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Cote Brasserie, Bluewater
TASTY food, welcoming décor and great value lunch deals, but Cote Brasserie in Bluewater lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.
Nationwide, this mid-market, crowd-pleasing French chain has won shelves of awards and it is easy to see why – the menu is refined yet broad and won't leave you with a deficit crisis. Its weekday lunch menu is £9.95 and includes a glass of plonk.
Why then, did the Greenhithe branch fail to ignite my evening? It certainly wasn't bad, in fact it was very enjoyable, but it fell just a fraction behind its neighbours in the centre's Village dining area.
Swathed in warm browns and soft leather, the interior is comfy and relaxing. You can settle down at your table feeling perfectly at ease and a million miles from the cascades of shoppers. Although there are maybe a few too many mirrors, which I found distracting.
We began with bread, but before we had enjoyed half of it our starters arrived. This was an awkward moment and left the table cramped.
My Rillettes (£4.95) – shredded duck and pork pate with lightly toasted sourdough bread – was beautifully presented on a wooden board with the pate – rich and thick – was elegant in a glass jar. It was complemented by a crisp salad with salacious vinaigrette.
My girlfriend Laura's mushroom soup (£4.50) was smooth with intense flavour.
Fortunately, the main course did not arrive before we finished the starter, but was suitably prompt.
The meat of my Duck Confit (£11.95) fell pleasingly off the bone, had deep flavour and a satisfyingly-crisp skin. I wanted to eat it again. The braised red cabbage had a tangy fruitiness and the side order of Gratin Potato (£2.95) was heavenly creamy.
Laura's Rump of Lamb (£13.50) was tender and exploded with flavour.
On the whole, service was good, despite the bread/starter mishap. Our waiters were friendly and professional (even though one staff member who wasn't serving us trudged across the back of the restaurant with a face like thunder).
The delay before asking if we were ready for dessert was appreciated and had there not been one, we could have lost out big time.
Chocolate Fondant (£4.95) is a dessert most of us have sampled over the years and I'm no exception, so the stakes here were high.
Cote Brasserie really nailed it. Sensational. Warm, soft and gushing out from the inside. I nearly licked the bowl clean.