Pull up a seat at Cosy Club

What does an English Garden, Lemon Drizzle Cake and Sparkling Duchess have in common I hear you ask? Nope, I’m not giving you tips on which horses to bet on during this year’s Grand National. They are in fact a spectacular assortment of cocktails available at one of my all-time favourite bars, Cosy Club.

Situated on the site of a Grade II listed former banking hall on Bennetts Hill that was built in 1830, Cosy Club opened its doors to Brummie’s in 2015, offering “mansion splendour meets village hall eccentricity.” The quirky restaurant and bar has been a popular ‘chill-out’ hub for me and my friends ever since and we can regularly be found tucking into a juicy burger or sampling one of the delicious gin based cocktails here.

What do I love about Cosy Club? The ambience is one thing. Walk in through the big double doors and you’re welcomed by jazz music and interiors that sit somewhere between art deco mixed in with your Aunt Deidre’s curtains which haven’t been changed since the 1600’s. It does what it says on the box, delights in eccentricity. It blends British aristocratic furniture with glamorous 30’s materials and strangely, it seems to work.

Cosy Club is a ‘go-to’ place for me when I’m in need of brunch, lunch or dinner, thanks to its extensive choice of gluten and dairy free meals. Despite there being a large selection of dishes that can be altered to suit my dietary needs, I always seem to opt for the same almost every time – The Classic burger with a beef patty, lettuce, beef tomato, red onion, gherkin and burger sauce.

I’ve also tried the Pan Fried Salmon Fillet with green beans, sugar snap peas, pak choi, roasted potatoes and a green chilli, lemongrass, coriander and lime dressing which was delightful, as well as the Black Angus 80z steak with thick cut chips which was both tender and flavoursome.

Breakfast is just as good. Being gluten free means that whilst my friends gobble down a Full English with all the works, I am often left with a pitiful meal of just bacon and egg. The Cosy Club breakfast on the other hand delivers the full package, minus the sausages and hash browns, which really hits the spot. Soya milk is available, giving you the option to enjoy an after eight coffee or teapot of good old builders brew.

The lounge at the back of the restaurant offers a place to take refuge in when you want a quiet drink and a chat and the building does boast private rooms for parties, cocktail masterclasses and Murder Mystery nights – which judging by the hidden corners and Cluedo style deco would be a believable place for Professor Plum to dispose of Colonel Mustard.

There are multiple Cosy Club restaurants across the UK and each one has its own personality. The one in my old uni town of Leicester for example is not really up my street due to its casual café layout, but the Birmingham one, with its two storey restaurant and candle lit tables is the perfect place for an aperitif or post-meal martini on ice. Just sit back, relax with a drink and enjoy the friendly atmosphere that Cosy Club has to offer.

One Nuclear Hurricane coming up…

My ‘go-to’ bar in Brum town is Gas Street Social. In fact, whenever I say I’m heading into town for a spot of shopping or a few quiet drinks with friends, chances are, I’ll always nip in for a quick ‘Socialite’ or ‘Nuclear Hurricane.’

Unlike many bars where you pay a small fortune for cocktails, the drinks here are genuinely a pleasure to drink, the barmen are friendly and as the bar’s namesake suggests, sociable. They’ll chat to you as they’re whipping up a drink and it actually seems like the sort of place you’d want to work.

Ultimately, my favourite part about Gas Street Social is the layout. The décor is very Scandinavian and rustic and it’s the sort of place where you can sit for hours people watching and enjoying the mellow music on offer.

It’s location in The Mailbox means that it’s situated right next to the canal, where in the summer you can watch boatfuls of stag and hen do parties rowing up and down (badly) on the water. There is nothing fuddy about the place, everyone is welcome and you won’t get kicked out after one drink because they want your table. It’s the perfect spot for socialising.

Despite me being somewhat of a regular at Gas Street, it was only recently that I tested out the food. The kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant and so my friend and I had often admired the delicious smells wafting out into the bar area. The menu is pretty versatile and a good selection of the dishes could be made gluten free. There’s nothing fussy about the food and the chefs pride themselves on sourcing local meat and vegetables which is a nice added touch, as after all, you assume it’s going to be fresh.

I opted for the Sweet and Sticky BBQ Ribs with chips, slaw and corn on the cob. The waitress commented on my good choice of dish when I put my order in and I must admit that I was a bit sceptical, but boy I needn’t have worried. Without a doubt they were the most succulent ribs I’ve ever tasted. The meat simply slid of the bone and the sauce, which the ribs are apparently slow cooked in, was absolutely divine. It’s rare for me to say this, but I could have eaten a whole new plate straight after I’d finished because it was one of those meals you don’t want to end.

There’s a good selection of burgers, steaks, and even traditional British dishes such as gammon and fish finger butties to choose from. The brunch menu offers anything from a Full English, through to sandwiches and buttermilk pancakes – perfect hangover food in my opinion, and there’s a variety of ‘Social Plates,’ ideal for sharing such as scotch eggs, meatballs and chicken wings.

If you’re ever in Birmingham and looking for somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre to chill out with a drink and a slap up meal, then Gas Street Social would be number one on my list. Give it a go, and don’t forget to order the BBQ Ribs!

Bar Estilo – Paella Picking and Sangria Sipping

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When I was working in Santander in Spain, there was this lovely little beachside restaurant that was famed across the city for its fish dishes. The seafood paella there was immense with flavours and tasted so fresh I think the mussels, prawns and squid had literally just been fished from the sea. It was exactly what paella should be, simple and delicious!

Finding gluten free paella in a restaurant is a tricky task in my opinion. For some reason, although paella rice is naturally gluten free, chefs seem to love throwing in some nasty ingredients to make it impossible for ‘us’ to eat. Although I’ve made my own paella at home, let’s face it, bringing in a pile of fresh seafood is costly and takes some sourcing if you want it really fresh. Luckily for me, I discovered a fantastic Spanish restaurant in Birmingham which serves up a good choice of gluten free dishes – Bar Estilo.

Perfect for a sunny day, or those days where it’s wet and miserable outside and you want to transport yourself to Sunny Spain, Bar Estilo makes you feel like you’re on holiday. Serving a range of tapas dishes, light and large meals, and let’s not forget the all important sangria, the restaurant has got it covered for gluten free and vegetarians.

With eyes bigger than my tummy, I ordered the chicken paella and a bowl full of chunky chips as a side dish, which I have to admit filled me up for about eight hours afterwards – the only problem being I just couldn’t force myself to stop eating as it was so delish!

Granted – had it been gluten free, I would have without a doubt ordered the seafood paella, but my chicken paella, served with red peppers, butternut squash, peas and chickpeas, was really lovely and I would recommend to anyone who visits.

I admit I’m not sure you will ever get a proper, traditional paella compared to what is served in España, but this is the closest I have ever come to tasting one in England. I can definitely see myself spending a few sunny days eating tapas and sipping sangría at Bar Estilo come the summer months. Salud!

Click here to view Bar Estilo’s food menu – http://www.barestilo.co.uk/menus/birmingham/bar-estilo-birmingham-food-menu.pdf