Devon LivingIssue #01
Côte of charms
We sample the menu at Côte Brasserie, Exeter.
As somebody who’s always appreciated the calm and quietude of life in the countryside, I never thought I’d find myself craving a city break. And yet, as my partner Jess and I merged onto the A30 and set our course for Exeter, it was with a great deal of excitement that I dipped the car window, let the air roar through the gap and settled into the open road.
“For anyone who’s been to a Côte restaurant before, you’ll know that choosing what to eat is no mean feat.”
In the city, where you’d expect to find the very essence of modernity and technology, strangely, you get to go back to basics – to a time when shopping was more than just a one-click affair, where you return home the following afternoon to find your items magically stowed in the shed. With this exciting prospect in mind, after arriving and checking in, we immediately hit the high street, noses out in search of that unmistakable smell of unspoiled fabric, shoe leather, and things we didn’t know existed but would soon seem vital to our very way of life. The excitement!
The problem was that no matter how desperately my wardrobe was in need of updating, our breakfast had been woefully small and we were soon forced to accept that our evening meal could no longer wait that long. So, when Jess called a French brasserie just around the corner, it was with great relief that I heard her say, “4pm works for us, we’ll see you then.”
One of many across the UK, Côte Brasserie in Exeter is a must for anyone looking to enjoy French-inspired dining in a calm yet atmospheric environment, one that gently encourages you to relax and take your time. Next to the front window, our table was ideal, affording us uninterrupted views of Exeter’s cathedral from where we sat.
From the off, the service was warm and welcoming, even though we’d arrived 20 minutes early. Our table was immediately set up and before we knew it, we had chilled and distilled water on hand and ‘proper’ drinks on the way – a French beer called Meteor for me, a large glass of Sauvignon for Jess.
For anyone who’s been to a Côte restaurant before, you’ll know that choosing what to eat is no mean feat. This isn’t due to a lack of interesting choice – quite the opposite, in fact! Eventually I settled to start with the crab mayonnaise, served with avocado, cucumber, capers and tarragon with toasted sour dough bread, while Jess began with the charcuterie board, which included smoked duck breast, Saucisson Sec, duck rillettes and Jambon de Savoie, served with baby gem salad and chargrilled French sour dough toast, and before I could pronounce ‘Saucisson’, they had arrived. Given our level of hunger you can imagine the voracity with which we tucked in and it wasn’t long before our first round of plates was being cleared away.
Next up, for me at least, was the Breton fish stew, a masterfully prepared bowlful made with seabass, mussels, clams, prawns and squid, all brought together with a blend of tomato, white wine and chilli. Jess had opted for the lamb rump. You’ll have to excuse the lack of detail on this one – so focussed was I on the masterpiece set before me that I failed to take any notice!
After concluding the main course, Jess eagerly reminded me that, being a French restaurant, crème brulee was probably on the menu. She had a point and, as you’ve likely guessed already, it wasn’t long before we were tucking into our final course – me a rich fondant with vanilla pod ice cream, Jess a perfectly cracked crème brulee.
So, how to summarise? The food was exceptional and the atmosphere, rather than being electric or subdued, reached a comfortable balance between the two. The service was warm and knowledgeable, and the staff couldn’t do enough to make us comfortable. The best part, however, is that all of this can be found just moments from the retail mecca that is Exeter’s high street, so if you’re thinking of planning your own Exeter city break, Côte Brasserie, Exeter comes highly recommended.
19-21 Cathedral Yard, Exeter EX1 1HB
"For anyone who’s been to a Côte restaurant before, you’ll know that choosing what to eat is no mean feat."