The title refers to the fact that Cardiff now had not one but two Côte restaurants, with the newest one having recently opening on Mill Lane in the City centre supplementing the well established one down in Cardiff Bay. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Dulex etc had a paint called French Bistro noir ( a moody nicotine stained shade of black – part of a 50 shades of black range perhaps), hence the post title.
My only previous experience of Côte was a less than stellar meal at their Cardiff bay Restaurant (non runny poached egg and tough chicken). Despite this, I was prepared to give them another go with the location of their new restaurant on Mill Lane an easy walk from my office.
Lunch with my former boss (who had the dubious privilege of training me as a lawyer – but has now retired no doubt partly due to the trauma of having been my boss) and my friend (and long suffering work colleague) Rachel, was an ideal opportunity to see if my previous visit was an aberration. We were joined by two other work friends (including “token girl” – see my Rome post) to make up a party of five. I was “token boy ” in this case and described myself as a rose amongst thorns, a statement I may live to regret, but I cannot tell a lie (look at my profile page picture and you will see I clearly can tell whoppers) !!!
Inside the decor is sort of art deco/noir, with bevelled mirrors, boxed in lights, leather banquettes etc. It does, however, have a somewhat disconcerting touch of the airport departure lounge about it.
When we arrived it was pretty much empty which didn’t help the look.
It did, however, fill up fairly rapidly.
Whilst they have an al a carte menu, we all went for stuff off their set menu (available 12 til 7 pm) which offers 2/3 courses for what appears to be a very reasonable £9.95/£11.90. This menu consists of four choices each for starters, mains and deserts.
Rather irritatingly (in my opinion) one of the four mains (steak frites) had a £2 supplement on it, which makes having that as part of 2 courses more expensive that the full 3 courses involving any other choice.
I know everyone does it, but I for one find it quite annoying. A set price menu should be precisely that, no ifs no buts. If something is too expensive to go on it at the set price, then don’t put it on.
I was more than little surprised to see sea trout on the set menu with no supplement whereas minute steak (classically rump cap, but always from a cheaper steak cut) did. In my experience, sea trout is usually much more pricey per pound than minute steak. Is this supplement then there just because it is “steak” rather than due to the price of the raw ingredients, I wonder? If so, this is even more annoying.
Despite my slight moan above, the food (certainly for the price) was actually not bad at all and made for an very agreeable catch up lunch.
I started off with the salad of frisee leaves and bacon lardons, with a warm poached egg (is there much call for cold ones, I wonder).
This was very pleasant, with well dressed frisee leaves and a good runny poached egg, which once pierced created a nice sauce in the bottom of the bowl. The lardons were tasty, if a bit small in size and they would have been better if crispier. A good, if unspectacular, starter.
Other had the calamari which had a good garlicky flavour and were nicely cooked, being tender rather than having the rubbery texture you can sadly all too often get with this dish.
I tried to take a photo of it, but for reasons I cannot fathom – keeping it nautical – it came out totally black (squid ink perhaps or more likely photo taker incompetence).
These were in the standard ring shape, but were breadcrumbed rather than battered which gave them a lovely crisp exterior. They came with a regulation tartare sauce and a standard, but well dressed, side salad. I stole one ring from a plate and would have happily eaten more, but for the threat of a fork in the hand if I had tried.
On to the mains, I had the sea trout with frites and a dill hollandaise.
A nicely cooked piece of fish, with a good hollandaise that had just the right amount of lemony acidity to it and a decent thwack of fresh dill (as opposed to the more usual tarragon) running through it.
The accompanying frites were nice enough, if a tad underseasoned for me – nothing a couple of grinds from the on table salt cellar didn’t cure. They were good for dunking in the hollandaise.
The only slight fault with this dish was a flabby skin on the fish. Based on it being pan roasted, I was hoping for a crispy skin (quite partial to a bit of crispy fish skin me).
Others had either the baked camembert with baguette toast
Both were pronounced very good, with clean plates all round. It was nice to see fresh tarragon and thyme in the chicken dish and the addition of honey and rosemary worked well with the nicely gooey camembert.
I skipped on pudding, but some of the ladies indulged in the dark chocolate pot with creme fraiche.
This was nice and rich (from the tiny bit I was allowed) if a tad on the small size (but at only £1.95 extra perhaps unsurprisingly so).
Drinks wise, it was soft stuff all round and it was pleasing to get not one but three bottles (and lovely bottles they were) of gratis still water brought to the table unprompted.
For those able to have a drink, the wine list looks nice enough if a bit old fashion in that it is 100% French.
I know it is a French style bistro, but despite what the French may think/ have us believe (and good as French wines can be) other places do make nice wine as well. Having said that it is a reasonable list, with the mark ups applied not being too hefty.
The damage for five of us was just over £68 which included an automatically added 12.5% service change. Such automatically added “discretionary” service charges irritate me immensely, but the services was friendly and attentive (but not obtrusive) so a tip at that rate was justified in this instance. Still don’t like having it foisted on me.
Niggles aside (re the supplement and automatically added service charge), for the price I thought the food was pretty good.
Would I go back? Yes – decent food and good value mean this is one to add to the list of lunchtime haunts in Cardiff City centre. A bonus was, if we had had the 2 courses and not been chatting so much, we could have been in and out within the hour. As a result, all in all a winner for a nice lunch hour meal.
Côte, Cardiff Central
10-11 Mill Lane,
Tel :0292 0343 810
Monday to Friday 8am – 11pm
Saturday 9am – 11pm
Sunday 9am – 10.30pm