Last week saw the opening of Cheltenham's newest restaurant, Côte Brasserie, and armed with a 50% off food voucher, I couldn't get there quick enough.
We're getting a bit spoilt for choice with all these chains finding a home in town, first it was Bill's, then Turtle Bay, now Côte, and there's a Carluccio's set to open next month. Not being one for eating at chain restaurants usually, I thought I'd take full advantage of the opening offer and see what all the fuss was about.
Taking the place of what was Montpellier Brasserie, Côte is in prime position for those fancying dinner and drinks down that end of town. It's undergone quite the refurbishment, though previous regulars will be glad to see that the downstairs layout is very similar to before. It's bright and airy, oozing with French style, and they've made space for additional seating too, so it'll be great for larger groups!
We kicked off our dinner with a Kir Royale (£3.95) and an Anchovy Pissaladière (£3.50); a warm flat bread originating from Nice, with caramelised onions, salty anchovies, juicy black olives and a sprinkling of parsley. I think I'll be making this at home as it was great pre-dinner snack material, though I'd be more generous on the parsley in order to balance the out the saltiness.
The Chap chose Calamari (£6.25) as his starter; breadcrumbed squid sautéed in garlic, lemon and parsley with tartare sauce. It was bloody massive, and could have easily been shared between two. Whilst it was nice, he got a bit bored by the end, and had to leave some - not like him at all!
Predictably, I opted for the Steak Tartare (£6.95). The beef was finely chopped so that it still retained some texture (I hate it when it's verging on minced beef), then mixed with shallots, capers, cornichons, egg yolk and cognac. I quite like the wow factor of having an egg yolk sat on top, but I guess that could put some people off, so having it pre-mixed is probably more approachable for those who've not had steak tartare before. It was fresh and well seasoned, though I can't help but think a thinner, crispier bread would have gone with it better; you need a decent crunch.
With our discount in mind, The Chap chose the most expensive main; a 7oz Fillet Steak (£18.50), served with frites, watercress and a green peppercorn, cognac and cream sauce (£1.95). It was perfectly cooked - the beef practically melted in the mouth - and the peppercorn sauce was not too fiery, just velvety.
The Rump of Lamb (£13.95) caught my eye, served in a deep dish with roasted courgettes, new potatoes, carrots, and red onion, smothered with a rich and glossy veal jus. Served pink, the lamb was faultless, and it felt like a wonderfully French, slightly naughty, spring time supper. I'd happily sack off a traditional Sunday roast and have this instead, but let's keep that between us...
We shared Côte's Speciality dessert; Crème Caramel (£4.95). I've not had a creme caramel for years, and I still think of the ones you get from the supermarket in little fluted plastic pots. This was much nicer than those, thank god, though its presentation could have probably been better. A set vanilla pod custard, which still had a good wobble, with an intensely flavoured dark caramel top, served with a splash cream. Not too heavy, and not sickly sweet, it was a great end to our meal.
I was kind of expecting a few hiccups, being a new opening, but service was top notch. That said, I might propose that it was all a bit too quick; no sooner as our plates had been cleared away, our next course was out. I guess that's better than waiting for ages, but to have three courses in an hour and a half is a bit mad, particularly as we weren't in any rush!
Had our bill been full price, with a £25 bottle of wine and service included, our dinner at Côte Brasserie would have been just over the £100 mark. That's an appetiser, two starters, two mains, one dessert, and drinks.. Granted, we probably wouldn't have had the fillet steak, but it seems a little steep, especially as we were out the door in 90 minutes...
Still, we both had a good time, agreed that the mains we the best part, and shall consider it a 'good go-to' for dinner with fussy friends, as there's loads to choose from!
Here's to the latest addition on Cheltenham's culinary map!