Côte at Home

This is my first attempt at a product review beyond rural broadband.

My first mistake was picking Côte. It’s taken me some time to find the “ô”, in the end resorting to copying and pasting it from the Côte website – circumflexes are a nightmare.

I’m fortunate that my wife is an exceptionally good chef who is able to produce phenomenal meals effortlessly from the most humble of ingredients. The upshot of this is two fold, I cook very little if at all and secondly, we don’t eat out much. My wife is very frugal, far more so than me, and she can’t stand going out to a restaurant to have an average meal. Whereas I value convenience, she definitely vales quality. As a consequence, most “fast casual dining” options, as they are called, in the UK are disallowed. Côte is the one exception where through a combination of the food quality, pricing and service, particular when we have our children with us, it has made my wife’s ok list. Candidly Côte is a middle-class stalwart now present in more affluent market-towns and the nicer parts of London which probably helps. We’ve also met the boss of Côte at a wedding once, he is a proper Cordon Bleu chef which is certainly conveyed in the approach to quality and a nice chap to boot.

You know you live in the “right” area when Côte announce they were going to trial their home delivery offering there. In the midst of lockdown this caused great excitement in our household as, while my wife enjoys cooking, the relentless grind of producing three lockdown meals a day was beginning wear her down. With great excitement, and near reckless abandonment of fiscal caution, we ordered fish cakes, gratin potatoes, beef bourguignon and poulet grille. Good hearty stuff that are all a bit of a pain to make, or so I am told.

Fishcakes in box

Our order arrival coincided with our decision to turn the AGA off. The timing of this is always contentious with the decision based upon climatic and macro-economic factors with me preferring to keep it on longer than my wife. The weather had been good but, thanks to Covid-19, oil was incredibly cheap. This had prompted some debate as our kitchen was increasingly hot during the day but I appreciated the warmth the AGA gave in the morning. I had also filled the oil tank up just before lockdown and irrationally I wanted to work my way through the expensive stuff before filling up with as much 20p/ litre oil as I could. Anyway, I risk digressing into another area of my interests which is attempting commodity speculating with my 2,600 litre oil tank – trying to time the fill to dips in the market and then taking delight / despair as I subsequently mentally mark to market its changing value… fun times.

Fishcakes out of box… lemons not so good

Anyway, with our kitchen approaching 30c during the day, the climatic issues won and the AGA was turned off. Our summer back up is a an ageing cooker with four hobs on top, a small grill and a tepid oven. The oven, on full blast, can just about reach 180c which is about optimal ready-meal temperature. We don’t have a microwave so everything is subject to either gas or aga.

All things fuel related in the house are definitely my responsibility. Oil, gas, wood, electricity are all things I tend to look after. So with our AGA now cold, and only able to be restarted by a professional, it was somewhat of a surprise to discover we had run out of gas. After much tapping, it was evident that the two large cylinders were definitely empty.

There followed an argument which went along the lines of “it was your idea to turn the AGA off” versus “your responsible for all the fuel things”. Despite my some what panicked and pleading phone calls, our local gas supplier would take a week to deliver replacement cylinders, it would appear I wasn’t alone in my sudden need of gas. In the midst of lock-down and with our Cote (giving up with the circumflex now) having arrived this caused a degree of regrettable tension in the house.

Fortunately, my mother-in-law doesn’t live too far away and was able to lend us a single induction hob thing that you plug in and can cook quite effectively on. Who really needs four hobs after all?

Saved by the induction hob thing

Anyway, back to my product review. So, if I was doing this properly I would probably spend 10 minutes describing the box it came in, and what it feels like to take it out of the box, and what it looks like after it has been taken out of the box. But to keep things short, the food arrives cold in an insulated box of some sorts. Cote use DPD, which is now my favourite courier company as we get the same driver every time and we are now on first name terms. This is great, if a little embarrassing given the frequency with which he comes to our house.

Our first attempt was fishcakes – which could either be microwaved (which we don’t have) or put in the oven (which wasn’t working). My wife being resourceful opted for the option not on the packet which is frying on the frying pan using our single induction hob thing. This isn’t an option on the packet, presumably for ease, which is a mistake as this is the best way to cook Cote fishcakes.

These fishcakes were extremely good, full of good bits of fish (salmon and smoked haddock) – definitely generous on the fish / potato mix and critically it was well seasoned with dill and capers. We’ve had them twice – first time on improvised frying pan and they were excellent – crispy golden skin and delicious inside. In the oven, they’re ok but loose much of the crispy goldenness of frying them, I would definitely recommend getting someone to fry them for you.

The final product – all delicious except the bits of lettuce in the peas…

We’ve subsequently had a lot of the other Cote at home meals and they are all decent, certainly above your average supermarket ready meal and pretty comparable to the restaurant. Some of the sides are passable, e.g. lettuce in your minted peas doesn’t seem to survive reheating and ends up looking like a piece of lettuce you might find at the back of the fridge after several months.

So, for my first product review I would highly recommend Cote at Home.

Subsequently we have purchased some of their cheeses, some of which are quite difficult to source in the UK, and I am personally keen to try some of their meat which looks excellent.