Last Thursday, Niamh and Sophia ventured to Cornmarket’s slick new cocktail bar/upmarket restaurant, Cosy Club, for the location’s opening party. They share their verdicts below.
NS: The word of the day is definitely ‘opulence’. The Cosy Club sprawls across the entire upper floor of the Northgate building like a well-to-do socialite across a chaise longue; Art Deco fixtures and plush velvet booths abound, with a warm old-money glow in the air. “It’s giving Death on the Nile!”, my friend observed as we were shown to our seats.
SH: I think Cosy Club would work particularly well as a dreamy date night spot, or for an evening with close friends. In your little bubble amongst the sea of other tables, dim lighting and thrum of noise, it’s counterintuitively easy to feel secluded and special.
NS: I will say that the music was a touch too loud for relaxed dinner conversation - the ‘club’ was fighting a bit with the ‘cosy’ in that respect.
SH: If you’re in a situation where leaning across the table to catch others’ words would feel awkward, a slightly more measured, dining-centric venue may be in order. That’s not to say that gastronomically, Cozy Club can’t absolutely hold its own as an ‘occasion’ restaurant. In terms of food and pricing, its closest relatives in Oxford would probably be Gusto, Quod and The Alice. But the lavish haze it emits, along with its salubrious cocktail collection, demand a certain intimacy from guests.
NS: The cocktail menu is a real standout, giving guests the option of sampling a classic concoction or adding an inventive little twist; espresso martini or banana espresso martini; paloma or smoky paloma mescal etc. That last was a complex, slightly peaty gem that would suit anyone that wants to cut through a selection that does tend to lean on the sweet side. I opted for a porn star martini to start (the sweet-tooth cannot be denied), a passionfruit confection with a chaser shot of Italian sparkling wine.
SH: Agreed, the cocktails were a marvel. I had the Mango Colada, which was more refreshing than its popular pineapple counterpart but still packed bags of flavour, and the Cherry Bakewell and a Red Cherry Whiskey Sour, which were both gorgeous candied concoctions.
NS: Their signature G&Ts were also a hit, with a full round of the Herbaceous variety ordered for the table (although it’s a bit on the steep side in terms of price for what you’re getting).
SH: A shout out to the staff: unfailingly warm, friendly and dressed stylishly and cohesively.
They topped up our water and gathered our glasses at regular intervals.
NS: While our server, Lowri, was an absolute delight and definitely kept their composure in the face of a very busy evening, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the significant delay in getting the food on the table. We arrived at 7:30 and weren’t served our starters until past 9:00, with the mains arriving about 40 minutes later. On a less crowded night, I hope this would be less of a factor, and the cocktails were definitely keeping us merry, but a G&T can only cover up the stomach rumbling for so long.
SH: On to the food. Let’s talk starters.
NS: I went for a very fish-centric selection; the crayfish roll followed by the pan-fried sea bass. The crayfish was very well-dressed, a great balance of acidity from the mayo and a salty hit of capers, with a touch of cucumber mellowing out the flavour profile. The brioche roll was warm and buttery, though the ratio of roll to filling could have leaned a bit more in the latter direction for me.
SH: The Treacle Cured Pork Belly Bites had all the indulgent pleasure that cut of meat is known for, with its unctuous explosions of flavour, but this was further underpinned by a heartily roast dinner flare: cider & mustard glaze, potato & chive rosti, plus a garnish of pink pickled onions added a lovely spike of sharpness to it as well.
In terms of other starters, Charred Broccoli was fresh and ornate, thoughtfully dressed enough to justify being a standalone starter, with a blanket of pomegranate jewels and tamari toasted seeds, and a grilled half lemon on the side. The broccoli was less charred and more just perfectly cooked - a tender, brilliant emerald.
The Tomato Arancini was served as a trio, snowed under artfully by finely grated cheese. I didn’t taste it myself, but I was told it delivered on both the texture and flavour - crisp exterior and soft within.
NS: Main Course: the Pan-Fried Sea Bass was excellent, flaky and rich with a light crisp to the skin. The twice-roasted new potatoes soaked up the decadent white wine sauce beautifully- this was a sumptuous forkful all round.
SH: I ordered the 7oz fillet steak, ‘as rare you’ll make it’. I was not disappointed. The perfectly seared steak’s neat brown exterior hid a deep rose beneath, with the telltale cool, tender centre of a truly rare steak. It was delicious, especially accompanied by a Peppercorn Sauce which was silky, spicy, and not overpowering. This was served with a generous portion of fries in a classic steel cup. I was given a choice between an accompaniment of parmesan and rocket or roast vine tomatoes and chose the former. Unfortunately, the parmesan dressing was overpoweringly salty, stripping the rocket of any freshness, and pulling focus from the delicacy of the steak. Plus, between the always-filling fries, and the satisfying heft of the steak, the meal did not need another rich counterpart, so I’d recommend choosing the roast vine tomatoes to accompany instead.
The plating of the dish was also not especially inspiring, which did not detract from my enjoyment of the food, but surprised me as the dish is one of the most expensive on the menu, and Cosy Club had shown us their proficiency for plating elsewhere.
One friend ordered the Sesame Salmon - which came on a flavourful nest of tamari and teriyaki noodles, woven through with shredded sugar snaps and red pepper and dosed with chili, lime and, of course, more sesame. Light, bright, and the perfect gastronomic accompaniment for a cocktail.
Our other friend ordered the Halloumi & Warm Harissa Baked Squash Salad, which was served on a bed of spinach, rocket, and leeks seasoned with mustard and cider. A lemon and tahini dressing and pomegranate salsa complemented the carbonized squash, and the halloumi was well done without being tough. A hearty meat-free main.
NS: There are vegetarian and vegan options but I would caution that not many of them are very light. The menu is definitely on the moreish side, with a lot of cheese/vegan cheese and other more filling ingredients present, so bear that in mind if you’re looking for something less rich - the Massaman cauliflower is probably your best bet.
SH: I opted for another cocktail instead of dessert, but you had one.
NS: Dessert, a salted caramel chocolate mousse, was a great balance of fluffy and creamy. They certainly don’t skimp on the salt in the caramel, which might not be to everyone’s taste, but the balance worked well for this little pot, though we found it to be a bit overpowering in the sticky toffee pudding.
SH: I believe the third dessert at our table was the Velvetly Chocolate Brownie, served with vanilla ice cream. Our friend said it was moist and delicious, easily meeting the expectations placed on a classic dessert.
NS: I’d be more likely to return for cocktails than food, but all in all, we had a great evening.