At street level the Cosy Club is simply a pair of push-button doors opening onto an unexpectedly decorative hallway. Emma Caulton wanted to discover what lay beyond
“But what IS it?” the other half cries delightedly as we settle down in the Cosy Club, a new and well received addition to Bournemouth’s informal dining scene. “Is it a bar or a club or a restaurant?” “Or, indeed, a cafe or tea room?” I add unhelpfully (eyeing up a tempting coffee and cake menu). But does it matter that the Cosy Club defies standard classification?
It is the latest in a group of idiosyncratic and individual eateries that originated in Bristol – the owners positioning them in carefully selected towns and even more carefully selected buildings, including old banks and art colleges. This one opened about three weeks before Christmas, fashioned across three floors in an Art Deco building that survived Bournemouth being bombed back when.
Decor is burlesque meets bourgeois. Best china cups and saucers (as tealight holders), tear drop chandeliers, colourful painted and stencilled tables, heavy velvet drapes, grouped fringed lampshades, stag heads, floral papered walls crammed with gilt-framed oils of traditional portraits and landscapes.
Both louche and kitsch, decadent and exuberant, the Cosy Club could be Edwardian country house or gambling den. Dirty jazz plays in the background and I find myself grooving in my chair while sipping a refreshing English Garden cocktail of Hendrick’s Gin, pressed apple juice, cucumber, mint and elderflower.
At weekends there can be a wait of an hour or so for a table. However, General Manager David King assures me everyone is perfectly happy to wait, settling into the bar with a drink (or two) to while away the time drinking cocktails, mocktails, craft beer, cider, cider brandy, or even (really good) coffee, tea and cordials. The idea is that, as it can’t be put in a box, it welcomes all – late surfacing students eating full breakfast in the afternoon, ladies who shop stopping for coffee, hen parties (there’s a lift straight up to a private dining room on the third floor with its own cocktail bar and roof terrace), friends, families…
The menu is every bit as inclusive as the welcome. Here are traditional and original tapas dishes, rich game stew and Thai bean burger. There’s a selection of brunch choices (usually available until 6pm), a vegan menu and gluten-free menu. The menu has been created by the Executive Chef (from Southampton), changes seasonally and features local and artisanal produce, such as local fish, where possible.
I start with a generous heap of crumbed squid and chewy chorizo served with soft butter beans, mixed leaves and butter bean aioli – a warm salad that’s a moreish combination of textures and flavours. Other half has pan-fried mushrooms with spinach, smoked garlic and aged balsamic on toasted sourdough – buttery, heady and earthy. I follow with crab linguine – Cornish crab with white wine, chilli and tomato that’s sweet and subtle with just the warmest hit of heat. He has melting slow-roasted pork belly with braised shallots, pea shoots, soy gravy and mash. As delicious as it sounds.
For afters we share a crème brûlée with lemon and ginger – lovely consistency although can’t detect any ginger (but then we do like ginger to be full-on).
The wine list is brief and good value – I pick a food friendly French Viognier, he has a smooth, spicy Argentinian Malbec.
Service is with a smile and just the right balance of attentive. As for style… confusing, but does it matter whether those aprons are tea room or speakeasy? When the food is as fresh and interesting as this, best go with it and get into a new cosy comfort food zone.
The Cosy Club, 34 Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth BH1 1LG
Tel: 01202 509723 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org