Nothing warms my cockles like a new pub opening, somewhere new to quaff ale, tell jokes, eat crisps and stop people trying to hang out in my house and drink my booze.
The Cotham Arms is on the previous Chin Chin! site, which according to the history poster on the wall, has been a pub in one form or another since 1861 and sits next to Beerd on St Michaels Hill. Now I do have to get the elephant in room out of the way, despite appearances this isn’t an independent inn but owned by Enterprise (now known as El Group) which some may find surprising.
When you walk into The Cotham Arms you are met with a very cozy feeling place with what I assumed to be original features including a fire place, stain glass windows, good solid furniture and beautifully tiled flooring. It is hard to brush away the cynicism, Enterprise has evidently spent a good chunk of money making the place fit in with the local surroundings, and they have done it well, but I wanted to be up front about it.
Anyway, we were greeted by some of the nicest staff I have ever met (seriously) seated and left with a menu. My partner and I are both craft beer wankers and were a bit disappointed to see nothing local on the bar or in the fridge but there is plenty to choose from so we settled with a pint of Lagunitas IPA each. We did note the gin list, a brave move with The Green Man down the road but a nice angle none the less.
The one thing this pub doesn’t do, is a full, hot menu. Instead, they are keeping it really simple with meat, bread and cheese. Some would say…Ok I would say that is pretty much all you need to live on but that’s also why I fear sitting in unfamiliar chairs. The menu has four choices, a meat board, a cheese board, a cold sandwich or a toasted one. Brilliant. To start we went for a mixed board which features cheddar, brie and stilton cheeses, charcuterie from David Richards of Capreolus fine foods. We also had chutney, olives, pickled onions and thick slices of bread and butter. The board was very generous and made a great starter or snack for two people. The meat was amazing and we both still think fondly about the cured mutton, we must find some for our own fridge. The cheese suffered from being left in the fridge, with the brie and stilton not being very soft to slice but the cheddar was fantastic. Perhaps some “cheese training” might be good here?
We couldn’t come to a pub priding itself on toasties without trying one so I opted for us to share a Cotham Arms “Rueben” and the “Mother of all Bacon Sandwiches”. I asked what made the bacon sandwich so good and was told “it just has a lot of bacon in it”…well you can’t argue with that logic.
The Rueben, isn’t a Rueben, if you want one of those got to Pickled Brisket, but it is good. Pastrami and brie are stuffed betwixt two slices of bread, topped with pickles and *something* that gave it a kick, if I had to guess I would have said horseradish and put in the paninni machine. Definitely a decent toastie. The bacon sandwich I would describe more of a 2nd cousin of Bacon Sandwiches. It was good, it was crispy, it came with a choice of sauce on the side for dipping but it was about as big as you would make at home, I was expecting something a bit more extravagant but as bacon sarnies go, it was good. No rubbery bacon or stringy fat to contend with here. Both sandwiches for the price (£5) and size could benefit with a bag of crisps on the side as standard if you hadn’t munched your way through a sharing board before hand.
I took my pudding to go, a rather indulgent salted caramel brownie, a choice I had to make from a delicious list of cakes and sweets, which was taken home and eaten in front of Bake Off. I wish I knew where these were from and I hope they are buying local. Same for the bread, chutneys and pickles.
All in all the pub ticked the boxes I look for, warm, cosy, nice stuff on the walls, gorgeous staff, something drinkable and a pile of games. The food isn’t gormet but it’s good enough, no faffing about with people wanting to order big plates of over indulgent food, no going into a pub you like only to be standing around whilst diners take over the tables (I think I moan about this a lot). I hope Enterprise get something local on the bar and make use of the great staples we have on offer in the city but all in all, I would go back.