Sunday 8 November 2009

Review: Côte (French), London

Où sont les chopsticks ?

Well three months into my blog, I've finally plucked up the courage to write a full review about food that isn't eaten with chopsticks. It's not that I don't eat with a knife and fork but I started my blog because of my passion for Chinese food and I feel enough of a charlatan writing about that never mind Western food. The other thing is that I'm a bit of a control freak and when everyone has their own dish, I feel I'm not seeing the whole picture. Throw in some bottles of wine and I'm definitely not seeing the whole picture.

The victim for this post is my old flatmate who we shall call Mr Pak Choi for no reason other than that was the name he was given when we were allocating nom de blog's in the pub. Anyway PC and I often meet up for Sunday lunch in Wimbledon Village. We're not particularly imaginative and usually go to the pub for roast beef washed down with a couple of pints.

We decided to try somewhere different but sadly the village is a microcosm of 'Chain Britain' albeit with the posher chains that the 'sweater over their shoulder' crowd adore e.g. Le Pain Quotidien, Strada, Pizza Express, Giraffe, Café Rouge, Tootsies, Paul, and Côte.

There are non-chain options but we didn't fancy the bog-standard Thai, Indian, Chinese or the slightly bizarre South African pizza parlour. We also didn't want to go anywhere too formal or pricey, just somewhere for a relaxed lunch – how hard can that be ? Is it any wonder we always end up in the sodding pub ?

We finally plumped for Côte, which defines itself as 'a modern interpretation of the many famous bistros that populate Paris'. If I was French, I'd be spluttering into my café au lait at this lame PR puff but I'm not and don't have strong feelings on what a bistro should or shouldn't be. Mind you I would 'do one' if a chain restaurant defined itself as a 'modern interpretation of the many famous dim sum restaurants that populate Hong Kong'.

Like many chain restaurants, Côte has a slightly sanitised feel and you'd be hard pushed to imagine you're in Paris. But as chains go, it wasn't too bad and the place was buzzing with few empty tables when we pitched up just before 1pm.

We started with rillettes (£4.85) and the warm roquefort salad (£5.35). The rillettes was nicely presented in a jar but I thought it should have tasted more 'porky and ducky'. Another minor criticism was that there wasn't enough sourdough toast to go with this pâté although the cornichons were very good. PC thought his salad was competent.

For mains, PC chose steak frites (£9.95) from the weekend specials and I went for the chargrilled 'Les Landes' chicken with frites (£10.95 incld £1 for garlic butter). Although the frites were good, PC took umbrage at the little bucket that the frites were served in – I think the term to describe this begins with w and ends in -nky. The only bigger crime against potatoes is 'thick-cut chip jenga'.

The steak was decent and was served medium as requested. My chicken was a tad disappointing as it can often be when eating out - I guess I was taken in by all the guff about the free range chicken being from the 'Les Landes' region of France. Thankfully the garlic butter rescued this dish together with a side of French beans (£2.95).

We weren't going to do desserts but 'we took one for the blog' and I'm glad we did. PC went for chocolate fondant (£4.95) and I chose the tarte fine aux pommes (£5.15). Both of these were served with vanilla ice cream and what ice cream ! PC spotted that the ice cream was probably own-made as he could see ground vanilla pod (after a slow start, PC was getting into the blogging spirit).

Whilst it tasted good, like many a Masterchef contestants’ effort, the fondant collapsed. However, my tarte was excellent - it was the one dish that transported me to France with caramelised apple and flaky pastry – incroyable !

The mainly French staff were efficient throughout and the damage came to around £70 for two including service and a fine bottle of La Garenne Syrah 2008, Vin De Pays D'Oc (£18.95). It was a bit pricier than our normal pub lunch but not overly expensive for Wimbledon Village. However you could get away with spending around £20/head ordering the weekend special with house wine.

Verdict: Casting aside my prejudices about chains, I liked Côte and whilst it wasn't flawless, it made a nice change from our usual Sunday lunch routine.

Other Stuff: Breakfast is served until noon (1pm at weekends) and next time I might go for the full English (£7.35) or a croque monsieur (£4.85).

Côte on Urbanspoon

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