What do you get if you take a Parisian brasserie, strip out any French words on the menu and transport it to England? Côte.
Very successful this business model has proved too. From one sole bistro, in Wimbledon, in 2007, the British chain now has around 50 restaurants – and plans to expand further.
I joined friends at the Brighton Côte for lunch yesterday. Sat in its sunny garden, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
The food was delightful, the Chablis flowed. However, I have to admit it lacked authenticity. The most French dishes on the menu were its ‘asparagus hollandaise’ and ‘beef bourguinon’ – both Anglicisms of the real names.
In fact, the waiter was the Frenchest thing about our lunch. He came from the south west of France and was happy to extol the virtues of the Pays Basques – in particular of Bayonne, his home town.
I can’t complain, though. I got to speak a little French, and to wolf down a crab mayonnaise starter and a main of seabass with fennel and frites.
I came away with the impression that Côte is like an upmarket version of Café Rouge. Or a less French take on Chez Gérard.
For me, there’s nothing wrong with either option.