An ex-colleague suggested lunching at Cote in London’s Charlotte Street (W1T). Having visited other branches in Manchester and Covent Garden, I was more than happy with his choice as I knew they had an excellent value lunch menu (2 courses £11.70 or 3 for £13.65) or outside London £9.95 and £11.90.
I was a little early for our noon meet, and settled for a quieter table in the back room. I was asked whether I was after breakfast or lunch and on confirming the latter, was told they didn’t start serving lunch until 12pm. I ordered a bottle of good value house white (£14.95) and was promised an ice-bucket (which wasn’t delivered until our starters arrived and the waitress noticed that it had been forgotten). Water was provided in earthen ware flagons with swing stoppers.
As a relatively new parsimonious pensioner, I chose from the set menu: cauliflower, leek and potato soup followed by cous cous with roasted peppers, courgette and aubergine with piquant harissa, black olives, yoghurt and mint.
The worker decided his favourite soup, French onion, was just right for what was a cold day, and as he was on an Atkins style protein diet, chose a 10oz Sirloin steak, swapping the frites for salad, adding a side of glazed carrots and forgetting the diet for a moment, garlic butter. All this amounted to £25.85.
Never mind, it was good to catch up. My soup was beautiful: thick and creamy with a drizzle of oil. Compared with the French onion, (which the waitress said would take a rather precise 12 minutes), mine was simple to eat. The French onion was filled to the brim with a huge crouton floating topped with melted stringy cheese.
My cous cous, was slightly disappointing in that it was slightly overcooked and there was little evidence of the spicy harissa I’d looked forward to. In addition, the olives had been chopped so small, the flavour was hidden.
The steak looked much better (as it should for the price) and was soon gobbled up.
We were now well through our bottle of wine, and the diet well and truly a thing of the past. Dessert menus were presented and I’d forgotten I could have ordered a third course from the set menu for £1.90. Instead I plumped for the dark chocolate mousse (£4.60) and my colleague went for the Tarte au Citron. My mousse again was a little of a let down, in that it was larger than I’d hoped for, not very dark and a bit firm. Irritatingly when I got home and checked the bill and menu, I found that on the set menu, one of the desserts was a dark chocolate pot with crème fraiche – was this different to the one I had I wondered?
The bill arrived and as usual, split down the middle resulting in a poor pensioner subsidizing a working man in the spirit of friendship. Still at least the company was better than the food and our lunch ended in a spirit of entente cordiale.