If there’s one thing that we Brits seem to do well (or a lot of, at least), is chain restaurants. However, if there’s one thing that chain restaurants were doing less fantastically until very recently, it was catering to those eating gluten free. Pizza Express were one of the first to do so, closely followed by a few of the other Italian chains, but as much as I love pizza and pasta, there’s only so many times I want to eat out at one in a row.
Enter Cote. Two years ago, when I asked if the fish parmentier was gluten free, the waiter said, ‘oh no, because it has potatoes in.’ This did not instil a great sense of confidence that he knew what he was talking about (although we eventually resolved that the parmentier was me-friendly, and ultimately very tasty), and there wasn’t a whole lot else on the menu that was an option for those avoiding wheat-y products.
What a difference 24 months makes! I went back last week and was so surprised at what awaited me. Not only did they have an entirely gluten free menu, but their staff were so much better versed at offering guidance – my waitress came out with the Specials Menu and had highlighted everything in orange marker pen that was gluten free or could be adapted to be so. Whereas before there were maybe four or five options for mains and barely any for starters, there is now a whole host of tasty-sounding dishes to choose from.
I started with a Pear, Roquefort and Walnut Salad which was adapted to be gluten free without croutons, but in my opinion the salad was not lacking without them; the walnuts gave enough of a bite while the opposing flavours of the strong cheese and sweet pear were a perfect juxtaposition. For main, I went for one of the specials – pan fried hake with roasted chickpeas and tomatoes. So delicious and filling without weighing heavy on my stomach – and so nice to not to have to settle for pizza or pasta!
I’m really impressed with how Cote have developed their menu and staffing to cater to us gluten free-ers, and I’ll definitely be making another visit soon.