When planning my London based hen party back in April, I knew an all singing and all dancing musical would be involved. Opting for the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic Cats, my partner in crime and maid of honour Jess also helped me arrange a slap up meal for our group of eight to enjoy before the evening performance. With the ladies in my family all having quite varied taste buds, it was quite a mission to pick a venue that would provide the exciting and adventurous cuisine some hankered for, whilst also offering traditional staples for others. In the end, we settled on Cote, serving delicious French dishes, pre booking for their pre theatre menu – designed to be quicker to plate up but still just as tasty. With three courses coming to under £15, this set menu is also a complete steal.
Walking in to Cote’s Great Portland Street branch, situated near the incredibly central Oxford Circus tube station, it was bursting with classic French chic and an understated style that leaves you feeling positively Parisian. Spheres of light hung from the ceiling, while the polished dark wooden tables were neatly decorated with cutlery and crisp white napkins. I loved the chunky water bottles that reminded me of old fashioned beer bottles, heavy and with a rust coloured pottery style hue. Smart rectangular mirrors on the walls helped to accentuate the space of the rather long room, and as we settled into a long table near the back, I was looking forward to getting stuck in to my dinner!
Selecting a refreshing white wine to have with our meal, I began by picking my starters – chicken liver parfait paired with grilled strips of ciabatta and a ramekin of mini, knobbly gherkins. It may be a starter that crops up on many menus, but it does so for a reason – it’s versatile, tasty and each restaurant can put its own spin on the dish. Going for the parfait route, the chicken liver meat was served in a small Kilner style jar. I speared and flicked the traditional thick fat layer off and scooped up a large blob of the smooth pate to smear on my ciabatta. I loved the fact that there was plenty of bread with this dish – there is really nothing worse than having lots of delicious pate and then a meagre amount of bread or toast. It’s a make or break factor so in this respect, Cote gets the thumbs up. The parfait itself was really tasty, with a full bodied flavour that was wonderfully spreadable. I also really enjoyed the smooth creaminess of the parfait matched with the spicy little bitter pickles – they complemented each other perfectly and the gherkins added a great zing to the dish. Presented on a wooden chopping board, it also had great impact on the table.
For my main course, you can’t get more French than Coq au Vin, or to you and me, chicken in a wine sauce. A juicy, fat chicken leg had been cooked up with a thin red wine sauce, and pooled delicately in a soup style bowl, the plate clustered with baby mushrooms, carrots and shallots, as well as a molehill of potato puree (aka mash). Really nice and light to eat, this definitely didn’t sit heavily in the tummy, which is nice when you know you’ve got to walk around later. The chicken was cooked beautifully, being nice and tender, the white meat falling off the bone, soft and juicy as I bit into it underneath the soggy skin. The red wine jus wasn’t overpowering in the slightest, and added more of an accompanying depth of the flavour soaking chicken, working to tie together the various ingredients. The veg was fine and the mash was really yummy – so creamy and the perfect sponge for the runny sauce and veg. Buttery and melt in the mouth, it was really great to have a dish like this that I don’t usually prepare at home.
Last on the agenda before leaving to hit the theatre was of course dessert. I chose the dark chocolate pot with crème fraiche, also ordering a cappuccino at the same time for speed. I was so impressed by this dessert; granted it doesn’t look like much. Served in a disappointingly small jug style ramekin, the appearance is definitely understated, as all you can see at first is the flat white top of the finishing crème fraiche layer. Digging a teaspoon in, the deep and dark chocolate soon revealed itself, and boy did it have flavour! Rich and luxurious, the texture was out of this world – it was almost a cross between a custard and a mousse, being wonderfully thick and gloopy, but also so silky and smooth. It really was a remarkably opulent texture that was sensational. The really dark, intense chocolate taste was instantly lightened by the bright crème fraiche, so the two worked together in a magical harmony. This dessert may look a little on the plain and bland side, but it is the taste that does the talking here.
Although we did have to wait longer than normal for our desserts (coffee ended up arriving before dessert – always a bad sign in my book), we managed to make our seats in time for the show, so it wasn’t disastrous fortunately. Food wise, I really liked the meals I chose. Casting a quick glance at the full menu, some of the dishes had my mouth watering at the thought, so I would love to try some of their a la carte items. Interestingly though, their set menu is seasonal, so you could simply visit at another time of year and have the same set menu for the same price, yet pick completely different meals, which means the food is never boring or repetitive. For that price as well, you can hardly knock it. This chain has plenty of venues, so I suggest you look up one near you soon!