Hats off to Côte

I’m back to university and it has been pretty swell so far. I was able to indulge my inner mermaid at an Under The Sea party, although I decided to test my creativity by fashioning a jellyfish costume using an umbrella. It was a success, in spite of its one impracticality of not fitting through corridors or doors. There was even some Disney singing, but that went down like an anchor dropped from a ship.

The rents and I decided to visit a French bistro called Côte Brasserie before I left for my final year, which crops up just about everywhere in England. However, reviews are generally positive and having endured severe withdrawal symptoms for the rich, flavoursome and bready cuisine française, I was looking forward to it.

A technical glitch meant they didn’t receive my booking but the stars were smiling down on us and we were sat at a table and handed a glass of gratuitous pink bubbles! Kudos to them for quickly establishing a positive relationship with the clientele. I was drawn in hook, line and sinker. What’s more, there were several waiters with an authentic accent. Une bonne ambience, indeed.

As always happens when I spend a period of time at home, Mum and I start to morph into each other (read: I slowly adopt all her warm clothes and distract her from working by insisting she sit in my room and keep me company, so we end up literally living in each other’s pockets). It was hardly surprising, then, that we both went for the Breton fish stew of sea bass, mussels, clams and squid with tomato, white wine and chilli. Dad chose the roast duck breast served with gratin pots and a griottine cherry sauce, (cherries marinated in kirsch).

The odeur of the dish wafted over to me before I actually saw the food. It was an aroma that made me instantly hoover in the hugest sniff my nostrils would allow, which then filled my head with warm, fishy, mouth-watering clouds. It was an attractive dish, pearls of glimmering seabass against shiny black mussel shells, curls of fat prawn and a few planet rings of squid. I love a good seafood mashup, and it was great to notice that there were a reasonable number of each. It was served with a bread that, while not baguette, yielded exquisitely under my fingers.

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I added some more chilli to my dish but the chilli piqued beautifully, bringing the seabass out in a delightful jump. Tender squid, fleshy mussels, plump, sweet prawns, love love. Soaking up flowing juices is also one of life’s great pleasures and I certainly took advantage of it that night. Dad wasn’t especially dazzled by his plate, as the sauce was a bit uninspiring. Which was a shame, because it sounded exciting.

We also shared a chocolate fondant, whose heart melted willingly and smothered my taste buds in rich, bittersweet kisses – I guess that’s French passion.

Good-cooking, simple but pleasing dishes and excellent service. Why not see if there’s one near you?

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