New in town: Cote Rotie at the Alliance Francaise

Cote Rotie, the new cafe at the Alliance Francaise, has big shoes to fill: this was where the beloved Cafe Flo started out. Chef Faheem Jaffer, however, has drawn on another Karachi favourite, Okra, learning the ropes by spending several months in the kitchen and behind the scenes at Okra. Rumour has it that Ayaz Khan and Faheem Jaffer were initially going to open together at the Alliance but, not having actually spoken to either of them, I can’t comment. Cote Rotie is a solo venture by the foodie and chef Faheem Jaffer and looks set to make waves. It has a lovely ambience, a small but intriguing menu and reflects a real passion for food.

Basically a bistro, Cafe Rotie’s menu consists of salads, starters, sandwiches, a handful of heartier main meals and a limited selection of desserts. Though the menu is not extensive, there is plenty of variety ranging from creative salads and seasonal dishes to grilled fish and bistro classics such as steak. The dishes focus on fresh, quality ingredients and layering flavour.

Having only visited once so far, this isn’t a review as I cannot comment on consistency and haven’t sampled enough of the menu to speak with authority. However, barring dessert, we loved everything we tried. We started with home-made ricotta-stuffed mushrooms and a smashed avocado and mint tartine. On a nearby table, Bilal Lakhani tucked into the warm goat’s cheese salad while designer Nida Azwer and her friend tried the thin-crust cauliflower pizza and the same stuffed mushrooms.

The smashed avocado, feta and mint tartine was delicious. Cool, fresh yet creamy with a salty tang of feta, it was beautifully balanced in terms of flavour and texture. The mushrooms were also excellent: piping hot with a hint of cheesy crust and a yummy ricotta filling. The artisanal bread basket came with a herb butter and left me wondering why it is so difficult to buy bread as good as this in Karachi. Given the chance, I would happily pop in to pick up the light, chewy ciabatta or the crisp, light baguette.

Designer Nida Azwer commented:

“The freshly baked bread at Cote Rotie is to die for. The texture and the taste are both just right!”

Meanwhile, Bilal termed his goat’s cheese salad “tres delicieux” and Nida gave both the mushrooms and the pizza a thumbs-up. At our table, we moved on to a Reuben on Rye and a Buttermilk Fried Chicken sandwich (and became too engrossed in our own conversation to consult with friends on other tables!).

Reuben on Rye at Cote Rotie
Reuben on Rye at Cote Rotie

The Reuben on Rye included a generous helping of pastrami and emmenthal cheese with some good sauerkraut but I felt there was too much Russian dressing, making the sandwich a tad too soggy. I also would have liked a little less cheese, letting the pastrami speak for itself.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich at Cote Rotie
Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich at Cote Rotie

The Buttermilk Fried Chicken sandwich however was fantastic: everything a fried chicken burger should be but never usually is. From the bun to the chicken to the more-ish frites, this was on the money.

Chocolate Tart and Almond Cake at Cote Rotie
Chocolate Tart and Almond Cake at Cote Rotie

The dessert menu was limited, which was disappointing as we were dreaming of creme brulee or profiteroles. Given the choice between an almond and coconut cake, a flourless chocolate cake, chocolate tart and a lemon cheesecake, we opted for the cheesecake. The filling was pretty good but it was let down by a soggy, thick pastry. Am hoping Cote Rotie ups their dessert game as I have a major sweet tooth!

We’re planning to head back soon to try out some of the pastas and more of the starters: watch this space for more. Meanwhile the verdict is that Cote Rotie is a welcome new addition to Karachi’s cafe scene. The ambience is beautifully laid-back and there’s plenty to attract real foodies. The dessert menu needs work but that’s made up for by the stellar bread. The cafe is only open till from 12-7:30 pm at present but hopefully they will branch out into evening service soon.

The bread at Cote Rotie is stellar
The bread at Cote Rotie is stellar
Salima Feerasta
Salima Feerasta
Salima Feerasta is chief editor of and one of Pakistan's top fashion and lifestyle journalists.

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