Cote Brasserie, The Mailbox

The gale force gust that almost upended us into the canal prompted a not-so-grand entrance to Cote – more a desperate stagger.

Wind burned faces all round we took up camp in a corner of the bistro, quaffed a kir royale and calmness resumed. My friend unkindly compared the bistro to Café Rouge initially which we debated while we sipped. An unfair comparison in my view, I found Cote’s understated French bistro vibe charming. Great lighting, enviable flooring, lots of natural wood and impeccable service from the gusty get-go. Menu-wise we were titillated and tempted big time. A charcuterie board was packed with morsels of salty cured meat from smoked duck breast and saucisson sec to rich duck rillettes and jambon de savoie. Sharp cornichons cut through the richness while chargrilled bread provided a perfect vehicle. Chicken liver parfait was served in a Kilner jar – for the record I’m over things served in little jars. That aside, the parfait tasted great with a generous helping of the accompanying toasted brioche and sticky spiced apple chutney.

NAILING IT

Famed for great steaks and roasted Breton chicken, the chaps at Cote have nailed seafood too judging by the seabass. Two fillets of the fish encased charred, braised fennel alongside an unctuous Champagne beurre blanc, with tomato concasse and chives. It was superb. The friend succumbed to the lure of a chargrilled ribeye steak and was a very happy boy indeed. Dessert came knocking and we answered. Frozen berries with warm white chocolate sauce was a bit of a revelation. The sauce was just so sweet and moreish. I know sugar’s the latest foodie devil, but we could have consumed a considerable amount of this nectar-like liquor. Tarte fine aux pommes with vanilla ice cream did exactly what it said on the tin in some style. Crisp pastry, thin slices of apple baked to perfection with ice cream. The entirely French wine list starting at £15.95 a bottle deserves a nod. We enjoyed a glass of Chablis, but had it been dinner not lunch we’d have plumped for a bottle of Macon Villages 2013 Cave de L’aurore at £25. A firm favourite. There might be more than one Cote in the UK – strictly speaking I guess it’s a chain – but forget the connotation that conjures. It’s to be enjoyed in all its marvellous French glory.

COTE BRASSERIE Subline: The Mailbox, Birmingham B1 1RX. Tel: 0121 631 1587 www.cote-restaurants.co.uk