May 29 2022

Pig Guide review: new menu at Côte

If you’re looking for pretty, you’ve come to the right place – Milsom Place, in fact: a super-pretty, characterful, split-level urban sanctuary based around a historic cobbled courtyard, today home to a variety of independent businesses and restaurants. It’s also home to one of the UK’s 85+ branches of Côte Brasserie, a British chain (established in 2007) who describe their general USP as “passionate about French cuisine, and bringing a little of that rich brasserie culture and tradition to the UK”… and you can’t help thinking, while wandering along the little urban enclave that make Milsom Place the very special kind of place that it undoubtedly is, that the Bath branch of Côte couldn’t possibly have been better located; there’s an inherent grace and style about the whole ancient-meets-modern experience (Milsom Place dates back to the early 18th century, don’cha know) before you even set foot in the brasserie itself.

You could, should you so wish (and weather allowing) take to a table right on those ancient cobblestones themselves; Côte boasts plenty of alfresco opportunities, including a super-modern upper-level terrace adjacent to the first floor bar. But on our most recent franglais foray, we opted to sit in the main restaurant, next to the big picture windows; the best of both worlds, oui?

Now I have to admit that, when I grab my coat and head for Côte (which I do on a fairly regular basis), I stick to my own tried-and-tested route to satiation: French Onion Soup; Steak Frites;Chocolate Mousse (the latter being a stalwart of Côte’s very well-priced Prix Fixe menu that comes in at less that £21 for 3-courses every weekday until 7pm). But recently, some exciting news hit my inbox: Côte’s new Executive Head Chef Steve Allen (previously Head Chef at Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s) recently launched a new menu, which he describes as “the biggest evolution of its food in Côte’s 15-year history” – très intéressant, non?

While the new menu does indeed bring lots of interest-piquing ‘updates’ to the selection (new vegan and vegetarian options in particular have been given due – and fascinating – care and attention, while on the other end of the spectrum the kitchen’s signature Côte de Boeuf, hand cut in Côte’s own in-house butchery, now seasons and matures for 30 days, elevating it to spectacular flavour-heights), the classics that Côte’s foundations were built on still offer that reassuring baseline that keep brasserie menu fans (and they are legion) coming back for more.

Flying the flag for impeccable sourcing and seasonality, a starter of Wye Valley Asparagus with tomato béarnaise and a rich, creamy, golden-yolked poached egg may sound like a very British opener to a French-themed feast. But there was a lively joie de vivre about the dish (lemony, herb-infused breadcrumbs; that béarnaise; those generous slices of Côte’s legendary baguette) that firmly placed the Ooh-la-la centre stage. Similarly, the Crab Maison – a very generous portion of fresh British crab muddled with creamy avocado and piquant capers, served on more of the baguette-that-we-couldnt-get-enough-of – invoked seaside nostalgia for Brittany holidays-gone-by. Talking of Brittany…

Côte’s Breton Fish Stew isn’t a recently-revamped addition to the menu – but personally, I’m glad it’s been left untouched. There are few places in Bath where you’d find a fish stew this generously packed with piscatorial treats (sea bass; prawns; squid; mussels) all bathing in the kind of chilli-infused white wine broth that you’d happily drink from a mug on the menu on a regular basis. Dive in? I didn’t need to be told. The Monkfish Normande, however – a creamy but piquant one-potter putting a slab of meaty Cornish monkfish at the heart of the matter, with massive mussels and an apple/shallot/fennel combo poached in an organic Normandy cider broth – is a menu newbie… and a dish that I for one hopes never goes away.

Et pour le dessert? Well if you want to do this part of the meal properly, fabulously French-stylee, you could go cheese then pudding – and, spying on the next table to ours (as one does), I have to admit that I wish I had. But hey, there’ll be a next time for sure (and next time, I’m opting for one of the crepe newbies too). But this time around, I got stuck into my beloved Chocolate Mousse, and we had a Crème Brûlée too, and we finished off our wine (that we’d ordered too much of ‘cos the wine list is wonderful here, and very affordable – oh, and we started with a Kir Royale, which is also highly recommended), and we chatted to our lovely waiter who’d informed, advised and generally made our French excursion très, très bien throughout our whole staycation experience.

Did I want to go home? No I did not! I wanted to stay, and sip Calvados, and make like Marais and Cocteau… but hey: une autre fois. And there will be une autre fois at Côte, time and again.

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