Joeblade

Breakfast at Côte, Highgate

Côte is a chain of restaurants serving decent French food and is where you go when you feel that you’ve out-grown Café Rouge. A branch recently opened in Highgate so I thought it worth documenting now it’s within easy walking distance.

The restaurant is slightly more pompous than it needs to be: every meal is preceded by a waiter bringing you a bottle of complimentary filtered water, which is placed upon your table and introduced and explained as if it’s a rare vintage cognac. Free water! In a bottle! Amazing! Perhaps there will also be an After Eight at the end of the meal. Note to Côte: we all think it’s just tap water that’s been in the fridge. That’s what it tastes like and that’s ok. We drink tap water all the time, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Start bringing me complimentary petits fours and I’ll be more impressed.

Your meal is brought from the kitchen by someone who isn’t a waiter, who then stands by your table with your meal until an actual waiter comes along to lift it from the not-waiter and place it on your table. In theory this should all be a fairly smooth operation that dazzles you in a Cirque de Soleil way but if a waiter isn’t quite in the zone then you can be in the awkward situation of sitting there like a lemon with your meal on a platter high above your head and wondering if you’ll get tasered if you just stand up and take it yourself. When this happened to me the not-waiter looked terrified, as if I was about to Assange her, but it turned out she was just concerned about me burning my fingers on the hot plate. Fortunately, the plate wasn’t hot. Or, unfortunately, I suppose, depending on your perspective.

Perhaps write something about the food here

Breakfast at Côte is pretty good. Not amazing, but it’s good enough to make me not bother walking the extra 20 minutes to Forks or Kalendar, where the food is better but the experience is tempered by having to walk uphill to get back home, full of black pudding and coffee. The menu won’t surprise anyone who’s eaten breakfast anywhere else in London — full English is duly represented and there’s the usual triumvirate of Benedict-style options — Benedict, Royale, Florentine — alongside French toast and a variety of cereals and bread and fried egg variations.

The Florentine I had was average, with a strangely greasy English muffin that felt like it had been steeped in butter instead of spread with, and a hollandaise sauce a bit too oily. The crêpe complète is much better: a buckwheat galette with crispy bacon, two fried eggs and topped with gruyere. French toast seemed to be a minimalist option but made a decent fist of it, and the granola comes excitingly in some sort of ice-cream sundae bowl with yogurt and fruit compote. I was there once and saw a woman manage to only eat the yogurt, which must have been tricky as it’s the middle layer. I also saw a woman just order scrambled eggs with nothing else. Imagine that! Scrambled eggs without toast. It must have been like eating baby food. Perhaps she had lost the ability to chew.

Pastries, freshly-baked on the premises are good and served indulgently with extra butter and jam to messily smear all over the place. Coffee is good, though the cafetière option came pre-plunged, depriving me of the pleasure. Why order a cafetière if you don’t get to plunge it yourself? It’d be like pre-shaken salt ‘n’ shake crisps. Just go with the Americano or whatever milky, frothy option you usually choose.

I should also mention the decorative jams. During the breakfast period, each table has a jar of random jam or marmalade on it. These jars are always full, and I’ve never seen anyone open them. When you order a natural accompaniment to jam — toast, for instance — you’re given a series of jam portions in little trays. So the jars on the table must just be decorative. I’m not sure you can even open them, or even if what’s in them is actual jam or just some sort of photogenic, inedible jam-style jam substitute. Is this supposed to make me feel more breakfasty or something? More rustic, perhaps? I can’t say. I would open one to see what the deal is, but I worry that I would release all of the world’s evils.

By Paul Haine, in