|Classic steak frittes.|
The week following the final weekend of the Edinburgh festivals always has that air of the party being over, the carnival having shipped out, and summer most definitely coming to an end. How nice then to receive a text message from JML enquiring if I wish to be treated to an early, post work dinner.
A perfect antidote to Edinburgh’s annual festival hangover, when the chorus of a month of music and laughter is replaced by the rumble of tumbleweed gambolling down George Street, the thump of brick-sized bank statements landing on doormats, and the occasional, distant popping that signifies someone else’s liver finally exploding.
But where to dine to banish our post-celebratory blues? Our first choice – I will keep my powder dry on this for a later review – was catering a private party, so no luck. El Cartel, round the corner from JML’s office, was full to bursting. “Côte is also round the corner from your office” I say. “You do realise it’s part of a chain?” says JML? Well sometimes restaurant chains can get things spot on, as a recent visit to Dishoom revealed…
|Poached egg on a salad – yes please!|
First impressions the restaurant are those of a stylishly, yet subtly decked-out brassiere; subtle grey walls, polished oak floors, marbled-topped tables. In fact a fair bit more high-end than might have been expected from a chain. Our friendly server had no trouble seating us – this being midweek after the Edinburgh festivals there were only a smattering of fellow diners in the surprisingly expansive space, we immediately treated ourselves to wee appetisers. A lovely Kir Royale and superbly flavoursome French cider were sipped whilst perusing the menus.
I say ‘menus’ because as well as an a la carte, Côte also offers a lunch and early evening menu which represents excellent value at £10.95 for two courses / £12.95 for three. And as we were dining at the start of the evening it was this menu we chose from. On offer was a decent range of French and Mediterranean inspired dishes, all of which sounded pretty inviting, so much so we changed our minds several times before finally ordering.
|Cod croquettes with roast pepper sauce.|
Often, it is the seemingly most uncomplicated, straightforward dishes that can reveal how decent a kitchen is. My starter of frisée aux lardons was a case in point. A simple salad of endive, with crisped chunks of pancetta, topped off with a perfectly poached egg, this was a really nicely put together dish, although the dressing might have benefited from a smidgeon more of the promised mustard, but that’s probably just my taste. JML went a wee bit Latin for his opener, choosing a Spanish-inspired dish in the form of salt cod croquettes. Another apparently uncomplicated dish that can be very easy to get wrong, Côte‘s offering was really tasty, featuring lozenges that were crisp on the outside yet satisfyingly moist on the bite thanks to smooth potato – as opposed to béchamel – filling, with the rich flavour of the bacalao being intense but not over domineering. The accompanying roast pepper aioli also complimented the dish very nicely.
|Grilled chicken with potato dauphinoise.|
Steak and chips. I’m sorry UK, you might think it’s a key dish in our national culinary repertoire, yet with a few exceptions the French and Belgians do it so much better. So how would this French-inspired restaurant’s take on this classic fare? Very well indeed, according to my dining partner, as he tucked into a lovely medium rare piece of beef, soused in garlic butter and perfectly complemented by beautifully crisp frites. Personally, I fancied being a bit rustically Gallic in my choice of main, so poulet grille certainly seemed to fit the bill. Now usually I prefer chicken thigh to breast, as I find the latter can be a bit dry and tough. However, this certainly wasn’t the case for the chargrilled breast at the centre of this dish. Perfectly seasoned and coated with herbs, it was succulent and tasty. Adorned with a veal and thyme jus, and accompanied by peppery watercress and beautifully creamy gratin potatoes, it certainly appeared that I had made a good choice of main.
|Chocolate fondant and ice cream.|
Based on our experience of our first two courses, Côte’s offering certainly seemed pretty decent, but could they deliver on the puddings? Well yes and no. JML’s dark chocolate pot turned out to be decent stab at a warm chocolate fondant, richly dark and oozing an unctuous liquid cocoa centre. However, my experience of the sweet course was much less favourable. My first choice of crème caramel was apologetically identified as being unavailable, which was surprising given that the restaurant bills this as its signature pud, and it was very early on in the evening. My alternate ‘crumble aux pêches’ was so-so. The crumble was certainly crunchy and rich with butter, but what lay beneath it was more akin to the filling of a Mr Kippling apple pie in texture, and certainly wasn’t packed with peach flavour. This, and the lack of crème caramel made me wonder if, like a number of other restaurant chains, Côte ships in desserts that are pre-prepared off premises.
|Peach crumble – or was it?|
All things considered, our dining experience at this restaurant made for a suitably pleasant evening. Accompanied by a pretty decent bottle of Viognier, the food was generally well presented and flavoursome – with the possible exception of my crumble – and nicely served in an inviting venue. For the price, it really was difficult to crumble. So if you are seeking a pick-me-up to mark the changing of the seasons, or cheer up a dull midweek moment, sometimes it pay not to dismiss a restaurant just because it happens to be a chain, and certainly not Côte.
Ambience – Expect a trendily relaxed bistro/brasserie.