Question: When are crêpes Suzette not crêpes Suzette? Answer: When you order them in a branch of the Côte chain. There, they are crêpes au Grand Marnier. This classic French bistro dessert has become so retro, it seems, that the chain is embarrassed to call it by its name.
Perhaps there’s still something a little too Abigail’s Party about the dish. It became popular in Britain in the 1970s, but these days you don’t have to enjoy it while drinking Black Tower and listening to Demis Roussos.
The stigma is clearly still too powerful for Côte to risk it. I had one there last Saturday. Our waiter even tried insisting that the dessert wasn’t crêpes Suzette, though he soon backed down in the face of the evidence.
A classic crêpes Suzette consists of crêpes in an orange sauce, which is flavoured with a liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau. The whole thing is then flambéed at the table.
That is precisely what Côte served – and it was terrific. The crisp crêpe contrasted beautifully with the orange sauce and some vanilla ice cream.
In fairness, Côte’s modus operandi is to make its dishes seem as familiar as possible, avoiding any chance of alienating customers who don’t speak French. It’s an approach that has served them – and Britain’s linguistically challenged population – well.
Perhaps if Côte had more courage, they could help bring the dish back into fashion. It has stood the test of time, after all.
“Perhaps if Côte had more courage, they could help bring the dish back into fashion. It has stood the test of time, after all”
The dessert is said to have been created back in 1897 when the actress Suzanne Reichenberg – known as Suzette – was appearing as a maid in a play in Paris. Part of her role included serving crêpes. The food came from the nearby Marivaux restaurant, whose chef decided to flambé the crêpes for added effect. When he came to work at London’s Savoy, he brought the recipe with him.
If it’s good enough for the Savoy, I reckon it’s good enough for Côte too.