Like it or loathe it – and most food writers fall into the latter camp – London is full of chain restaurants.
Successful owners open more – the Jamie Oliver franchise – and sometimes forget that being able to run one eaterie does not mean you can run several – the Hix group which started well with one place has fared less happily with some of its other openings.
Additionally, property owners prefer chains – they are more likely to get the rent on time. And the British public tends to go for names they know.
But while I tend to dodge the obvious chain offerings, one group – Cote Brasserie – is the exception. This has a large number of outlets in London plus many others across the UK. At the last count, it was over 70 – and when the group last changed hands, it went for £250 million. It has ambitions to treble in size – whether that works or not will depend on how free each restaurant is to attract its own clientèle.
I’ve been to quite a few Cotes in the capital and elsewhere. And if you want a good, admittedly not outstanding, meal at a good value price, Cote is difficult to knock.
The service is good – the waiting staff sort out problems promptly (not that I have encountered many but I did go to one with someone determined to complain before he even started) and they serve you water without having to ask (which is how it should be).
The décor and the menu are unashamedly copies of the classic French bistro – but then many French bistros are copies of each other.
My last visit – to the branch in Kensington – was for dinner with two others (restaurants hate odd numbers!) and we were all pleased with our versions of French classics – moules frites, fish stew, duck breast – with good first courses and puddings.
Wine – all very drinkable – starts from a very reasonable £16.50 to £18.50 a bottle with virtually nothing over £35. You don’t need a bank loan to drink here.
You’ll do very well on a budget of under £50 per person for three courses, wine and coffee.
The three course set menu – times vary – comes in around £15 in London, less elsewhere. There could be a bit more food on each plate here but it’s still good value.
So Cote gets my vote.
All over central London