Cote, that mid-market model endeavouring to mirror Paris brasseries and bistros, has just opened its elegant grey and blue doors in the centre of Chichester.
Owned and run by ex-Strada founders Andy Bassadone and Chris Benians with the deep-pocketed Richard Caring, a past Dragon’s Den contributor, the aim is not to reinvent the wheel but keep the wheels on track by offering better versions of existing concepts.
The interior is uncluttered with panelled walls either wood, grey or mirrored. There are globe chandeliers, padded chairs and banquettes.
But do the trio get the food right to match the smart yet understated restaurant? Do they cut corners by poor sourcing?
The menu includes breakfasts (Eggs Benedict, pain aux raisins, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs are some choices). There’s also Burgundian saucisson sec; fougasse (bread with parsley and seasalt); pissaladière (flatbread covered with caramelised onions, anchovies et al); charcuterie board; goat’s cheese tartine; warm Roquefort salad; those must-have moules and even steak tartare.
Light mains include mushroom crèpes; tuna Nicoise and risotto. Meats have cassoulet de Toulouse, a haricot bean stew with duck confit, sausage and lardons; beef Bourguignon; chargrilled Breton chicken with a variety of sauces; Hereford steaks (rib eye, sirloin, fillet) and cheaper steak and chicken frites.
Fish dishes include cod goujons; moules frites and fish Parmentier. Prices are mid ones, that saucisson sec at £2.95; tartine at £4.45; moules at £5.95; cassoulet at £12.95; rib eye at £14.95.
Desserts from £4.50 continue the archetypal theme with chocolate mousse; tarte fine aux pommes; ice creams and sorbets and cheeses Roquefort, Reblechon and Comté.
So far, so impressive. First up I had the Charcuterie Board with its impressive list: Jambon de Savoie, smoked duck breast, saucisson sec and duck rillettes with baby gem salad and chargrilled pain de champagne.
Served on a board, the saucisson and dried ham were exemplary as was the small jar of rillettes. The bread, a warm, crusty twosome, was equally moreish. The duck was overly smoked, the baby gem happily turning out to be curly endive, and it was well-dressed in a vinaigrette.
Ribeye steak with frites and a Béarnaise sauce (an extra £1.95) followed. One bite into the medium-rare aged beef confirmed that there was indeed a food God. The thick 10oz juicy steak was cooked by someone who actually knows how to respect quality sourced meat.
The sauce was well bought-in too. The dull, skinny frites were the only let-down. The side salad was overkill and tricky to tackle.
I drank a pleasing La Lande Rouge (£4.45 for 175 ml) from the entirely French wine list. The ‘complimentary’ water comes stylishly in a stone jar. The servers were well-trained and numerous (might this change when the top team possibly decamp to a new opening?).
Cote, the newest kid on the Chichester block, appears to have hit the ground running. It’s an inspiring addition to chains. Bienvenue! My bill came to just over £33 including a double espresso (£2.45) not including the 12.5 per cent service charge.
Cote, 63 South Street, Chichester, PO19 1EE. (01243) 528894. Open 8am-11pm Mon to Fri, 9am-11pm Sat and 9am-10.30pm Sun.
Disabled access: Two heavy entrance doors may be tricky for some.
How to get there: Exit at the Witterings roundabout on the A27 going towards Chichester rail station. Head down South Street, and Cote is on the right. Parking in nearby car parks or on street.
Ratings (maximum *****)