As chain restaurants go, Côte has always been up there with the best for me, offering decent, relatively authentic French-style fayre without trying too hard to shout about its Frenchness (all too often, ‘French’ restaurants in the UK feel the need to have baguettes, berets and Eiffel Towers everywhere, just in case you were in any doubt – Café Rouge and Café des Amis, I’m looking at you).
So, I was very pleased to discover a new branch of Côte opening in central Cardiff. I’m a relatively regular visitor to their restaurant at Cardiff Bay, so when I was invited to try the new arrival, I was delighted to do so!
Mr W and I went on a weeknight and were pleased to find it busy. Spread over two floors, it’s quite a large place, but because of the layout and lighting, it manages to feel quite cosy and intimate.
We started with a selection of piquante olives – olives with peppers, cornichons and chilli. We liked these, but it was a shame they came with stones in. We also had a garlic and rosemary fougasse – a leaf shaped bread – this was absolutely delicious: piping hot, pleasantly salty, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, with a generous drizzle of garlic oil (or it could have been melted garlic butter). The meal was off to a very good start!
The menu at Côte is extensive, if not a little mind-boggling. As well as the a la carte, there are daily specials (plus lunchtime deals during the day, including weekends). I opted for steak tartare to start. It was an excellent specimen, well-seasoned, with a spicy bite to it, and the right consistency to eat with the sourdough toast that accompanied it, or simply on its own.
Mr W chose Moules Marinieres (also available as a main course with frites) which were another success: creamy, garlicky sauce with plenty of shallots and parsley, and good sized mussels, cooked pretty much perfectly.
Our waiter had recommended a couple of his favourite dishes, and we both went for one of his recommendations. Mr W had a rib eye steak, cooked medium rare, served with peppercorn sauce and frites – a simple but excellent dish. Chain restaurant steaks can often be particularly disappointing, but not in this case. The frites get a special mention here: I’m not usually a massive fan of thin cut ‘french fry’ style chips, especially with steak, mainly because they are so often soggy, overly salty, or not served hot enough, but Cote seem to do them really, really well.
I chose confit duck leg, served with red cabbage, golden raisins and an orange sauce. The duck was cooked perfectly, and the accompaniments were lovely, although some may have found the orange a little overpowering. I had a side of gratin potatoes, as I can never resist a dauphinoise!
To finish, Mr W went for a crepe grand marnier, a non-flambeed take on crepe Suzette, which was pleasant, but fairly unremarkable, and obviously it’s never going to be as good if it’s not flambéed at the table (which this wasn’t!) I chose a crème caramel, again recommended by our waiter, and this was another simple but excellent choice, with exceptionally rich, tasty caramel and just the right amount of ‘wobble’. It came with a little puddle of single cream, which sounded unnecessary (and probably was!) but really worked well with the richness of the caramel.
All in all, we had an excellent meal, the service was fantastic, and the recommendations from our waiter were a lovely extra touch. It’s not bargain basement dining, but the price reflects the quality, and it’s not bank-breaking either. We’ve been back again a couple of times since for lunches whilst out shopping in Cardiff, and I can see it being a popular after work choice too.
Côte Brasserie Cardiff Central, 10-11 Mill Lane, Cardiff CF10 1FL
I was invited to Côte as a guest and as such our meal and drinks were complimentary.