UPDATE JULY 2012. We did give Cote another go for a pre-theatre meal and it was much better.
Food and service good in a bistro style way. My (and many others) irritations with those restaurants that still train their staff to ask annoying questions by rote still remains but I believe the backlash has started!!
The Socks are always pleased when a new recommended restaurant opens in Brighton and so it was when Côte opened in the summer serving 'good value' French Bistro style food.
So lunching there today we had expectations of a reasonable meal but whilst the food wasn't bad, there were so many little things that were wrong that it drained any pleasure out of the experience. Individually each thing would have been only a slight irritant but cumulatively they contributed to an almighty annoyance.
1. Attempting to fob you off with the worst tables.
2/10 on the irritation scale. The place was two-thirds empty but they tried to place us on the smallest two person tables and we had to insist on one of the better placed ones.
2. Within seconds of being seated a waitress was asking us what drinks we wanted and what water we wanted.
5/10 on the irritation scale. This is a slightly tricky one. If we were dining out somewhere posh then we might want to order an aperitif to drink whilst perusing the menu but chances are, that in places like this at lunch time, we will want to see the menu and drink list first and not be hassled before we can even get our coats off.
3. Having been told we didn't want water the waitress for some reason put a water glass on the table which we didn't need and was in any case not washed properly. My sleeve stuck to some dried pool of sticky stuff on the table. When called over and asked to clean the table the waitress asked again if we wanted water - we hadn't changed our minds on this issue during the 3 minutes since she last asked.
7/10 on the irritation scale.
4. Whilst perusing the menu we noticed that "a discretionary gratuity of 12.5%" would be added to our bill.
8/10 on the irritation scale - whilst we are happy to reward decent service that is definitely at our discretion and we find it extremely annoying that we would have to be proactive in getting it deducted from the bill in the event the service is not up to scatch.
5. Food was ordered and starters of moules mariniere and smoked salmon arrived quickly. Actually these were OKish but given we were already a bit annoyed it was easy enough to feel that the smoked salmon was a bit tasteless and the moules came in a small bowl with no bread. We were rather taken aback at this as we just cannot believe that anywhere in France (and the restaurant does have pretensions to being Bistro French) would serve moules (or indeed a meal) without bread. We had to pay £1.50 extra for it. The moules were a bit gritty. The wine glass was a bit dirty.
8/10 on the irritation scale
6. So we've got the wine, we've got the food, we've got the bread. We've got our first mouthful of food and the waitress turns up and says "Is the food OK for you guys!"
10/10 IRRITATION! I ABSOLUTELY FREAKIN HATE IT WHEN THEY INTERRUPT ME CHEWING OR TALKING TO MY PARTNER OR READING THE PAPER OR WHATEVER TO ASK A BY ROTE QUESTION FOR THE SAKE OF IT!!! Also I don't particularly like being addressed as 'you guys' but I can get over that one. Once in a really quite decent and well-known restaurant in Brighton I was chewing on a mouthful of food when the waitress asked this question and stood there and sighed impatiently when I didn't give her an immediate response! Nevertheless on this occasion we masticate our mouthfuls and nod politely at her.
Two minutes later someone else asks us the same question. At this point I avoid looking at them and resolutely carry on with the meal I am trying to enjoy.
7. The main course of coq-au-vin is less than lukewarm. We don't wait for the waitress to come and ask us if "the food is OK for you guys!" we use our initiative and call her over. I tell her I don't want it microwaved I want a properly cooked meal that hasn't been hanging around cooling. In the meantime the Bedsock's sirloin steak frites with a bearnaise sauce has arrived. The steak is good and cooked medium rare as requested. The frites are in a little paper cone with emphasis on the 'little'. The bearnaise sauce cost extra.
5/10 on the irritation scale. Actually, the reason why this isn't higher on the scale is because they recoup the situation by immediately bringing a new warm coq-au-vin to the table. BUT during this time was have been asked twice more "if everything is OK with you guys!". This pushes the irritation factor over the 10 and the Bedsock sternly tells the last person to ask it that it is really too much. This happens to be a poor waiter who says he has been told to check if we are alright given the food mishaps. I feel sorry for him - it is not his fault. It is not our fault. It is the fault of whoever is running the place to get his staff to work as a team and know what each other is doing so that the customer is not continuously harassed throughout the meal by staff asking the same needless question. In fact, much as I hate the way Waggamama mark on your placemat the fact that you have been asked and answered this question, at least this ensures it only gets asked the once and if anyone by some mistake asks it again you can just point at the mark on the placemat without having to gulp down your mouthful of unmasticated food in order to give them an answer!!!!!!
8. By this time we had taken deep breaths and prepared ourselves for the ultimate annoyance of being charged 12.5 percent service for this debacle and having to ask for it to be taken off the bill. Amazingly someone was clued up enough to have taken it off. Nevertheless our lunch at Côte costs us £57.00 for a two course lunch with 3 of the cheaper glasses of wine so I wouldn't say it was good value.
We won't be going back.
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