After a visit to the Finnish Church we were on the hunt for substantial food at the uncivilised hour of five in the afternoon in an obscure (to us) corner of London. After having exhausted the options in Rotherhithe we crossed the river to try our luck in Wapping and ended up in St. Katherine’s Dock.
When I worked there twenty years ago it was a different culinary age for both me and London. While the food scene was most definitely on the up there were greater sections of the population (myself included) to whom a visit to a restaurant of any description was a treat rather than a commonplace event.
At the time I was working at the International Petroleum Exchange. The IPE was a scene of capitalism in the utmost raw. Its denizens survived the working week on a heady mix of rampant bullying, racism, misogyny, Macdonald’s takeaways, pints of Stella, titty bars and class A drugs. There was also a certain camaraderie to the place inherent in an unreconstructed working class culture. Even in a nostalgic mood I can’t bring myself to pine for it, now that those savage Essex beasts of the bourse have been replaced by computers. Frankly, I spit on its grave.
And dine in its disembowelled corpse, otherwise known as International House.
Côte, as a dining experience, is a vast improvement to The Dock dining scene of the early ’90s when hungry traders had the choice of Mela (a good Indian but expensive in those days), the Dickens Inn (frightful ‘pizzas’, they may since have improved) and the Medieval Banquet Hall – a scene straight from the very entrails of Hell where mystified Japanese bus parties would be confronted with a bastardised concoction of Middle Ages horseshit on a plate in an olde worlde atmospheer of headache-inducing kitsch wenchdom. But the beer was cheap.
To get back to the present, Côte’s proposition is French brasserie food a notch up from its close neighbour Café Rouge. It works. Its dockside location is a plus – there are good views of the London sunset through the plate windows and plenty of elbow room at table reflects the new build nature of the site. A restaurant about three quarters full in this part of London on an early Saturday evening is a good sign.
The food is solid if unspectacular. I went for the benchmark – fillet steak, frites and beans. The steak was good, cooked as I requested. Crunchy chips and crunchy beans (the way I like ’em) on the side and a proper peppercorn sauce. Service discreet and professional – the forgotten beans were prepped and brought without fuss.
If this is the standard across the chain then Côte is a good option for French dining if you’re starved of choice within walking distance. I don’t think it would be worth visiting the Covent Garden branch (for example) when there are more characterful and more adventurous French restaurants to be had close by.
To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).