I get a real buzz when I open my email inbox and there’s an invite to check out a brand new menu or a restaurant that has never even been on my radar previously. Of course I do; that’s why I set up Hungry Harriet – to help champion both budding and established bars and restaurants via my own very healthy appetite for trying something new. However, it does always make me smile extra wide when a brand, bar or restaurant I’ve loved organically for years and years reaches out to chat about what they’ve been up to recently.
This time, it was the turn of Côte Brasserie in Chester and receiving a message from these guys was like being back in touch with an old friend. I’ve loved the Côte restaurant group since my first experience in London more than 10 years ago. We visited the Covent Garden venue for an early lunch and were so impressed we went again for pre-theatre dinner less than 7 hours later – an ate exactly the same meals.
Côte fast became a go-to whenever I found myself in the Big Smoke after that and I’ve visited the Côte Liverpool restaurant multiple times since. In fact, Côte even made it onto my best breakfasts in Liverpool list not so long ago so I was chuffed to see the restaurant open in Chester and even more chuffed to receive an invite to go and see the new venue in all its navy & white-striped glory.
My reunion with Côte was by no means a coincidence, it was actually in celebration of the launch of a brand new French aperitif going by the name of Pampelle. Pampelle is a vermillion muddle of ruby red grapefruit, natural botanicals and bittersweet citrus peel, and is predicted to be one of the trendiest tipples over the coming months.
The spirit is made using red grapefruits harvested from the French region of Corsica which are then macerated in copper vats at a distillery in Cognac to extract their natural citrus aromas. This luxurious nectar is then enhanced with botanicals from around the world including Japanese yuzu and bitter orange bigarade from Haiti. So, if you fancy sipping on boozy grapefruits which are way better travelled than you, this is just the ticket.
Pampelle can be used as the basis for an array of different long and short cocktails but most popularly, it replaces the Campari in a Negroni or the Aperol in an Aperol Spritz to make yep, you guessed it – a Pampelle Spritz. Côte have added the Pampelle Spritz to their sophisticated drinks offering and I went along to see what all the fuss is about…
The verdict? Nice, very nice indeed.
Not my usual poison as I usually go for a cocktail that is sickly sweet and largely cream-based like the Gusto Salted Caramel Russian but I really enjoyed my Pampelle Spritz. The drink mixes 2 parts Pampelle with 3 parts Prosecco and 1 part soda before being poured over ice and garnished with a wedge of red grapefruit. It was bitter, refreshing and definitely punchy enough to flush the cheeks. It’s a thumbs up from me.
While we were there, we also ate from the fabulous Côte food menu which can only have had very minor tweaks over the years I’ve been frequenting the eatery. Although it’s great to have an ever-evolving menu of dishes like those at Salthouse Bacaro small plate restaurant in Liverpool, I do also love a menu which remains the same through dining trends and culinary epochs.
This of course, is only possible if your menu is strong and your ingredients are cooked incredibly well which is certainly true of the Côte Brasserie group. To start we went for the Chicken Liver Parfait (£6.50) which comes with warm, toasted brioche that has fondly been dubbed ‘toast in bed’ in our household and a sweet spiced apple chutney that had a subtle cinnamon aftertaste. We had this alongside the Calamari (£6.75) which was coated with Japanese panko breadcrumbs that had been treated with an electric current in order to ensure their signature crisp and crunch.
When eating from the Côte main menu, I always order the same thing which I know is horribly narrow-minded but it’s just that good. I go for the Poulet Grille (£12.50) from the Plats Rapides list which is comprised of a grilled chicken breast with gratin potatoes and a wild mushroom, thyme and creme fraiche sauce. The chicken is always perfectly cooked, the sauce is always full of luxurious flavour and the garlicky gratin potatoes are to die for so I can quite literally never resist the Poulet Grille.
My other half went for the same meal but swapped the chicken for a medium-rare fillet steak which seemed to go down an absolute treat. We just about had enough wiggle room in our jeans for dessert after that and decided on a classic Crème Brulee (£5.95) and the incredible Praline Crêpe (£6.25) which came served with crunchy caramelised banana slices, praline sauce and Chantilly cream. Heavenly, heavenly stuff.
So, if you’re looking to expand your aperitif palate and fancy trying out the Pampelle Spritz alongside some truly delicious French fare, I wholeheartedly recommend Côte Brasserie in Chester. Or any Côte for that matter!
Although I can’t seem to tear myself away from my old favourite, I have heard great things about the French Onion Soup and the Roast Seabass so I’d love to know what you think. If you’re headed to Côte any time soon, share your thoughts with me in the comments below or over on Twitter @hihungryharriet!
I was very kindly invited to review Côte Brasserie in Chester but all words, photographs, opinions, teeth, hair, boobs and nails are my very own.