|Photo credit Côte|
My husband and I intended to eat in London on our way home from the Chelsea Flower show last week, but despite wearing very sensible shoes, we both had incredibly sore feet and felt the need to go home and
pry said shoes off our feet freshen up before going out to dinner. It seemed the perfect opportunity to try a new restaurant that has recently opened in the centre of Reading in Berkshire, the nearest town to where we live. The restaurant is called Côte, and it advertises itself as a classic French bistro with a modern take on traditional bistro menus.
We did not have a reservation, but were warmly welcomed and offered our choice of tables. The restaurant was about half full, but we were dining early, and as the evening wore on it began to fill up, although it was never crowded.Côte really does remind me of bistros we have been to in France, with traditional French décor, and a menu that features a lot of classic French dishes, alongside innovative new takes on old favourites.
I started with the Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, a good choice as asparagus is in season and plentiful locally now. It was steamed to tender crisp perfection and the Hollandaise sauce was just right. As a cook Hollandaise sauce fills me with terror, but this was a perfect balance of eggy deliciousness and tart acidity. I chose a glass of Muscadet to accompany it which was the perfect foil to the dish.
My husband chose to begin with seared scallops with frisée salad, bacon lardons and a warm Puy lentil, tomato and garlic dressing. The scallops were cooked beautifully and the salad and dressing were the perfect foil to their tender deliciousness. My husband does not even really like lentils, and he cleaned his plate.
I was surprised when my husband chose cod gougons for his main course, but it was an excellent choice as they were homemade, fresh fish in crisp breadcrumb, served alongside the traditional cone of frites (French fries or chips) you are offered in bistros in France. The beans he chose to go with them were bright green, fresh and beautifully cooked. My husband had a small European beer with his dinner, and I chose a glass of Merlot to go along with my main course.
The more traditional steak frites with Bernaise sauce was my choice, with a tomato, shallot and basil salad to go alongside. The filet steak was cooked exactly as I ordered it and was both tender and traceable. Details of the farm in England Peak district it came from were provided on the menu, as were details of the chicken served in some of their dishes which was sourced authentically, although much less locally, from a farm in Northern France. The Bernaise sauce was so delicious that not only did I use it on the steak, I found myself surreptitiously dipping my frites in it!
I have to say though, that for me, the tomato salad was the star – it’s piquant vinaigrette perfectly contrasting the fresh tomatoes, finely chopped shallots and herbs. The serving was really generous, and frankly I could have happily eaten it as a light lunch.
We were definitely well fed, and really did feel too full for dessert, although the selections on offer were very tempting indeed. We were pleasantly surprised when the waitress offered a complementary ‘digestif’ with our bill, a delicious apple liqueur. This often happens in restaurants in France and in Spain, the waiting staff or sometimes even the owner offering a complimentary drink at the end of the meal. Not only was it a lovely touch, the gesture made the experience even more authentically French – and aside from the fact that Reading’s canal-side was right outside the door and we were speaking English, I could have almost believed myself actually in Paris.
I look forward to returning to Côte in the near future. The menu offered lots of choice and the wine list offered a selection of wines at several price points by the glass as well as the bottle. The service was friendly and efficient, and we never felt rushed. I loved the chic, stylish atmosphere and the modern vibe and I felt that at around £60, our dinner offered good value for money as well as a delicious and satisfying repast.
Côte have several locations throughout the UK, including the branch we visited at The Oracle in Reading, Berkshire. You can find their website here