Côte Brasserie, Oxford: August, 2017
Why do chains chain themselves to the ordinary?
Originally formed by business-tycoon Richard Caring in 2007 Côte has expanded nationwide and given England, yet another, taste of ‘French food’. The Parisian-style Brasserie started in London and has sort to feed the rest of the country including here in Oxford.
I try to stay clear of chain restaurants as I tend find them lifeless, tasteless, and simply anodyne. I couldn’t believe that Cote in Oxford had so much chatter boasting it as one of the better places in Oxford to find some flavoursome food. I know Oxford is slightly dull and somewhat behind the times when it comes to the food and drink scene, but really – a chain is one of the better places? Reluctantly, I decided to brave the chain!
Cote is a moderately priced French brassiere, serving classics such as steak frites and moules marinière. Think of it as a Café Rouge which has had Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s elaborate cuffs all over it. The Oxford venue is classic in design, nothing special but does the job – though slightly too tightly packed. I know it needs make money but please, I don’t wish to hear that TJ the kitten has been put down from the woman on the table next to me.
Seated near a window we were handed a plethora of menus; A la carte, set menu, specials, and an anniversary menu. I would allow plenty of time to study the dishes. I decided to go for the 10-year anniversary menu priced at £27.50 which included a complementary glass of champagne – s’il vous plaît.
Looking at the starters the obvious choice for me was the crab mayonnaise. My friend had the breadcrumed calamari, which gave me instant food-envy the moment it hit the table. Crispy outer shell with thick, tender calamari inside – simple, but always a real treat when cooked right. My crab dish with avocado, cucumber, capers, and tarragon was just as good; fresh and flavoursome though served with sourdough bread it was a little unimaginative.
The service was slick and friendly, what you would expect from an established restaurant. Considering it was a Friday evening and full with other customers wishing they were in St. Tropez, the food was served in a very timely manor – that or the fizz had set to work.
I was just starting to settle in, then the mains arrived. I had ordered the roast duck breast. A classic served with gratin potato and a cherry sauce. It looked like a dish served-up in the opening rounds on Masterchef.
The duck breast was sliced horizontally and fanned out with a cherry placed between each slice, just so, headed by the gratin. Not only does one never thinly slice the duck, as it cools down too quickly, but the bundle of foliage that topped it was wilting – fast. At least it was served pink, it was a little tough and the cherry sauce lacked depth. The dish was not a triumph but more a try-hard.
I ordered chocolate fondant, a dessert I love and crave for on a daily basis. I was anticipating the first plunge of the spoon splitting the fondant and allowing a lava-like chocolate river to flow. I had boomerang ready on my phone and made the plunge – nothing. Not even a trickle. It was over-cooked – how disappointing. I wanted to leave right there and then but, being the gluttonous sinner I am, I ate it – sorrowfully.
Overall it was ok. I would not go again in a hurry but I would opt for a light lunch perhaps instead of a dinner, as it was nothing special. Not terrible; I have had worse, just ok.