French salad and sandwich chain Cojean has chosen Ludgate Hill as the launchpad for its charge on the London fast food market. The City (and the city) could do with a bit of liberté, égalité and fraternité – anything to challenge the stranglehold of Pret. If you respect the adage that nationals using a restaurant validates its authenticity, you’ll tap your nose and wink Clouseau-style at the number of French-speaking customers in Cojean’s queue. This isn’t traditional French food, mind you – no frites, hamburgers, foie gras or minute steak to go – but rather, a vision of clean living and health to suit a new generation; whole grains, Asian flavours and lots of veggie and gluten-free options.
Interiors are thoughtfully designed, with wooden frames and judicious planting separating diners from the queue. It’s a pleasant place to sit and watch the suits go by. In the display fridges, bright-striped tubs announce soup and curry options (there are more soups, curries and other hot dishes on a specials board too); salad and sandwich options are plentiful. A baguette of goat’s cheese, red lentil and hazelnut salad was full, fresh, and frankly excellent – if a little pricey. Another option, a classic ham and cheese, was equally good.
But wait: what’s that? In among the list of drinks (coffee, juice, tea) are large multi-coloured spots, just like a Damien Hirst masterpiece. Sadly, it’s not the real thing (for that you’ll have to go to the artist’s own café in Ilfracombe, Devon).
Conjean also has plenty of puds, including fresh fruit yoghurts, cold crumbles and mousses. Thought you’d made it to pay with your resolve intact? Think again: there are cakes by the till. The apple in my crumble was a little too smooth and sweet, but the flat whites were strong and smooth. Cojean, I think, will do very well. Vive la révolution du déjeuner!