Cote, Regent’s Court

“Table for 7 on Saturday night, please” Emmy said to Cote’s maitre d’. She was unsure as to whether the maitre d’ recognised her – Emmy did come here rather often, after all – but either way she treated Emmy with her usual friendliness, politeness and efficiency. “Of course,” she said, “is this for any special occasion?”

Emmy told her it was her partner Vernon’s 33rd birthday celebration. “We’ll make it special for him,” the maitre d’ reassured her, “perhaps a special dessert”. Phew, thought Emmy – the restaurant was clearly well-practised in catering for birthdays and would take this responsibility out of her hands so that she could relax and enjoy the party with everyone else.

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The food was, once again, remarkable. Given the number of wonderful independent brasserie-style restaurants in Leamington, Cote faced tough competition. But this was not just another chain establishment – the food was as good if not better than some of the more ‘authentic’ places Emmy and Vernon visited – and the menu was surprisingly extensive and varied. The couple had tried, tested, and retested the place as a date night venue and concluded that it was an excellent choice. Not, however, that this deterred them from repeatedly trialling their hypothesis.

Having been consistently impressed with the standards of Cote – for quality, value and atmosphere – Emmy decided it would be an ideal place to host V’s birthday and invite their friends, a group of thirtysomethings who enjoyed good food and company in a relaxed atmosphere.

The sauce of Emmy’s king prawn starter was exquisite and left her waxing lyrical for a while afterwards. “I’m going to beg them to bottle that stuff for me,” V had muttered by the end of the following day, “and use it for bribing you”.

During the meal Emmy overheard Stu, sat to her right. “Best calamari I’ve had in ages” he murmured. Opposite Emmy sat a charcuterie board with V’s gleeful pair of eyes poking over the top, dancing at the sight of unusual delights such as smoked duck and flame-grilled bread.

Emmy’s starter was followed by the Tuna Nicoise that constituted perfectly cooked fish – seared and salty on the outside, tender and pink on the inside – and a side order of bread. In Emmy’s opinion sourdough was hard to get right, but Cote had it down to a tee. V and his brother both proclaimed their steaks to be superb, and Emmy knew that this came as an exceptional compliment after being brought up on their mother’s cooking. The roasted chicken and roasted duck were heralded as “just what I needed” by their respective devourers, and Ruth loved the salmon for its perfectly-cooked simplicity.

The taste, quality and freshness of the savoury tempted them all into finding a space for a sweet, and they were all impressed. Emmy often got the feeling that the chef’s efforts trailed off in restaurants when it came to dessert, so the meal finale was something of a damp squib. Cote certainly bucked her interpreted trend and the consideration and care was there to the very end, causing Emmy to leave satiated and happy with a sweet apple taste in her mouth. Despite V ordering, to Emmy’s dismay, a dessert that was hard to turn into much of a fanfare – the simple scoop of ice cream with chocolate sauce – Cote did a wonderful job. All of the waiters paraded out of the kitchen with the desserts on a platter, singing happy birthday. V’s scoop of ice cream sported a candle and was surrounded by a personalised birthday message written in chocolately scrawl.

Along with their appreciation of the wonderful food, the impeccable service added to the group’s collective enjoyment. For each course all of the plates arrived at the same time on a series of platters. This avoided that well-known awkward phase where some guests gazed longingly at their rapidly cooling plate of culinary mastery, waiting patiently, whilst other guests began getting fidgety and tried to conceal mounting fear that their food has been forgotten. For a 3-course meal and a drink each, the party paid £35 per head including a tip – and all agreed on the brilliant value, especially considering that competing chain restaurants charged equivalent or higher prices for substandard food in smaller portions.

And so to Emmy, Cote made a wonderful venue for a group meal, with its relaxed atmosphere, faultless service, special treatment should one choose to celebrate an occasion, and – above all – scrumptious, well-priced food.