A really excellent and reasonably priced meal at Côte

There’s some new competition for the Cafe Rouge down Cardiff Bay in the form of the recently opened bistro Côte.  Unlike Cafe Rouge’s shabby chic rustic decoration, Côte is both cosy and grown up.  The interior has a theme of cream and brown, the tables are a mix of marble and wooden and soft lighting abounds throughout.  A hint of the rural is present in the ceramic water bottles which are emblazoned with the restaurant’s name and pop alley topped.  It’s a great fun touch.  The large windows of the restaurant will open up in the summer to allow the outside in, however with the weather being pretty much as cold as it could get, these were firmly shut when I was there!

The interior of Cote

The cute water bottle

Cote was recently voted “best value restaurant in the UK” at the good food awards and I can see why.   From 12 – 7pm Monday to Friday they offer a lunch and early evening menu which costs £9.95 for two courses and £11.90 for three.  Strolling through the Bay on an afternoon off this menu is what caught my eye and prompted a booking to be made for later.  The normal al la carte menu seemed fairly reasonable as most starters are around £5/6 with mains priced between £8.75 and £13.50.

On the early evening menu there was a choice of four starters, four mains and four desserts, which although not a huge selection provided plenty of choice.  After much deliberation and hesitation I opted for a starter of warm ratatouille with goats cheese and toasted pain de campagane. One of my dinner companions also went for the ratatouille while another choose the mussels.

Starters of ratatouille and mussels

My starter was great.  The portion was fairly large, but the soft vegetables and cheese slipped down.  The ratatouille itself was very nicely flavoured with garlic and, I was able to taste each vegetable (corgette, pepper and aubergine). The goats cheese was very mild and creamy adding a richness to the dish.  My only slight complaint would be the crispiness of the bread!  The drier parts, untouched by the topping (admittedly not a large area!) were extremely crisp and some of my crust escaped off my plate as I tried to cut it.  Being in familiar company this was not an issue, but I would have hated for this to happen in a more formal setting.

For my main course I had roast sea bass with savoy cabbage and braised peas in a white wine and cream sauce.  This dish was the star of the meal and the description on the menu did not do it justice.  A star meal for the money.

Sea bass with garlic peas and cabbage

I received two perfectly cooked fillets of sea bass sat on copious amounts of peas, cabbage and tiny sweet onions.  This was topped with a ball of straw like crispy potato shreds and finished with a magnificent sauce.  The sauce was strongly flavoured with garlic (not mentioned on the menu, but it is a French restaurant so I probably should have guessed!).  Sea Bass being delicate I would never have thought of putting garlic with it for fear over overpowering the fish but this was the mellow flavour of slowly cooked garlic rather than the harsh powerful taste of the raw stuff and it matched the fish really well.  A pleasant surprise even if I did stink of garlic the next day!  The other thing I want to mention was the peas.  Hopefully without sounding too mad, these were strongly “peaey”. I have no idea where they got such fresh and strongly flavoured peas out of season (I suspect a large amount of air miles were involved), but they were great.

Being greedy I decided to go the whole hog and have a pudding as well (only in the interest of having a complete review you understand :-p) and so I chose a crème caramel.  This was a magnificent tower of silky rich cream topped with the stain of the burnt sugar and surrounded by the caramel sauce and some more cream (as if it needed to be more indulgent!).  Exquisite. The set cream was generously flavoured with vanilla and just dissolved in the mouth.

Creme caramel!

Overall I was really impressed with my trip to Côte.  The food was of a really high quality and was pretty exceptional for the price.  The standard of the vegetables was great.  I liked the relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant and the staffs were attentive.  It wasn’t too busy when I visited, I needn’t have booked but I’m sure it won’t be long till this place gets busy.  With a prominent position overlooking Roald Dhal Plass and the Wales Millennium Centre, this is bound to a popular destination once the warmer weather arrives and those windows can be opened.

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