Best Part: The Surprisingly Mature Children’s Menu!
First off, apologies for the gap from the last review. Holidays do take there toll, but normal service will now be resumed.
We visited Cote on a surprisingly sunny day in the summer holidays, after being turned away from a surprisingly busty Abagail’s Tea-room. It goes to show you can’t assume anything in St Albans, even on a Wednesday lunch-time. Anyway, I’m glad we were because Cote pleasantly surprised us in a number of ways.
On entering I am always reminded of the building’s disreputable past as the Vintry, but it has well and truly put those days behind with smart and friendly staff guiding you through a slightly bland but certainly clean space. Mrs Midweek lunch calls it stylish rather than bland and she claims to know more about these things than I. As it was a sunny day we sat in the garden, before remembering we are British and therefore incapable of enjoying the sunshine and retreating inside to the air-conditioned cool. But it is a very nice garden, and by evening time would have been perfect, or raining.
We were accompanied on the visit by our small family members, but the children’s menu was refreshingly different. There were some of the standards to keep them happy, with Sausage & Mash and Fish Fingers (sorry, “cod goujons”), but our boys were a bit more adventurous going for a Croque Monsieur and Roast Chicken Breast with Gratin Potatoes and Green Beans respectively. We were very proud. The elder one declared the sandwich “Stringy”, and seemed very happy, especially with his almost-genuine French fries.
Younger child was very enamoured with his chicken breast. It was “better than he expected” (high praise) and the flavour was “Crunchy Spicy”. He enjoyed it so much that he insisted that everyone else try some, although as he is not naturally generous we had to assess it’s merits from the barest morsel. Having said that, his gratin was fair game as he decided it was yucky before trying it, as children are wont to do. When pressed to at least give it a go he selected an even smaller piece than his chicken gifts, but was screwing up his face before it even reached his mouth. Sorry, Cote, but even your fine gratin cannot overcome the fussiness of a 6 year old.
As for the grown-ups, we ordered from the set menu (£10.95 for 2 courses). My chicken baguette with bacon and avocado was nice but maybe a trifle dry. The bread did not absorb the flavours and the fillings kept on slipping off it’s arid surface. The chips were good, though, and came with a mustardy dip that added some slight coherence to my sandwich.
My wife had a summery goats cheese and pea risotto. At least, that’s what it was called on the menu. Certainly the main ingredients were as stated but it was a trifle too “soupy” for her liking. She prefers more texture and less wetness in a risotto but of course Cote are French, not Italian so perhaps they got confused. The taste was good but looks and texture are also important so overall she was a bit disappointed.
We also ordered some bread, which was nice. In fact we ended up fighting over the last piece. The French certainly know how to make bread!
For our second course we went for ice-cream (me) and sorbet (everyone else). Because there is no children’s dessert menu they all shared the sorbet between them, but they all seemed relatively satisfied, as was I with my lovely creamy ice cream that I shared with no-one. Although youngest did steal my brandy snap before I even noticed it was there. The sorbet was universally popular, though youngest child was convinced it was made with beer. Due to the fizziness, we assumed.
Anyway, Cote might not be the first place that springs to mind for a family luncheon outing, and it isn’t the cheapest place around, but it is a nice change from endless pizza and pasta and the staff were lovely. For a similar sort of food experience you could try Brasserie Blanc but in our experience past and present we favour Cote. Yes on the whole it’s worth bearing in mind, or as the French say “Bearing in la mind”.