On a freezing cold February day, what more inviting name could any establishment have than Cosy Club? It had been ‘suggested’ that I call here by Leeds Living’s proofreader, Mags, aka She Who Should Probably Be Obeyed, so I gave it a go. I don’t normally review chains and this is one of twenty-one branches all over the country but I gave it the benefit of any doubt.
Entering the premises from Albion Street was like going onto an Edwardian horror movie set, with an assortment of Gentlemen’s Club furniture, period pictures and artefacts strewn around the room. The one incongruous feature was the stainless steel lift door which enabled the less mobile, or energetic, to access the bar and restaurant which is upstairs. This made the chairs totally superfluous, except perhaps for any passing shopper who fancied a sit down for a while, so the space gave the spine-chilling ambience of a ghost ship.
Needing a bit of a warm-up, I took the stairs to the main area, where I was greeted at the welcome desk by a waitress who asked me which part of the restaurant I would like to be seated in and took me to the appropriate table, informing me that my waitress for the day would be Ella. I ordered a glass of tap water whilst I perused the menu. The water was served with a lemon wedge and ice.
There is no lunch menu but they do a brunch until 5.00pm each day, so I ordered from that. I chose the Rather Elegant Brunch at £7.95, which was described as ‘Bacon and Avocado with Herbed Spring Onion and Chive Potato Cake, Baby Kale and Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Topped with a Poached Egg and Pumpkin Seeds. Had there been any sun visible on such a cold grey day, it would have been well over the yardarm, so I ordered a glass of Rioja at £6.65 for 250ml.
Every part of the dish was very good but oddly turned out to be less than the sum of its parts. The small pieces of smoked bacon were very tasty, if somewhat tepid, the egg poached perfectly, the potato cake was beautifully creamy on the inside with a crunchy outside and the remaining elements were fresh and well dressed. So far, so good, but it was the amount of food which surprised me. Brunch is a meal which combines breakfast and lunch, but this was hardly enough to suffice as either, never mind both, unless you are a supermodel with a weight issue. There was just enough of each ingredient to comply with the Trades Descriptions Act: I counted three very small thin triangles of avocado, six or seven pumpkin seeds, and half a dozen small pieces of bacon, perhaps amounting to half a streaky rasher to go with the sparsely dispersed tomato. Like the food, the wine was superb but, as it came by the measure, it was in the quantity expected.
There was no alternative but to fill up with dessert, honest, so I had a Cosy Sundae, £5.25, and a black Americano coffee at £2.35 for a mug. The sundae was made up of ‘Chocolate Brownie Pieces, Whipped Cream, Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream with Boozy Cherries.’ In contrast to the main event, this was a reasonably substantial portion and, again, all of the components were very well made and presented – delicious. The coffee was a bit on the weak side but not too bad.
Cosy Club is a great example of why I try to avoid chains. I could imagine someone in the Hereford or Taunton branch ordering a Rather Elegant Brunch and the chef counting out the slivers of avocado and the pumpkin seeds. It is good, tasty food and well presented but it conforms to a formula and has no soul. The irony is that the restaurant is situated directly opposite the first floor of the Trinity Shopping Centre, where the street food stalls of Trinity Kitchen are plying their trade and their customers are in full view, sitting enjoying speciality food lovingly made by the owners of the trucks. They believe in what they are doing rather than complying with a tick list from Head Office. Don’t get me wrong, one of the worst lunches I have ever reviewed was taken in Trinity Kitchen but I will happily accept that because the brilliant ones make up for it many times over.
I realise that this final part of the review will probably put the Hex on my next lunch experience but once again, the service was superb which, thankfully, is becoming the norm in Leeds.
Photograph by Stan Graham.