Surprisingly, given my thoughts on most chain restaurants, popping into a Cote brasserie for a bite to eat at the bar isn't an issue. I don't mind the Covent Garden and Soho branches, having used both as a passible lunch or afternoon meeting spot previously. However the one in the City doesn't have a bar, just a large basement space, and a set of tables along one wall, facing out into the main restaurant and occupied entirely by single, middle aged men. Before I realised my mistake it was too late. I'd been identified as one of them and led gently to be deposited in the arctic of solo dining.
I'm not sure who was more on show; us or the inane works party we were facing. A works party dinner on a Tuesday night, oh what fun! I won't go into detail, suffice to say that they were definitely having a wilder time than the banquette of solo diners in silent judgement opposite.
The menu is generic brasserie, the quality matches, tonight at least. I tried first for a steak hache, before being informed “we can't serve below medium rare I'm afraid…” glad at least that they acknowledge why they're unable to serve that simplest of brasserie dishes served at anything less than a medium rare (you're not allowed to serve at less than medium rare unless it's minced on the premises…), sad because it was all I was looking for.
In the absence of home chopped steak I went for the onglet frites, served with a garlic butter and little else. Not bad. The solo diner in me couldn't complain at a single mouthful. Sure it wasn't the best steak i've eaten in my life, but nor was it meant to be. For the price, I could definitely have done with a thicker or more substantial slab. Served with a passible fruity Pinot Noir, it wasn't a bad experience, but the atmosphere leaves something to be desired for the solo diner.