WITH summer in the air my heart yearns for France, the home of fine food. In this country, and indeed this county and the city of Brighton and Hove, we are blessed with fantastic restaurants.

Sometimes my mind drifts away though and I am on a country road, lavender on one side, sunflowers on the other, and I happen upon a cheap truck drivers’ restaurant, where you eat what you are given, the one choice for that day, and you enjoy it. And the value is out of this world.

With that in mind, the amazing three courses for £12.95 offer at Brighton’s Cote Brasserie had been screaming at me to come inside and I gave in.

It certainly looked too good to refuse. And you cannot argue with a price close to the midday offerings you get across the English Channel.

Cote Brasserie is supposed to be inspired by the brasseries of Paris, championing relaxed all-day dining and serving authentic French classics. I don’t know about you, but I felt more of the grandeur of a Viennese restaurant when I entered the one in Church Street. I think it was the huge curtains – they are like the ones you get around the doors in the Austrian capital to keep out the cold.

It has that vast, orderly feel to it too, absolutely beautiful, but all tables and booths in lines, more Frankie and Benny’s than the Rive Gauche.

Very smart though. The clientele was all rather well to do, like a theatre crowd, except for what looked like a huge group of French students, possibly yearning for home.

The vast choice on the £12.95 menu won’t have felt like home though.

I was very close to picking the camembert starter and the steak frites main course but that felt a little too easy. I was glad I hadn’t made that choice soon afterwards as the steak was a bit small. To be fair it did say on the menu that it was thinly beaten minute steak. You can’t expect too much at that price though, I suppose.

I went for the potato and leek vichyssoise soup with truffle oil. A proper French soup, often enjoyed cold, as it states on the menu. But I was not offered the cold option – the soup arrived quickly and warm. Very tasty but the taste of truffle was very faint. It was still very good though and as my mind drifted back across the Channel I was offered bread, to which I almost replied bien sur , of course.

For my main the roast seabass with basil, potato puree and sauce vierge – a French sauce normally made from olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and chopped basil.

That sauce was a taste of the Meditteranean, so zesty, fresh and full of flavour. It complemented the fleshy fish very well. It smelt absolutely wonderful. A little heavy on the oil but that olive oil tasted like it was of a great quality.

After finishing that off I chose the dark chocolate pot with creme fraiche. That chocolate. Spooning the solid mass out with the fluffy cream created a simply perfect finish. I could get all snobby about this chain restaurant being soulless as it is obviously one of many. But I recommend lots of other people from the trade go there. Check out the smiles and the friendly demeanour of all the staff. Check out the spotlessly clean restaurant. And check out the simple yet tasty dishes.

When I got the bill the realisation hit me that I was here in Blighty, the bread knocking me back £2.40. It would have been free in France, as I often moan on these pages. Those French students probably made the same mistake.

But let’s not linger over that when, essentially, I had a lovely lunch for round £20.

And Cote gets the important things right. This isn’t a chain restaurant where bored students and other part-timers stare at the clock and neglect you.

The service is spot on and the food is too. If you are too full for that third course then two courses is £10.95.

I might go back for that steak frites as I’m sure it would be worth it. Or the chargrilled chicken breast with gratin potatoes, watercress and veal and thyme jus. There’s the camembert starter still to try out too. And I could try the soup cold.

You may not pass fields of lavender and sunflowers to get to Cote Brasserie.

But the Pavilion Gardens are lovely this time of year and as I stepped back out into the sunlight after such a pleasant meal Brighton was looking pretty beautiful.

The Gourmand pays for his meals.


Food: ★★★★

Atmosphere: ★★★

Service: ★★★★


Three courses: £12.95


Roast seabass

Dark chocolate pot

Bread £2.40

Cloudy lemonade £2.75