It seems the region is having a bit of French moment this autumn, with a couple of new foodie spots with added ooh-la-la popping up in the likes of Middlesbrough and Newcastle. The Toon’s latest arrival, Côte, champions relaxed, all-day dining and serves up authentic French classics inspired by the chic-but-chilled brasseries of Paris.
We were surprised at how modestly decorated it is – nothing flash and nothing over the top, but still tasteful and inviting. A mix of gold, pistachio and cloudy grey on the walls, mulberry leather booths and gorgeous Parisian-style floor tiling. Out on the street, the signature Côte grey and white stripes can be seen a mile off – we like very much. You’ll find the restaurant on the corner of Grainger Street – where Barclays Bank used to be. Really nice location, we think, with buzzy city centre views from the top floor (an ideal, intimate space for snug gatherings around round tables, petite parties and other special occasions), where we ate.
Wine-lovers will be in seventh heaven – the vino list is superb and reasonably priced, too. We’re told Côte works with a variety of small wine producers and co-operatives to offer guests a well-rounded selection of tasty bottles, spanning white, red, rosé and sparkling. There’s champers on the menu, too, as well as all the usual spirits, beer and even French cider – some from the last remaining family-owned breweries in the country.
We love the variety here. Stopping by for brekkie might mean tucking in to fabulously French staples to kick-start your day, like warm savoury crêpes, filled with poached eggs, crispy bacon and gooey gruyère, calorific croque monsieur or fresh-from-the-oven croissants and pain au chocolat, or donut-y French toast with fruit salad. For lunch, try some light bites – dishes such as tuna niçoise salad, refreshing risotto vert, packed with peas, green beans, courgette, pesto and mint, or baked mushroom and spinach crêpes. Come the evening, order from the a la carte, which showcases authentic French classics (everything from steak frites and moules marinière, to rustic French onion soup, crème caramel and crème brûlée) at their best, cooked-to-order and made with high-quality ingredients. Corn-fed chickens from the heart of rural Brittany, pork rillettes and Charentais melons from the legendary Rungis market in Paris sit alongside English asparagus from Herefordshire and Breton tomatoes and mussels. The restaurant offers a good-sized vegetarian menu and also caters for those on a gluten-free diet. Check out the monthly specials’ menu – and the set menu too – for tasty one-offs and dining deals. We’re hoping to see whole grilled lobster on there soon!
We dined with three chums – two meat-eaters and one vegetarian – so our starters were somewhat of a mix. We kicked things off with the piquant marinated olives (£3.95); big green and black beauties, bathed in a spicy, rose harissa-infused olive oil, with caper berries, pickled cucumber and sun-dried tomatoes for a tangy, juicy hit. Top-drawer stuff – you won’t be able to put down your toothpick. Then, the warm roquefort salad (£5.75), made perky with walnuts, garlicky croutons and tons of fresh leaves. The combination of crunchy nuts and bread bits with, soft, crumbly cheese made for great texture and the roquefort was as good as we’d hoped – creamy and suitably stinky. The reblochon flatbread (£4.95) is also worth a try if you need a carb hit; think warm, doughy bread, served golden brown, topped with charred caramel onions, melted reblochon cheese (quite strong – which we loved) and sprigs of thyme for some earthiness. On to mains and while two of our dining buddies tucked into steak and frites for £17.50 (no complaints here – the meat was served baby pink and tender as requested, joined by a silky peppercorn sauce, made with cognac and plenty of cream) and thoroughly decent pan-roasted haddock (£14.95) from this month’s specials’ menu (try it while you can – you get an impressively good-sized fillet of flaky fish with crisp skin, on a bed of smushed new potatoes, baby leeks and carrots, in a cream-based leek sauce), we slurped our way through a bowl of the Breton fish stew (£14.50). It took us to foodie heaven; a muddle of seabass, mussels, clams, king prawns and squid in a thin and comforting tomato broth, spiked with plenty of white wine, garlic and chilli. We couldn’t fault the seafood – everything was as fresh, tender and plump as can be, as if plucked straight from the sea. If we could’ve ordered two helpings, we would’ve. Maybe next time. Our veggie pal settled on the chunky spinach and cheddar sausages (£10.95) which were so much better than expected; well-seasoned, not at all dry, and bursting with herby flavour. Nothing like the Quorn stuff you find in shops. They’re served with new potatoes, gently sautéed with garlic and parsley, and a generous pot of dijonnaise – great for dipping. Get stuck in we say – a nice surprise to see veggie sausages on a French menu and it was an order that paid off. Puds weren’t necessary considering how full we were, but we jumped in anyway. Stand-outs, we believe, are Côte’s speciality dessert, the crème brûlée (£5.75), with its perfectly cracked, auburn top and wickedly sweet and wobbly custard centre, and the thick praline crêpe with caramelised banana (£6.95) – a Nutella-fiend’s perfect pick.