which will feature a number of traditional chicken dishes, opens in the perfect location - No 1 Poultry, in the City.

Takeaways and restaurants specialising in jerk chicken (which, for the uninitiated, is not a term of abuse but a Jamaican way of barbecuing meat with spices) are also opening all over the capital.

According to Chris Bromley, who owns Cafe Coq, chicken is in for a revival. "Chicken has had a bit of a bad press. People tend to think of those horrible unidentified fried objects; wretched birds that have lived wretched lives and taste of nothing."

"Now," he says, "producers have come around to the idea that if you want a bird that tastes, you have got to look after it along the way."

Like a growing number of restaurants, Bromley only uses free-range chickens (in his case, French "Label Rouge" birds, which, he says, are "freer than free-range").

He hopes that once customers sample his chicken, they will come back again and again, and to encourage them he is launching a loyalty scheme, the Clever Coq Club.

"We have had a bit of fun with the name," says Chris. "We haven't got as far as T-shirts with `The Best Coq in Town', but we're working on it!"

BIRD-TABLES

Cafe Coq 154 Shaftesbury Ave, WC2 (0171-836 8635)

Already popular with students, families and cinema-goers, Cafe Coq offers cheap, quality food quickly (set meals pounds 5-pounds 9).

As well as chicken (spit- roasted, with frites, sauces and salad), there is a vegetarian grill.

The plan is to open other branches elsewhere in London if this one is successful. Cafe Coq is open Mon-Sat (lunchtimes and evenings) and Sun (evenings only).

Coq d'Argent 1 Poultry, EC2 (0171-395 5000)

Opening on 17 Aug (bookings from 10 Aug), this upmarket 150-seat restaurant on the rooftop of an impressive new building will have a 4ft-high sculpture of a silver cockerel.

Apparently, the restaurant name is partly due to the location, and the term "d'Argent" is because Sir Terence Conran wanted to make it a tribute to the late Sir James Stirling.

The menu is a mix of contemporary and classic regional French cooking, and traditional chicken dishes will include pot au feu, coq au vin, and roast Bresse chicken.

Bamboula 12 Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 (0171-737 6633) This new Caribbean restaurant is doing a roaring trade in jerk chicken cooked on an open grill and sold by the quarter.

Do-it-yourself

If you want to eat your "coq" at home, most of the supermarkets are currently doing ready-cooked whole, or portions of chicken.

Tesco has a range of chickens basted in sunflower oil, including one version with garlic and herbs and another with lemon and cracked pepper (pounds 3.99).

They also do portions of boned breast with a variety of marinades (Thai, Spicy, etc) for pounds 2.59.

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