If you’ve been reading our reviews since the beginning of EATCardiff, you might have noticed a pattern by now. We don’t talk about the eating part of our dining experiences in much detail. At all. Yes, it’s an admission after some recent feedback, but we have our primary reason, and we’d like to think we’re not alone.
With the greatest respect to the top chefs of this world, anyone can learn to cook. Take a chicken breast to a hot frying pan, go in ‘blind’ and add a random selection of spices from the rack and (you’d have to be extremely unlucky not to) you’ll have a tasty, interesting piece of white meat that previously was more plain an experience than waiting to get your keys cut. Yes, it does take some real skills to produce something special, but with so many underwhelming restaurants, pubs and cesspits in Cardiff, it takes more than seasoning to enjoy good food.
It’s all about the experience.
Cosy Club is, to our surprise – and then not – a member of The Loungers, a series of café-cum-bars-cum-whatever sells that pull passers-by away from the dreadful monotony of daily existence and put you in an often calm, atmospheric, candle-lit environment akin to a post-war countryside mansion in the middle of Royston Vasey. Yet Fino, Ocho and Juno Lounge are welcoming, and Cosy Club follows suit, only with louder music and being more restaurant, than nu-style café.
And it works. As the website describes, the entrance is (fairly) dramatic, as you’re greeted by a chasm of a reception area and a suspiciously abandoned arm chair, as though you’ve turned up uninvited. In truth, you probably have, but curiosity will inevitably guide you up the stairs to what looks like a literal extension of the aforementioned Lounges, as light shades drape haphazardly above, armchairs and sofas await for tired legs, and that lively bar you’ve always wanted in your own home sits to your left.
The lighting is low, the atmosphere is calm, yet busy, and if there’s no one there to greet you again, try the bar. If there’s one early criticism, it’s the soulless entrance. Navigation is a guessing game, and it feels a little intrusive, like sitting in on your Mother-in-Law’s telephone conversation to the chiropodist. It’s a bit weird, frankly. Perhaps its a staffing issue, as the hospitality industry undoubtedly squeezes the life from its tired staff once again. But what do we, uninformed, customers know?
Nevertheless, we were welcomed and seated in the middle of the place, with our perverse side a little disappointed that the tables offering rather unique dining views of the Hayes were all reserved (top date tip: people-watching is ideal for ruining said date). Seated with confidence, we were given attractive menus to slap our eyes on, with equally appetising content. Importantly, it was concise, yet the brunch section was clearly lifted directly from the Lounges (if you fancy an early shop, Cosy is open from 9am), which is by no means bad, just lacking imagination.
The most adventurous dish by far was the rabbit and smoked bacon pudding, which sounded utterly delicious. Unfortunately, we were only game (see what we did there?) for yet another burger. We shouldn’t feel so apologetic, as ‘gourmet’ burgers are on every menu these days, and what with the likelihood that they contain only 100% horse meat or less, we’ll happily maintain the habit.
Unsure what to drink (one of those days, yeah), we took a stroll to the bar, and the chap behind it, who we regret not getting the name of, was responsible for making the evening memorable. Asking if we’d had a good day, the answer was a decisive ‘no’, as financial and mental challenges had taken their toll, to which the barman positively chirped, ‘Hold on…’, and walked off.
He returned with a bag of sweets and said, ‘Have a few of these, they’ll cheer you up. Always works for me!’
Now, how good a touch is that? The corporates won’t be pleased as those sweets were neither a Cosy product nor made any money, but the fact that he took the time to raise a smile form the depths of our misery was a unique touch. It’s not about the food, or how lovely the décor is or whether there was a hair in the soup or not, it’s about the people, the integral part of the experience. Without them, it doesn’t happen, and it must always be remembered. Whether independent or giant chain, personality makes the difference.
Moving on, we have objections. The venue name and décor don’t correlate. Tell us it’s ‘cosy’ all you like, but cosy, in our subjective, conceited opinion, conjures images of log fires, intimacy, just enough room for the elbows and plenty of gin. Cosy Club, however, is decidedly open plan and a little breezy (we’re old enough to feel drafts now). The candle-level light compensates for it a little, but we’ve felt more cosy inebriated on the kitchen floor of a student house after several ‘snakebites’ and the finest Russian ‘wodka’.
Nevertheless, despite the place bustling, or Hero Burgers arrived fairly swiftly, with skin-on fries and brand-less ketchup. Perfect. Almost. The beef patty oozed that important measure of grease upon squeezing, while the fries sat prettily in a pot we’re certain was tea leafed from the equally atmospheric Bill’s on Mill Lane. (We called the old bi’… Never mind.)
Back to the burger, it was stuffed with highly ‘secret’ Butler mature Cheddar cheese, chorizo, sweet onions, chipotle mayonnaise and chimichurri. For those not knowing what the latter ingredient is, we don’t either, but it looked like pesto, only without the flavour. It added colour and a touch of geography, we suppose (it’s Argentinian, we learned). You can also add a couple of green chillis, should you need a hot kick.
There’s not a lot to say about the burger, not because it was bad, but just about at expectations. Unspectacular, but tasty nevertheless as the magic chorizo ensured we consumed it faster than a coffee chain to a high street. It was all cooked well, fries arrived hot and it satisfied the stomach. Our fault for the lack of adventure, which the menu offered, in fairness. Belly pork, mussels, Macaroni cheese, or even 35-day matured steak sounds far better, says hindsight. Simultaneously.
On chatting to a couple of other staff members, we were assured Cosy Club has been a resounding success since it opened last November, and we’re not surprised, it was certainly busy for a Wednesday night.
Well worth a book.