Cosy Club, Coventry

My big beef with bar/restaurant chain Cosy Club has always been the same: beneath the innocuous, snuggly-wuggly handle of the first half of its name lurks a concept that’s inimical to women. The clue? The second half of the name of course. So while its carefully-crafted image is a laid-back and endearingly kooky vision of ‘mansion splendour meets village hall eccentricity’, its real inspiration seems, to me at any rate, more likely to be the infamously misogynistic world of the gentleman’s club.

You understand it the minute you sit down and look around. You will be dining, you can’t help but notice, under the watchful eyes of many antique portraits – the majority of which depict conspicuously successful men. So here they are then: be-suited men, be-medalled men, men showing off their status-symbol gee-gees. Rather uncomfortably sharing a wall with a youthful-looking Prince of Wales, looms out a sternly disapproving Prince of the Church.

And if you still haven’t got the message yet, sad-eyed hunting trophies surveying the scene from on high are here to reinforce it for you, as are pictures of early aeroplanes, flown, one assumes, by intrepid men. Of their smaller number of female counterparts, one is starkers – but as she’s John Collier’s Pre-Raphaelite rendering of Lady Godiva, I suppose we can excuse it, just this once, as a dash of local colour.

Unfortunately, Cosy Club’s penchant for befitting architectural grandeur (its Birmingham branch is housed in the neo-classical pomp of a Grade II-listed former bank) comes slightly unstuck here in Coventry, where it’s forced to slum it in neo-Legoland Cathedral Lanes. ‘Cleverly clashing’ is how its website fronts out the jaw-droppingly brutalist bare-concrete ceiling. Yeah right. In reality, it has me doing a double-take and wondering if I’ve inadvertently walked into a re-fit.

Having said that, this huge first-floor space with its ‘4.7 miles of reclaimed wooden floorboards’ is genuinely likeable, and the big-windowed balcony allows excellent views over the modernist citadel of Broadgate (made all the better because from this angle, Cathedral Lanes itself is not part of it). So in spite of everything – and although I’d really rather not – if I do-or-die had to pick a favourite amongst Cov city centre’s chain restaurants, this would be it.

Possibly it’s age-related. 1970s mood-music creates an ambience my generation finds reassuring; and according to some calculations, mansion house plus village hall adds up to the comforting certainties of the traditional pub. And certainly there is a refreshingly large contingent of people my age in here, including a smattering of suits. (As an aside, I’ve often thought that one of Cov’s many dining deficiencies is that there is nowhere really impressive for businesspeople to schmooze prospective clients over lunch).

For my own lunch, I choose the Oriental Sesame Noodles with with baby spinach, pak choi, red chilli, marinated carrot, sesame dressing and halloumi – mostly because it sounds like a car-crash. I mean (imagine this next bit delivered in John Torode’s incredulous Masterchef Round One hiss if you like) stir fry with cheese?! Really? Salty soy, backbone of oriental cuisine, against salty Mediterranean halloumi? Should I put an ambulance on stand-by while I’m waiting?

In fact, it’s not as quite as injurious to my blood pressure as I’d feared. It is salty – but the toffee-ish tahini dressing (it’s a well-travelled dish – it also boasts redoubtable northern European red cabbage) buffers it somewhat, plus the halloumi comes in smallish, well-scattered pieces. My main concern is that the task of offsetting the saltiness falls to the noodles and vegetables alone and – nicely-cooked though they both are – their flavours are neither strong nor complex enough to provide anything but minor relief. The £12.95 price tag makes it pricey for Cov.

So it makes no sense. By rights, I should loathe Cosy Club – the concept, the so-so food, the fact that it’s a Cathedral Lanes chain. But I don’t. I’m guessing it’s because in Cov city centre, there are so lamentably few venues to match its casual, bistro vibe. Probably that says more about Cov than it does about Cosy Club.

Cosy Club, Cathedral Lanes, Coventry CV1 1LL. Oriental Sesame Noodles, £12.95

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4 thoughts on “Cosy Club, Coventry

  1. I actually find the Cosy Club incredibly, well, not cosy. I can’t be comfortable there and when I’ve been I’ve never felt like I was in a place I could while away time with good food and drinks with friends. I’ve always felt slightly rushed by the staff who are not exactly rushed themselves, and I find the food to be an attempt at quirky and exquisite and actually a bit, well, flat. You are right, though, with such slim pickings in Coventry, especially for us veggies, it’s almost a heaven from its lofty vantage point in Broadgate!

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    1. Hello Divided Consciousness,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I’ve always thought that in marketing terms, ‘Cosy Club’ seems an odd choice of name: ‘Cosy’ is OK for the winter months, but not what customers look for when the mercury’s rising, while ‘club’ is off-putting because it suggests it’s members only!

      I wish Coventry had more good places to eat – I don’t know if you have seen my ‘soapbox’ posts on this subject. In an ideal world, there would be a choice of places that do what Cosy Club does, but better and without the gentleman’s club overtones (Drapers Bar has the potential, but the food I ate there was terrible). If Cosy Club seems OK, it is only (if I may quote Shakespeare on his birthday) because I ‘saw her fair none else being by/herself poised with herself in either eye’.

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      1. Hiya! I find it a strange place to be honest. I kind of feel like it couldn’t really decide on its identity and has become an amalgamation of things that don’t quite work.
        The cosy connotation would only work in the winter months, but the interior doesn’t give that feeling of warmth and somewhere you’d like to escape to in the dreary days. To me the “club” didn’t really invoke an idea of members-only, more like a night club, and I almost get that feeling from it, like it’s designed with young people in mind, offering them somewhere “quirky” to go to without actually offering any authenticity.

        There are very few places I like to eat in Coventry. The Blue Orchid is possible the only place where I enjoy the food and feel relaxed in, but the incense can sometimes be quite overpowering and it’s not a place to go to if you like dessert!

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  2. I went to Blue Orchid fairly recently, and thought it was decent for Coventry – I agree about the incense! The review is on here. The Stag and Pheasant on Lockhurst Lane, which I also reviewed recently, is good for curry, and has a great atmosphere if you don’t mind eating in a noisy pub.

    Your perceptions of Cosy Club are fascinating and possibly a reflection of our differing ages – I’m an old wrinkly and the nightclub connotation would never have occurred to me. It’s interesting that you think its target is younger people because to me, it’s one of the few places in the city centre where older women – looking for something more sophisticated than JD Wetherspoon and less student-y than The Phoenix or Ivy House – might feel comfortable. I have been to the one in Birmingham several times because a group I belong to meets there. They’re all middle-aged women and they love it.

    I do wonder whether Cosy Club has come to question the wisdom of the gentlemen’s club concept (if that’s what it is). They have revised their website quite a lot over time. About eighteen months ago, I seem to remember it used to refer to ‘cricket pavillions’ (where women’s role was traditionally restricted to making sandwiches for the men) and female staff in tea dresses. They’ve removed all that now. Maybe the realisation that, as an image, it has its limitations, has resulted in the loss of focus you’ve sensed. Architectural grandeur doesn’t really square with ‘cosiness’ either. So yeah – it ain’t cosy and it’s not a club. So what is it? And does it matter?

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