Forever on the quest to find a fresh, delicious meal made with quality ingredients, a friend and I decided to try the newest eatery that opened its doors to Karachi: Côte-Rôtie.
When we strolled in for lunch the place was empty despite the cafe's Facebook page instructing us to make reservations. I suppose this is because the restaurant is inside the Alliance Francaise, and that they're checking off reservations for security purposes rather than crowd control. In either case while we were seated a few tables slowly filled up with your typical lunch-going crowd: well-coiffed older women and the occasional group of friends dipping out of work.
Côte-Rôtie is the brainchild of Fahim Jaffar, owner and head chef. He used to work in IT before the food bug hit him and when it did he decided to learn from the best: in other words, he spent two years in the kitchen at Okra.
So I had high hopes from Côte-Rôtie. The cafe is spacious and vaguely mimics a French bistro. Both outdoor and indoor seating is available, though the outdoor space has no shade over it so it isn't very inviting. A few large umbrellas or an awning might help with this.
The staff were pleasant and helpful and Fahim stepped out of the kitchen to check on us personally, which is always a nice touch at a new restaurant. Here's a lowdown of the experience:
Where to go:
Côte-Rôtie is a trendy little cafe tucked inside Karachi's Alliance Francaise in Clifton. It opened its doors to the public in December 2015.
When to go:
At present Côte-Rôtie doesn't serve dinner. It's open from 12.30pm to 7pm.
What to order:
The menu is limited but covers a selection of starters, salads, tartines (open-faced sandwiches), sandwiches, mains, artisanal breads and desserts.
I feel the bread basket is a huge tell, so we went ahead and ordered that first. The Selection of Artisanal Breads was delicious -- all the bread is baked on the premises and is fluffy, salty and yum. Continuing with the bread theme, we had the Cheese Puffs for starters and they were delightful too: flaky, mildly cheesey pastry with a hollow center that you could go on eating for days.
Then we were craving some salad. We loved the Quinoa, Sweet Potato & Broccoli salad - tangy and sweet at the same time, it was delicious yet incredibly light. Some dishes with quinoa that I've tasted in Karachi have been bland, as if chefs aren't quite sure how to season this grain substitute. I'm happy to report Côte-Rôtie has the method down.
As for the tartines, the Truffled Egg and Gruyere looks great but must be eaten piping hot. We let it sit for a while before digging in (we were busy devouring the salad) and that was a mistake - the cheese grew hard and the egg gluey.
After this we tasted the Bresaola, Mozzarella, Pickled Chili sandwich that was served on focaccia bread, and that was a real winner. The salty sourness of the bresaola (aged, salted beef) was tempered by the mozzarella and we just couldn't stop gushing over this gorgeous concoction. My only comment is that the ratio of meat to bread in the sandwich was a little off. A few additional slices of bresaola were needed to really make this dish a success.
We were itching to try a few mains but at this point we were stuffed. We'd also consumed an Apple, Carrot & Orange fresh-squeezed juice apiece (and hey, we'd just had breakfast) so we decided to call it quits. However, Fahim did tell us that the steak was very popular, as was the burger. I love the burger at Okra, which I feel is the best gourmet burger in town, so I'll definitely be back to try Fahim's take on my favourite comfort food.
For dessert (there's a separate compartment in your tummy for dessert, haven't you heard?) we tried the Lemon Cheesecake, which was light and tasty but not outstanding. As far as cheesecakes go I've had better.
Côte-Rôtie plans to open its doors for dinner in the near future, so watch this space.
Damage on the pocket:
I found Côte-Rôtie to be pleasantly affordable. Salads range from Rs210 to RS1200, Tartines from Rs250-Rs990, and mains from Rs500-990. With this kind of range you can choose to be frugal or go all out, so you aren't forced to part with the big bucks if you don't want to.