Monday 4 January 2016

Cote Brasserie - Norwich

29 Exchange Street

Breakfast served
Monday to Friday - 8am till 12pm
Saturday and Sunday - 9am till 1pm

Cote Brasserie is where Cafe Rouge used to be on Exchange Street.

This is the seating area at the rear of the restaurant, choose from comfy booths or smaller tables.

There was another larger dining room further back.

The breakfast menu is fairly varied and the "Formule" breakfast is by far the best value for money. It includes any cooked breakfast, fruit juice and a hot drink for £9.95.

Cutlery is already on the table, as is a nice cloth napkin.

The HP and Heinz sauces arrive just before the food does.

A bottle of complimentary filtered water is brought to the table.

The Formule breakfast includes apple or orange juice, the fresh orange juice was delicious.

The Formule also includes a hot drink, this cappuccino was excellent.

 The Full English breakfast included two slices of toast and real butter, you're given the option of white or brown toast when ordering.

The Full English breakfast may have only consisted of five different items but it tasted amazing, a great start to the New year!

The fried eggs were cooked together, I popped them on top of some buttered toast.

The pork sausage was huge and herby.

Nice runny yolks and a big plump sausage!

The thick cut bacon was delicious.

The mushrooms and tomatoes were both full of flavour.

My wife's vegetarian breakfast, it usually comes with avocado but she's not a fan so she swapped it for an extra mushroom instead. The vegetarian sausage was really juicy and the best she'd ever tasted, I tried some and totally agree.

After a great New Year's Eve we finally made it out of the house again on January 2nd, a walk into the city seemed like a good plan to blow the cobwebs away. I hadn't even thought about breakfast, it was my wife who suggested we go and try Cote Brasserie on Exchange Street. We were running quite late but as they were serving breakfast until 1pm we arrived in good time...

Upon entering - The floor plan was quite familiar as I'd already been inside this building when it was Cafe Rouge back in 2010, read that review here. There's some tables by the window if you prefer natural light and a view outside, most of the tables are located at the rear of the restaurant though where it's very spacious with much larger tables as well as comfy looking booths. We chose a table for two at the rear of the restaurant with spotlights overhead, I'd be needing these to get some half decent photos. Really chilled out music played in the background at just the right volume making it feel really relaxing. There's full table service here and the tables are laid with cloth napkins, cutlery, salt, pepper, glasses and menus. The classic styled restaurant was certainly a pleasant environment to sit in and enjoy some breakfast. 8/10

Service - The service we encountered here was perfect, it really couldn't have been any better. We were greeted with a smile by the lady that came straight over when we entered, she told us we could sit anywhere we wanted and showed us all the different areas to choose from. Once seated a waiter came over to take our order, he explained the different options available on the breakfasts. My wife doesn't like avocado and asked if she could have another item instead to replace it, this wasn't a problem at all. The fruit juices arrived first, shortly after this some complimentary filtered water arrived followed by the coffees. Once the food had arrived the table had very little empty space on it, the waiter kindly offered to add another table to give us more space, we managed ok with the one we had though. During the meal we were asked if everything was ok and after we'd finished our plates were cleared away from the table. We chatted with the waiter briefly after the meal, a very, professional, efficient and friendly chap indeed! We headed towards the counter on the way out and discovered the bill was being brought over to us, he said it was ok to pay at the counter though. We'd already decided to leave a 10% tip for the waiter as the the service had been amazing. We felt quite disheartened when we received the bill though only to discover a 12.5% service charge had already been added, suddenly it seemed like our 10% offering was no longer a nice enough gesture. We questioned the service charge (read Cote's service charge policy here) and was told we didn't have to pay it as it was optional. We said we would like to pay 10% but only if it went directly to the waiter, they assured us it would. Anyway, despite the hidden surprise on the bill at the end the service itself was perfect. 10/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 2 bacon, 2 eggs (fried, scrambled or poached) mushrooms, tomatoes, 2 slices of toast with real butter, a hot drink, apple or orange juice. 8/10

Presentation - Everything sat nicely positioned on the plate with a light garnish sprinkled over the tomatoes and mushrooms. The toast was on a side plate with a small bowl of butter, the orange juice came with ice and the cappuccino looked good. 8/10

The food - The large pork sausage was fairly pale and contained herbs, it had a bouncy but firm texture and tasted really nice. The bacon was thick cut and delicious with a slightly browned rind, I enjoyed it with some ketchup between some buttered toast. The fried eggs were a decent pair that had been cooked as one, I laid them over the rest of the buttered toast and popped the nice runny yolks. The tomatoes were lightly seasoned and packed full of flavour and the mushrooms tasted great too. 8/10

Value for money - There may have been just a single sausage on this breakfast but it was really big and what the breakfast lacked in hash browns and beans it made up for in drinks. For £9.95 the Formule seemed like excellent value for money considering the nice environment and amazing service. One thing to bear in mind though is that a 12.5% service charge is added to the bill at the end here (this covers some of cost of the company giving their staff food and drink whilst at work). It clearly states that this is optional but it either ups the price of the meal if you want to pay it or makes you feel guilty or stingy if you don't want to or can't afford to pay it. I'm reducing the score on this section from an 8 to a 7 as it irritates me so much. I say let the customer decide without making them feel uncomfortable if they want to leave a tip or not. 7/10 

Vegetarian option - Vegetarian sausage, field mushroom, tomato, avocado, baby spinach, 2 poached eggs on sourdough toast and Hollandaise sauce. £8.50 (Formule £9.95) 

Overall - In the past I've had very little luck with breakfast at restaurant chains but my experience at Cote Brasserie was certainly a really good one. The added service charge scenario was a tad annoying and sadly typical of a chain but with so many other positive aspects we really enjoyed our visit to Cote Brasserie. The Formule is a really good breakfast deal and the food was really nice, this combined with excellent service and a lovely environment make it a place that's well worth visiting and in my opinion a better choice than Cafe Rouge. 8/10


  1. The 'optional' assumed service charge strikes me as the first step along the road to the way things are here in the USA, 15% or more tip almost assumed but (in my experience) NEVER added automatically, EXCEPTwhen you're with a large party, when an automatic service charge for something like 8+ persons in a group is common. You have to factor it in to the cost of meals because most restaurant staff are paid WAY below the minimum wage and you know that they depend on tips to earn a living. Even if the restaurant and/or the meal is crap, you still feel obliged to tip unless it's directly the waiter's fault.

    Some of the big chains have a strict 'no tipping' rule, though - while it's not really a restaurant I've seen staff at Dunking Donuts refuse a tip on the grounds that they would get fired if they'd been found to have accepted one! The whole setup is a mess. Much better to have tips as an occasional thing for exemplary service, rather than having to read the small print every time you're handed a menu, or jeopardise someone's job if their manager thinks they took a tip from you.

  2. Glad to see you enjoyed the Cote breakfast.
    Sad to say, (lack of good independent breakfast places) it's pretty consistently our favourite in Cambridge.
    Happy New Year!

  3. I had the veggie breakfast this morning; J had the crepe but with avocado instead of bacon. Tremendously good, though service was friendly but rather patchy. The vegetarian sausage was indeed delicious; but I did wonder if it had nuts in it (which ought to be flagged, as they don't usually). I survived though :)

  4. Note-you do have to pay again if you wish another coffee-not free. Phil.