Last Friday evening, I visited Côte Brasserie (Cardiff Central) on Mill Lane, Cardiff for a meal with my friend Nathan.
One of over 70 branches of the French restaurant chain in the UK, the Cardiff Central restaurant is fairly large, spanning two floors, but as the tables are close together and the room is warmly lit, the atmosphere still feels quite intimate.
Like most branches, the Cardiff Central restaurant resembles a typical Parisian bistro, with striped awning hanging over the restaurant front, an elaborate tiled floor and cosy, low-hanging lighting.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu offers classic brasserie dishes with a modern, innovative twist, including steak frites, moules marinières, corn-fed chicken from rural Brittany and tuna Niçoise. in addition to a fortnightly changing specials menu.
The restaurant was rather busy when we arrived at around 7pm and it filled up even more as the evening went on; we took this as a good sign!
As we pondered over the menu, we shared a freshly baked sourdough baguette with butter (£1.95), served warm in a basket, alongside a portion of piquant mixed olives (£3.50); spicy marinated olives with rose harissa, caper berries and cornichons. The bread was fresh and moreish and the olives were delicious, although it was a shame they weren’t pitted.
To start, I ordered the warm tiger prawn salad (£7.75), consisting of sautéed tiger prawns with chilli, garlic, lemon, parsley and cherry tomatoes served with frisée and baby gem salad. The tiger prawns were big and flavoursome and the juices from the dish soaked into the salad, giving it a tasty garlicky flavour. If I was to visit Côte Brasserie in the future, I would order this again without even looking at the starter menu – it was that good!
Meanwhile, Nathan chose the steak tartare (£6.95) to start – a traditional French dish of finely chopped raw beef mixed with shallots, capers, cornichons, egg yolk and cognac, served with two slices of freshly baked bread.
He wasn’t overly keen on this dish, although I don’t think he really knew what to expect when he’d ordered it. I tried some and I wasn’t too fond of the cold, raw texture of the beef, but I think this had more to do with personal preference than with the dish not being up to standard.
Moving on to our main courses, I went for the 7oz fillet steak (£18.95) served with Normandy butter with garlic, lemon and parsley (+£1.20), watercress and crispy frites (the French name for French fries).
I ordered my steak medium-rare, but it was definitely more on the rare side. It still tasted great though, so I didn’t bother sending it back to the kitchen; it was so tender and it had that delicious, chargrilled taste – I couldn’t bear to part with it!
I fell in love with the garlic butter at first taste. With a smooth texture, it tasted strongly of garlic and parsley and went just as well with the frites as it did with the steak.
To accompany my steak and frites, I ordered a side of creamed spinach (£3.50) on our waiter’s recommendation. The spinach tasted really fresh and the sauce was rich and creamy, with a subtle hint of cheese – I can see why our waiter recommended this to us!
Nathan chose the fish parmentier (£12.50) for his main course; cod, haddock, prawn and salmon in a creamy white wine and leek sauce, topped with mash potato and Gruyère cheese. This looked and smelt amazing and it seemed to go down pretty well with him, although he did find it a little too cheesey. I’d definitely order this if I were to visit Côte Brasserie again.
In addition to the fish parmientier, Nathan ordered a side of French beans (£2.95). These looked fairly big and tasty.
We were feeling pretty full at this point, but again our waiter managed to tempt us with his recommendations, this time for dessert.
I ordered the crème caramel (£4.95), a traditional French dessert consisting of a firm vanilla pod custard topped with dark caramel and served with fresh cream.
It tasted ten times better than the crème caramels I’m used to eating out of plastic pots from the supermarket. I could really detect the cream; it contrasted beautifully with the sweet caramel.
Fancying something with nuts in it, Nathan opted for the praline chocolate crêpe (£5.95); a traditional French pancake filled with hazelnut chocolate sauce (like Nutella, but better!), dusted with icing sugar and topped with caramelized banana and crème Chantilly.
This looked and tasted amazing (I was lucky enough to get a taste!), although I think it would be too filling for me to eat as part of a three-course meal.
We both had a great time at Côte Brasserie and would definitely return to the restaurant again. Although some of the dishes seemed a little on the pricey side, the food was delicious and the service was very attentive. If you’re watching the pennies, visit the restaurant from Monday to Friday between 12-7pm to enjoy two courses for £9.95 or three courses for £11.90.
Côte Brasserie Cardiff Central
10-11 Mill Lane
(029) 2034 3810
Visit Côte Brasserie’s website
I was invited to Côte Brasserie as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.